County Awards - April May 5, 2008

Bopara starts with a bang

The county season and spluttered and shivered into life, but amongst the rain (and occasional snow) there has been some fascinating cricket. Cricinfo hands out its first batch of monthly awards to those who impressed during April
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The county season has spluttered and shivered into life, but in between the rain (and occasional snow) there has been some fascinating cricket. Cricinfo hands out its first batch of monthly awards to those who impressed during April


Strike man: Shane Bond made an immediate impact for Hampshire with seven wickets against Sussex © Getty Images
 
Team of the month - Nottinghamshire
"Go and prove them wrong," was basically Nottinghamshire coach Mick Newell's message when people tipped his team to be relegation candidates the year after coming back up to Division One. His charges listened and romped to a 10-wicket victory in their opening Championship match against Kent, taking advantage of a small window in the wet weather as well. Darren Pattinson made an immediate mark with eight wickets on debut and, with an eye to much of the season, it was a victory achieved with Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad. Throw in a comfortable win against Ireland in a potentially tricky Friends Provident outing and it's been a decent start for Chris Read as captain.

Batsman of the month - Ravi Bopara
Most young players go through a period where their temperament is tested and questions asked. Ravi Bopara suffered a tough winter; three consecutive ducks against Sri Lanka before being dropped during the one-day series against New Zealand. With Andrew Flintoff nearing a return the other allrounders will have to queue up and Bopara has put himself at the front of the line after a barnstorming start with Essex. He passed fifty in all his innings, making 150 and 137 in the Championship and 99 in the Friends Provident Trophy for good measure. Throw in a few wickets and he's making a strong case to the England selectors.

Innings of the month - Andrew Strauss 163 v Surrey, FP Trophy
The 177 Andrew Strauss made in Napier came in the nick of time to extend his Test career, but he began the season still needing runs to keep the critics quiet. Two relatively low scores in the opening Championship match - coupled with runs for Owais Shah, Bopara and Robert Key among others - reopened the debate. Strauss knew an opportunity when it presented itself, a flat pitch at The Oval and a short boundary. He proceeded to make his highest one-day score in a destructive display with 23 fours and four sixes off 130 balls. One-day form doesn't always translate to the longer game, but Strauss' game looked in good order.

Bowler of the month - Matthew Hoggard
Another player to return from his winter duties with a point to prove after he was dropped following the Test defeat in Hamilton. Plenty of people, including the former England coach Duncan Fletcher, were saying he'd lost his nip, but instead of joining a public debate Hoggard just continued to 'wang it down'. And with some effect. Against Hampshire he took 6 for 57 in the first innings with a typically probing spell of swing bowling in typical Headingley conditions. Two more scalps followed in the second innings before another useful run out against Nottinghamshire. Admitted he was "scared of the white ball" and won't play much one-day cricket for Yorkshire, but he doesn't appear finished with the red one.

Bowling performance - Shane Bond, 7 for 66 v Sussex
After all the hype over Bond's will-he, won't-he move to Hampshire there was a sense of anticipation when it was finally confirmed he would take up his place. With most of the world's leading bowlers employed in the IPL here was a chance to watch an outstanding performer. He didn't disappoint against defending county champions Sussex at The Rose Bowl. He got on the scorecard early, with the wicket of Carl Hopkinson, but the real excitement came in his spell with the second new ball as he tore through the lower order and finished with career-best figures. You could hear the groans from New Zealand grow louder with every wicket.

Youngster of the month - Chris Jordan
Picking young players to watch at the start of a season a notoriously difficult task, but there was a general consensus from all corners that Chris Jordan had something special. The early sightings of him supported those lofty expectations. He bowled briskly against Lancashire on a docile Oval surface then went up to Chester-le-Street where he clonked Neil Killeen on the head and mopped up the tail. As Jordan told Cricinfo, he hasn't made up his mind whether his future lies with West Indies or England. "When the bridge comes for me to cross it, I will have to make the correct decision. I have to take things day by day." Decision time may not be far away.

Injury of the month - Simon Jones
If only this wasn't so predictable. Simon Jones had done everything asked of him after moving from Glamorgan to Worcestershire over the winter. He was fit and came through pre-season unscathed. Finally, he returned to Championship action and at the end of the first day against Warwickshire had already claimed a wicket in a short burst. He will have slept well that night, and maybe too well. He woke with a cricked neck and wasn't able to resume. The problem was put down to a blow he took from Neil Carter, causing a whiplash injury, but he even struggled after a cortisone injection. Surely, his luck must turn sometime.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo