County Awards - May June 2, 2008

Prior makes his case

As the season begins to take shape, Cricinfo hands out monthly awards for May to those who have impressed with bat and ball

As the season begins to take shape, Cricinfo hands out monthly awards for May to those who have impressed with bat and ball

Matt Prior is the leading first-class run-scorer as he tries to win back his England place © Getty Images
Team of the month - Somerset
Before the season, Justin Langer was happy to tell anyone within earshot that Somerset could win the Championship the season after being promoted. Their form over the last few weeks suggests that confidence wasn't misplaced. Back-to-back wins against Kent - a nerve-jangling 20-run victory - and Surrey have propelled them top of the table, and all this without the services of Andrew Caddick. Marcus Trescothick has settled productively into county life, while Ian Blackwell is again producing the sort of form that makes everyone wonder why his international returns are so meagre. Coupled with Langer's single-minded determination - not to mention his runs - and Somerset have become a formidable unit. Their one-day form was also strong enough to earn a Friends Provident quarter-final to leave an understandable feeling of optimism around the club.

Batsman of the month - Matt Prior
It's been an outstanding start to the season for Prior as he tries to convince the England selectors he is worth another chance. He's making a pretty strong case. He has now made more than 700 first-class runs this season and registered two high-class centuries, both in tricky conditions, during May. One came at Trent Bridge, his 131 in the first innings (followed by 64 in the second) helping Sussex to a 73-run win. His second was in a losing cause against Durham, as he took the attack to a fired-up Steve Harmison with 133 off 138 balls. There was talk that he might be recalled to England's one-day side, but Prior's former team-mate Tim Ambrose got the opportunity instead. If Prior continues churning out the runs (and holding his catches), Ambrose will be looking over his shoulder quite nervously.

Innings of the month - Michael Di Venuto, 184 v Yorkshire
Di Venuto is another of those Australian batsmen who grew up in the wrong generation for an international career. He was limited to nine one-day internationals, but has continued to churn out runs at first-class level. Durham have certainly made the most of his services. On the opening day against Yorkshire, faced with a decent attack including Darren Gough, Deon Kruis and Tim Bresnan, he hit 184 - more than half Durham's runs for the day. He had one life, on 68, but was in command throughout with strong driving, cutting and pulling. Although he didn't add to his score the next morning, the innings set Durham up for a massive 295-run victory. Others to catch the eye this month were David Sales' 173 off 151 balls against Glamorgan, Joe Denly's 149 which almost hauled Kent over the line against Somerset, and Mark Butcher's 205 against Yorkshire.

Bowler of the month - Simon Jones
It's a slightly romantic chpice, but to see Jones racing in and bowling at 90mph has been one of the most enjoyable sights of the season so far. He has collected five-wicket hauls in the Championship and FP Trophy, but most encouragingly he is managing to string together a series of injury-free matches. His one appearance on TV, against Hampshire in the FP Trophy, set tongues wagging as he hit 91mph during his opening spell and reports from the Championship are that his pace has remained high. All this has inevitably led to the big question: how long until an England recall? Some suggestions have been the end of this summer against South Africa, but it would be wise for everyone not to get ahead of themselves. There is plenty of cricket in the winter, then a certain Ashes series next year. Now, wouldn't that be a story?

Bowling performance of the month - Darren Pattinson, 6 for 30 v Lancashire
It's been an interesting start to county cricket for Pattinson. He took a six-wicket haul on debut and was then promptly dropped when Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad became available between international stints. When those two were needed by England, Pattinson was straight back in and responded by demolishing Lancashire with 6 for 30 on a lively Trent Bridge surface. His first spell left Lancashire on 16 for 4, then he returned to trap Stuart Law lbw, just as he was engineering a fightback. The last six wickets then fell for 12.

Unlikely hero of the month - Chris Wright
It's always nice to see a familiar face...except when he steals a victory against his former club. Wright moved from Middlesex to Essex over the winter and when the two sides met at Chelmsford, his new county looked down and out at 202 for 8 needing a further 97 to win. Up stepped Wright, who was signed more for his bustling seam bowling than batting prowess, but hit an unbeaten 71 out of a match-winning stand of 99 with James Middlebrook.

Youngster of the month - Danny Evans
A tall Middlesex quick bowler has been causing a stir this season, but Steven Finn appears to have some competition in the up-and-coming bowler stakes at Lord's. Evans, 20, is a rangy seamer who can generate decent pace with late swing. He took 6 for 34 against Essex at Chelmsford - a match Middlesex should have won - which has earned him an extended run in the side, at the expense of Finn. Competition for places can only be healthy.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo