As the English summer draws to its close, we asked our team of county writers to name their County Championship teams of the season. There were no particular stipulations over batting positions, and players from both divisions were available, but there was only one overseas player permitted per team. The results are below: there were three unanimous picks, while two men snuck in with only five votes out of a possible 11...
Dominic Sibley (Warwickshire)
1324 runs at 69.68
A unanimous pick among our selection panel, Sibley has been Division One's standout batsman over the course of the season, and has hammered the door down to earn his spot in England's squads for their New Zealand tour. Sibley made five hundreds and as many fifties, and faced over 1000 more balls than anyone else in the top division; since opening up his stance at the back end of last season, he has been a run-scoring machine.
Zak Crawley (Kent)
820 runs at 34.16
Started strongly and talk of a Test call-up was fuelled when he made his Lions debut in mid-summer. Playing only his second full season, Crawley's runs at the top of the order helped newly promoted Kent compete in Division One and, despite six single-figure scores in his last eight innings, saw him picked for England's tour of New Zealand. Narrowly held off Sam Hain for a spot in this XI, on the grounds he is an opener (aka. the toughest job in English cricket).
Marnus Labuschagne (Glamorgan)
1114 runs at 65.52
Few Glamorgan fans would have been purring with enthusiasm when they heard the news that Labuschagne had signed as their overseas player, but only a late-season loss of form after his departure stopped him almost single-handedly leading them into Division One. Labuschagne's form - he rocketed along at a strike-rate of 76.19 while scoring prolifically - was enough to make Trevor Bayliss question why the ECB allowed players to sign county deals ahead of a Test tour; but there's no regulation against for the time being, so he makes our team as the overseas player.
Sam Northeast (Hampshire)
969 runs at 51.00
More solid numbers for Northeast, who was denied a chance of becoming only the second batsman to cross 1000 runs in Division One by rain at Canterbury in the final round. Started the season with 169 over five-and-a-half hours against Essex, as the eventual champions were beaten by an innings, and added two more centuries while also filling in as captain when James Vince was on World Cup duty. Moved to Hampshire to try and nudge England but still seems destined to be the new James Hildreth.
Dane Vilas (Lancashire, captain/wicketkeeper)
1036 runs at 79.69, 47 catches, 1 stumping
The obvious choice to take the gloves, Vilas captained Lancashire to promotion at a canter, while starring with the bat in the middle order. His 266 at Colwyn Bay was the highest score in either division this year, and as one panellist points out, there's no Liam Livingstone to throw the ball to in this side, making him a safe choice as skipper.
Ryan Higgins (Gloucestershire)
958 runs at 59.87, 50 wickets at 23.64
The Middlesex hierarchy were miffed when Higgins left for Gloucestershire at the end of the 2017 season, and based on his performances this year, it is clear why. As if his 50 wickets were not enough, primarily thanks to his control over length and movement, he added just short of 1000 runs, with four hundreds to his name, regularly changing the momentum of an innings with his lower-middle-order cameos or hauling Gloucestershire to an extra batting point or two. Without him, promotion might have proved a struggle.
Darren Stevens (Kent)
597 runs at 33.16, 52 wickets at 17.57
Kent's Grand Old Man is still tearing it up at the age of 43, and after years bullying the rest of Division Two proved that he can still mix it with the big boys by tearing apart top-flight top orders with his nibbling swing bowling. He had struggled with the bat for most of the season, but scores of 88 against Nottinghamshire and a jaw-dropping 237 at Headingley proved his longevity and forced Kent into a contract u-turn.
Lewis Gregory (Somerset)
465 runs at 29.06, 51 wickets at 15.76
Gregory's stunning early-season form with the ball was enough to get him into the England squad ahead of the Ireland Test, and his average only snuck above 15 in the final two rounds of the campaign. He was perhaps unfortunate to miss out on the squad for the New Zealand Tests this winter, though has been picked for the T20 series as a finisher, and showed glimpses of his limited-overs biffing in the Championship, smiting 129 against Surrey and hitting important cameos against Notts and Yorkshire.
Simon Harmer (Essex)
83 wickets at 18.28
Another unanimous pick, Harmer has taken more first-class wickets over the last three years than anyone else in the world - and by some margin, too. Only once (Mushtaq Ahmed in 2006) has a bowler taken more five-wicket hauls in a Championship season than Harmer's ten this year, and his stunning form at Chelmsford lends credence to his bullish claim that he knows he is "the best offspinner in the world". Throw in 15 catches with his bucket hands and some useful lower-order runs, and he was a must-pick.
Kyle Abbott (Hampshire)
71 wickets at 15.73
It is impossible to watch Abbott to bowl for Hampshire without wondering what might have been. He has been relentless all season, hitting a difficult length at good pace like a spitting image of Josh Hazlewood, and pegged back Somerset's title hopes in dramatic style last week when he returned the best first-class figures since 1956 with his 17-86.
Ollie Robinson (Sussex)
63 wickets at 16.44
Jason Gillespie's appointment at Sussex in 2018 must have caused Robinson a few concerns; as a 20-year-old coming through the Yorkshire ranks, he had been sacked by 'Dizzy' for his "unprofessional actions" mid-way through a season. Instead, he has been Sussex's attack leader throughout the Gillespie era; he has followed up his 74-wicket season last year with another 63 this time around, all with an average well under 20.
Panel: Valkerie Baynes, Jon Culley, George Dobell, Paul Edwards, Alan Gardner, Richard Hobson, David Hopps, Tom Kingham, Andrew Miller, Daniel Norcross, Matt Roller
*Numbers correct to tea on the final day of Somerset's match with Essex