This season has not only produced a close race for the First Division title, but also hard-fought battles to survive relegation and gain promotion. With the dust now settling on the summer, Andrew McGlashan picks the County Championship class of 2005.



Owais Shah ended as the leading run scorer in the country © Splod

Mike Hussey (Durham)
A run machine for his county - when he wasn't away on international duty. It was to Durham's advantage that Australia's selectors are a stubborn bunch and refused to alter their Test squad: Hussey would have surely featured. He repeatedly gave Durham solid and occasionally stunning starts to their innings; once in, he often compiled a large score.

Phil Jaques (Yorkshire)
Another prolific Australian who has yet to taste international cricket. He is a destructive left-hander who showed no mercy on the second division bowling attacks. His runs were of two-fold importance; they gave a threadbare bowling attack a chance to win matches, and ensured Yorkshire batted their way to high-scoring draws.

Owais Shah (Middlesex)
John Emburey, the Middlesex coach, said Shah would have to "bat like Don Bradman" if he was to perform better than he did this summer. After seasons of failing to fulfil his obvious potential, he racked up 1728 runs this summer. He was the complete batsman; comfortable against pace, and quick on his feet to some quality spin bowlers. If he maintains his focus this winter then, despite the disappointment of missing the Pakistan tour, an international recall won't be far away.

David Hussey (Nottinghamshire)
Joined his brother, Mike, in plundering county attacks, and his 1293 runs helped Notts secure their first Championship title since 1987. An immensely powerful and destructive batsman, he also scored his runs at a good pace to give the Notts bowlers time to win matches. His safe hands at slip pouched 30 catches.



Ed Joyce was in prolific form and earned a place at the England Academy © Getty Images

Ed Joyce (Middlesex)
Completes a Middlesex duo in the top order and, like Shah, is off to the Academy this winter. Started the summer with a bang - passing 1000 runs in seven matches - and, although the big scores tailed off towards September, he still passed 1500 runs in the Championship. He has all the makings of an ideal Test No. 4 and has many of Graham Thorpe's characteristics. He is strong square of the wicket and is comfortable against pace and spin.

Dale Benkenstein (Durham)
An astute signing by Martyn Moxon, Benkenstein arrived on a Kolpak deal and, by the end of the summer, had become a favourite around Chester-le-Street. His experience glued the middle order together - a weak point for Durham in past seasons - and was an ideal stand-in captain when Mike Hussey and Paul Collingwood were on international duty. Throw in his useful medium-pace bowling and safe fielding and Durham certainly got value from him.

Nic Pothas (Hampshire)
A mature head in a relatively young Hampshire team, Pothas was in excellent form with the bat and gloves throughout the summer. Over 900 runs at 51 helped to compensate for the below-par performance of other top order batsmen - and the missing Kevin Pietersen. His wicketkeeping developed against Shane Warne, and South Africa will be cursing another talented cricketer who got away from them.

Mushtaq Ahmed (Sussex)
Still producing magic with the ball, he finished as the leading wicket taker in the country - and not for the first time. His consistency has reignited talk of an international recall this winter against England, andhas meant that Chris Adams always had confidence to throw him the ball in any situation. With Mushtaq bowling well, Sussex could never be written out of the Championship race.



Mushtaq Ahmed was the leading wicket taker and helped Sussex to third place in the Championship © Splod

Naved-ul-Hasan (Sussex)
A late arrival for Sussex after completing his international commitments, but a stunning success when he arrived. He sped past fifty Championship wickets in only nine matches - including a stunning display at Lord's when he helped Sussex rout Middlesex in two days. His pacey away-swing posed constant problems for opposition batsmen, and he also showed the ability to produce reverse-swing with the older ball. However, the surprising aspect was his batting - he averaged 31 including a rapid 139 in that match at Lord's.

Alan Richardson (Middlesex)
A winter move from Warwickshire was just the tonic Richardson needed. Finishing as Middlesex's leading wicket-taker by a considerable margin, he bowled like a man reborn. He quickly developed from a stock bowler into Ben Hutton's main wicket-taking option, especially in the first half of the season.

Mark Davies (Durham)
A stunning average 16 and strike-rate of 36 for Davies, who provided a constant threat whenever he was given a chance in the Championship. He was not initially selected when Steve Harmison was around but, for the second half of the season, it was he and Liam Plunkett who led the attack.

The chosen XI are all worthy of their places in the Championship XI, but seven of them are not eligible for England. The number of Kolpak and overseas players in county cricket is an ongoing debate, so below is an alternative XI - all of whom are available for selection. And, as the England selectors have shown in the winter tour squads, age is no factor, and the door is never shut.

Robert Key, Jason Gallian, Mark Ramprakash, Owais Shah, Ed Joyce, Anthony McGrath, Chris Read, Chris Tremlett, Shaun Udal, Alan Richardson, Mark Davies

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo