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The moments that made the season - Part Two

The greatest retirement statement to the heart-stopping finish, ESPNcricinfo rounds up the memorable moments from the 2016 County Championship, from No.10 to 1 ...

David Hopps
David Hopps
Nightwatchmen can produce some great stories. Liam Norwell had never made a hundred in any form of cricket until he took one off Derbyshire at Bristol in April. But the one we deem worthy of a place in the Top 10 moments came from Owen Morgan, a Swansea-born allrounder, whose maiden hundred was also the matchwinning shot against Worcestershire at New Road in August. He was the first Glamorgan player to achieve the feat and the win took them off the bottom of the table.
9 It's the taking part that matters

Sometimes it really is true to say that it is not the winning that matters but the taking part. Tom Fell, made a memorable comeback for Worcestershire after first testicular cancer and then chemotherapy for lymph cancer and made a stylish half-century against Leicestershire at New Road after an absence of nearly 10 months. The most uplifting fifty of the season.

8 Taunton last-wicket heroics

Summers can turn on days like this, when events unfold quickly and heroes emerge. So it was for Somerset on a bewitching day in Taunton at the end of May, as Nos. 10 and 11, Jack Leach and Tim Groenewald, eked out the 31 runs they required for a victory that felt close to impossible 24 hours earlier. Groenewald cover drove the winning runs after he and Leach had nervelessly played out 11 dot balls with just one required. Taunton had freed itself from a sequence of turgid draws - and was never quite the same again.

7 'Old dog' Tomlinson heads back to the den

Retirement statements are often cobbled together by communications officers and spout predictable thanks. Not so James Tomlinson. Tomlinson might not have been one of the most eye-catching county pros, but he provided a warm and witty farewell to county cricket, recalling a nature documentary about wild dogs on a hunt and comparing himself to the old dog at the back of the pack, trying to keep up. Lovely stuff.

6 John Simpson's six

John Simpson's six over fine leg off Jim Allenby capped a thrilling run chase at Taunton by Middlesex which proved to be a key moment in their Championship success. Middlesex's two-wicket win seemed unlikely with 96 needed off the final eight overs, but Simpson's unbeaten 79 from 80 balls brought victory with two balls to spare.

5 Graham Napier's Colchester farewell

Graham Napier was among his people, in the town where he was born. That it was his last appearance at the Colchester Festival before his retirement was incontestable and there was talk, too, that the Festival itself was under threat. He left everyone something to relish - a marvellous draw-securing 124 against Sussex, one of the key moments in Essex's securing of the Division Two title.

4 Chris Woakes' whirlwind

When your task is to replace Ben Stokes in a Test on Stokes' home ground, you must replace a force of nature. Chris Woakes pronounced he was ready with figures of 9 for 36 against Durham at Edgbaston. His relentless swing bowling at pace was a harbinger of a fine summer ahead. Woakes would be seen in a new light from that day forward.

3 Tim Bresnan's bonus point

Yorkshire's Championship challenge had stuttered all season but somehow they hung in there and thanks to the greatest knock of Tim Bresnan's career - an unbeaten 142 - they kept their ambitions alive against until the final moments of the season. The tension was unbearable as Bresnan and last man Ryan Sidebottom edged towards the 350 Yorkshire needed to stay in the hunt. Who would have thought that the search for a batting bonus point could be captivating?

2 James Hildreth's hobble

For the most courageous innings of the season look no further than James Hildreth in Somerset's final match of the season. Hildreth was only 15 when he was struck on the ankle by Jake Ball, but hobbled on with a runner to make one of the most defiant Championship centuries in history. Hildreth's black-and-blue ankle circulated around social media and an x-ray confirmed it was broken. A couple of days later, Somerset were broken too.

1 The title hat-trick

After 16 matches and nearly six months, the Championship was settled by a hat-trick. Toby Roland-Jones secured Middlesex's first title since 1993 and, whatever the shenanigans to set up the denouement, their unbeaten record insisted they deserved it. The Championship enjoyed a heady afternoon when it was talked about as much as Premier League football and even their salt-of-the-earth director of cricket Angus Fraser, central to the Middlesex resurgence, was beaming with contentment.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps