As the county season dribbled to an end in balmy autumnal sunshine on 1 October, and the Bob Willis Trophy was raised alongside the County Championship by Warwickshire on the Lord’s balcony, thoughts drifted towards the annual Spin awards. These gongs, without prize money or gravitas to commend them, celebrate the good, bad and downright peculiar of the Championship season.
The Chris Woakes award for the year’s unsung hero Radio 5 live’s county cricket champion Kevin Howells spent his season zipping across the country at the arse end of the summer in search of the game to best satisfy his insatiable listeners. Even during the last week of September, he was forced to climb back into the driver’s seat and hotstep it from Aigburth to Edgbaston in search of a decent radio connection. Good humoured, dogged and an energetic wearer of a waterproof coat he is a brilliant broadcaster and a tireless advocate for the county game.
The Dorian Gray award for not going gently For the third year running, Darren Stevens. It turned out he saw last year’s Wisden Cricketer of The Year award not as an end-of-career gong, but a mid-career catalyst, launching into yet another summer of derring-do. He bustled into the spring with a hundred against Northamptonshire, the oldest player since 1986 to score a championship ton, and bettered it with 190 against Glamorgan, something that inspired more than 90,000 people to watch online. He finished the season as Kent’s leading wicket-taker, the third-highest run-scorer and with a new one-year contract.
The avocado award for seasonal hors d’oeuvre The blizzard that played ping-pong over the Pennines in early spring, killing the games between Yorkshire and Glamorgan and Lancashire and Sussex. In the Old Trafford press box, red fleecy blankets and heaters were brought in an attempt to prevent icicles forming while the Sussex players had a snowball fight on the outfield.
The Hardik Pandya award for brotherly love Joe Root’s pat on the back for little brother Billy as he moved to his century with a clip off the legs against his older brother; Matt Parkinson’s Twitter championing of his twin brother, Callum, fellow spinner and Leicestershire captain.
The YTS award for services to under 21s Sussex, who risked giving their longsuffering members a collective coronary by throwing open the red ball team to a cluster of their most talented teenagers. Sometimes it came off – 16-year-old Dan Ibrahim became the youngest player to make a Championship half-century. Sometimes it did not – Sussex finished with the wooden spoon, their first for 21 years, conceding four losses as the summer shimmied towards to a close.
The don’t get mad, get even award Essex, who took out their irritation at being denied the chance to regain their Championship crown by crushing (almost) all before them in Division Two. Their half-hearted celebration of the second-tier championship is a warning to everyone else next year: Essex want their crown back.
The Allan Donald single of the year award Jack Blatherwick’s end of the over moment of madness, which left him to face six balls of Mason Crane turning it out of the dust at Aigburth during Lancashire’s spectacular collapse/thrilling run chase. He survived three balls before edging the next to second slip, leaving No 11 Matt Parkinson to last the over. He did and Dane Vilas took them over the line to ensure the Championship was undecided till the final day.
The Eeyore’s popped balloon award for party celebrations: Lancashire, who set up a big room in the Point for that last day of the season, inviting members and players to watch the final day at Edgbaston on a big screen and cooking up a selection of delicious snacks. Unfortunately, Somerset could not hold their innings together and just a thimbleful of the most loyal turned up to see Warwickshire’s captain, Will Rhodes, catch Jack Brooks at slip to win the match and collect the title.
The Nasser Hussain award for reading the runes Kent looked up at the glowering north-west skies, glanced at the opposition team sheet that included the name James Anderson and decided to have a bat. Anderson quickly snaffled his 1,000th first-class wicket on his way to seven for 19, as Kent were bowled out within a session.
The Ben Stokes award for working miracles Nottinghamshire, under cobwebs after seasons of underachievement and the failure to win a Championship match for almost three years, got one under their belt against Derbyshire and suddenly rediscovered their mojo, finishing top of Group One and third in the final standings.
The fickleness of fate award Haseeb Hameed and James Bracey, whose contrasting fortunes with England after impressive showings in county cricket showed how cruel the game can be. Here’s to Bracey finding strength from Hameed’s comeback.
The ECB award for worst press release of the year Yorkshire, who released a summary of their long-awaited report within an hour of the Old Trafford Test being called off and whose inability to just straightforwardly apologise to Azeem Rafiq continues to baffle.
The NatWest Trophy award for grabbing your chance when you can Warwickshire’s Rob Yates, who made a glorious autumnal century in the Bob Willis Trophy final, in front of the Sky cameras and a host of influential eyes, just as the selectors (probably) prepare to pick an Ashes tour and a shadow A squad.
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