County Championship 2022 review: Final tables, team of the season and a sweet farewell for Darren Stevens

It was a season to remember after a winter to forget. It was not too long ago that county cricket was being blamed for pretty much all English cricket’s ills. A disastrous Ashes series followed by an equally calamitous tour of the West Indies – which signalled the end of Joe Root’s time as captain – led to a deafening call for change.

Forward wind to the end of a long, long summer, though, and it is clear that the domestic game is still alive and kicking. Not least in Division One, where a thrilling final day at Edgbaston ended with Warwickshire shocking Hampshire – who had been in the title chase until the penultimate match – to relegate Yorkshire.

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Surrey had sealed the Division One crown last week but were smashed by an innings by Lancashire, who finished second. Gloucestershire had long since been condemned to second-tier cricket next season. Nottinghamshire, meanwhile, won promotion by the top flight, finishing top of Division Two, with Middlesex going up alongside them.

So, after a summer in which England won six out of seven Tests, where was the chorus of approval for the County Championship as the autumnal chill descended on the final round of matches?

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“I’m not sure we’ll ever hear those,” laughs Giles White, Hampshire’s director of cricket. “It’s the whipping boy when things go wrong. But inside the county game, there’s a lot of good people working very hard and there’s been some really good cricket this summer.

“We don’t promote the County Championship in the way that we could because around the world, Division One is seen as the strongest domestic cricket competition there is. There are players queuing up to come over and maybe we could invest in it a little bit more. We all see the Hundred promoted massively and the domestic game, and especially the County Championship, isn’t really at all. It’s still the one competition that all the players want to win.”

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Middlesex had their final day of the season play out in the gloom at New Road, where overnight west Midlands rain put paid to their hopes of finishing their campaign with a win. As it was, a draw was all they needed to finish the season with cause for celebration.

Final tables

Division One:

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Division Two:

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Speaking to i, the county’s head of men’s performance cricket, Alan Coleman, is another who saw plenty to celebrate in four-day and one-day cricket.

“Both divisions have gone to the wire at either end of the table,” said Coleman. “It was two from three between ourselves, Nottinghamshire and Glamorgan, to go up. In the first, you had Yorkshire and Warwickshire battling it out to stay up on the last day of a very long season.

“The 50-over competition was fantastic as well, so I think there’s a lot to be happy about. There were some really, really good games in that tournament and a decent final too. Those who support county cricket will see that the season has been really competitive this year, whereas the Hundred was pretty one-sided all the way through. There weren’t many games that went to the wire in that competition, while in county cricket there have been a number.”

That said, there’s unlikely to be a change of priority in domestic cricket any time soon, no matter the weight of opinion from the shires, where the view still persists that the ECB is putting all its eggs in one financial basket – creating a basketcase of a schedule while doing so.

But as the sun sets on another county season, who should we be raising a glass to as the pubs prepare to stoke their fires for winter?

Performance of the season

There have been plenty but Glamorgan’s Sam Northeast deserves a special mention for his 410 not out against Leicestershire back in July. That innings was, incredibly, the ninth highest individual score in first-class history and made Northeast one of only four players – alongside Archie MacLaren, Brian Lara and Graeme Hick – to have achieved the 400 feat in the County Championship. Bravo.

Bowler of the season

The days of taking 100 wickets in a season are long gone, which makes 50 the barometer of a successful season. Hampshire had three bowlers, Mohammad Abbas, Kyle Abbott and Keith Barker, reach that tally – the most of any side. But bowler of the season goes to Durham’s Matty Potts, who took 58 wickets in a season in which he broke into the England side.

Batter of the season

Keaton Jennings has had his fair share of ups and downs over his first-class career but you cannot fault his consistency at the top of the order for Lancashire this summer. Jennings – who might well have done enough to earn an England recall for their Test tour of Pakistan this December – scored an amazing 1,233 runs at an average of 72, a tally that included five hundreds. He just shadeed Harry Brook and Derbyshire’s Shan Masood, the Pakistan international who will captain newly-relegated Yorkshire next season.

Wicketkeeper of the season

Keepers do not often get the credit they deserve, so hats off to John Simpson, who became the first Middlesex stumper to score over 1,000 runs in a county season since JT Murray in 1970. Not bad going for a player who turned 34 in July.

i‘s County Championship team of the season

  • 1 Keaton Jennings (Lancashire)
  • 2 Shan Masood (Derbyshire)
  • 3 Ben Duckett (Nottinghamshire)
  • 4 Wayne Masden (Derbyshire)
  • 5 Harry Brook (Yorkshire)
  • 6 Will Jacks (Surrey)
  • 7 John Simpson (Middlesex)
  • 8 Keith Barker (Hampshire)
  • 9 Matty Potts (Durham)
  • 10 Toby Roland-Jones (Middlesex)
  • 11 Mohammad Abbas (Hampshire)

The sweet farewell of the season (or is it?)

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17: Darren Stevens kisses the trophy after Kent won the Royal London One-Day Cup Final between Kent Spitfires and Lancashire at Trent Bridge on September 17, 2022 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Philip Brown/Popperfoto/Popperfoto via Getty Images)
Stevo’s last dance: Darren Stevens ended his Kent career with silverware (Photo: Getty)

Darren Stevens has left Kent at the age of 46 but despite reports of his impending retirement, the all-rounder does not appear ready to hang up his pads just yet. And why would he? Stevens almost single-handedly guided Kent to the final of the One Day Cup a fortnight ago, and then, having got there, starred as they beat Lancashire to lift the trophy.

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