As the LV= County Championship heads into its mid-season break, Matt Carter picks his team of the season so far.
Adam Lyth - Yorkshire (1013 runs)
Without last year’s top scorer Gary Ballance there were concerns regarding whether Yorkshire’s batting would be the same animal - Lyth has however stepped into that breach and beyond.
Lyth this week become the first player in Division One to pass the prestigious 1,000 run mark.
Of the top tier batsmen to have scored in excess of 70 runs only Ed Joyce can boast a higher average than Lyth’s 59.58.
Lyth’s average runs per innings (59.6) is the highest of any top tier batsmen.
Daryl Mitchell - Worcestershire (1222 runs)
Saeed Ajmal will grab the Worcestershire headlines, but Mitchell has been just as vital of a cog to the batting - albeit less spectacular - as the Pakistani has the bowling - producing a season of unheralded run regularity.
Mitchell is the competition’s leading run-scorer with a remarkable 1222 - a total which is already 398 runs greater than he achieved through the entire 2013 campaign.
Nobody has scored more than Mitchell’s five centuries to date, with his game per hundred ratio superior to any other batsmen boasting at least 550 runs.
His average of 81.46 is the highest of any player to scored in excess of 200 runs.
Ed Joyce - Sussex (820 runs)
The Sussex skipper has been fighting a relatively lone battle with the blade - Luke Wright aside - and quite where his side would be without his runs doesn’t bare thinking about.
Together with Chris Rogers, Joyce is the sole batsmen to be averaging surplus to 45 in both the 2013 season and the 2014 campaign to date.
Joyce’s current average of 63.07 is the highest in Division One - excluding those to have scored less than 550 runs.
An average of a century every 2.5 games is also the best in the top flight - dismissing both Gary Balance and Ian Bell who have each played just four fixtures.
James Vince - Hampshire (1167 runs)
2013 has undoubtedly been the year in which James Vince’s has transformed from a player of endless potential to a serious performer - the immensely gifted right-hander a significant factor in Hampshire’s promotion push.
23-year-old Vince was the first man through the 1,000 run barrier - remarkably claiming that accolade as early as June.
Discounting batsmen who have scored less than 500 Championship runs, nobody can vaunt a strike rate higher than Vince’s 79.
Of the batsmen to have exceeded 500 runs only Mitchell and Bell have done so a better average than Vince.
Samit Patel - Nottinghamshire (974 runs)
After several years of frustration, 2014 has brought the best out of the supremely talented Patel.
Focusing specifically on Division One batsmen who have scored at least 500 runs, only Alex Hales has done so with a strike rate healthier than Patel’s 69.
Patel’s current average of 44 is nearly 10 runs superior to that of his overall 2013 figure.
After Lyth, Patel is the second highest run-getting Englishmen in the top flight
Riki Wessels - Nottinghamshire (887 runs)
Previously a figure of unrivalled inconsistency, this season Wessels has finally been able to challenge his undeniable ability - with hugely destructive effect.
With 21 maximums Wessels has hit more sixes than any other player, comfortably ousting Division One’s second best - his team-mate Alex Hales - by an emphatic 10 blows.
Few players have experienced such a drastic turnaround in fortunes with Wessels’ current average almost 28 runs higher than figure he achieved in 2013.
Chris Read - Nottinghamshire (632 runs)
Even at 35 Read is still among the best glovesmen in the country, whilst after a series of under par batting campaigns 2014 has seen him return to his punchy best with the bat.
Read’s 632 runs rank him as the highest scoring wicket-keeper in the top tier - that tally including a critical unbeaten 40 which guided Notts to a tense and potentially pivotal one victory in a low scoring clash against Lancashire.
Together with that the 35 year old has guided Notts to within five points of the Championship apex.
His 41 dismissals can only be surpassed by Tim Ambrose in Division One, although both Mark Wallace and James Foster from Division Two can both better that with 49 and 46 respectively.
Tom Smith - Lancashire (604 runs & 48 wickets)
Perhaps the most testifying statement you could make surrounding Smith’s stunning all-round season is that he could realistically make most Division One starting XIs based on either discipline alone.
Smith is the only player in the country to have taken over 40 wickets and scored in excess of 500 runs.
Together with that the all-rounder sits third in the Division One wicket-taking charts and 22nd in regards to runs scored - boasting averages of 18.6 and 31.4 with ball and bat respectively.
Smith’s bowling strike rate of 38 is the lowest of any player across both divisions - excluding those who have taken less than 25 wickets.
Jack Brooks - Yorkshire (49 wickets)
Yorkshire’s rise to the Championship apex has revolved around a bowling collective, however their cohesive unit has consistently been spearheaded by the lionhearted Brooks.
Brooks has been made to work for those wickets given that he has bowled more overs than any other seamer - his over count the third highest of any bowler.
Highlighting the consistent flow of wickets offered by the former Northants bowler is the fact that accounting for average wickets per game he ranks sixth on the division one list.
Saeed Ajmal - Worcestershire (63 wickets - Overseas Player)
Convincing Ajmal to spend the bulk of his summer at New Road has been the masterstroke of the season, with the mystical spinner persistently leaving a trail of batting devastation in his wake.
Ajmal can boast an astounding wickets per game ratio of seven - almost two wickets higher than any other bowler across both divisions.
The Pakistani’s return of six five-wicket hauls - achieved in just nine games - is twice as many as the second placed bowler on the division one list in this regard - Steve Magoffin.
If Worcestershire had been afforded Ajmal’s services for the entire campaign his projected wicket tally - based on his current total of 63 - would be a frightening 112.
Mark Footitt - Derbyshire (52 wickets)
By all accounts Derbyshire have endured an exasperating campaign, yet the resounding bright spark has been the advancements of the quick - yet previously erratic - Mark Footitt.
Seven wickets against Glamorgan this week saw Footitt rise to the summit in regards to leading English wicket-taker - those scalps taking the Derbyshire man to an impressive 52 for the season.
Only Tom Smith can better Footitt’s bowling strike rate of 38.7 - discounting bowlers who have not claimed at least 20 wickets.
Footitt’s average of 20.86 sees him occupy fifth spot in regards to non-overseas bowlers.
The remit of sticking to one overseas player inevitably meant a plethora of the tournament’s top performers being overlooked, including both Dvision One’s leading quick bowler and spinner in regards to wickets - Steve Magoffin and Jeetan Patel currently holding those respective titles. Chris Rogers - ranked second in the top flight run charts - is another with reason to feel aggrieved.
Marcus Trescothick arguably narrowly pips Alex Hales to the role of next batsmen in line, while any one of a number of seamers might have made the cut given how the minimal disparity between the leading contenders - Michael Hogan and Lewis Gregory particularly unfortunate to miss out.
© Cricket World 2014