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How Did Your County Do This Season? Part One - Derbyshire-Leicestershire

Durham celebrate at Lord's
Durham celebrate their Royal London One Day Cup victory at Lord's
©REUTERS / Action Images
 

Matt Carter gives his analysis of how Derbyshire, Durham, Essex, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent, Lancashire and Leicestershire fared this season.

Quick Links: Derbyshire | Durham | Essex | Glamorgan | Gloucestershire | Hampshire | Kent | Lancashire | Leicestershire

Derbyshire

How it went

The inception of a new coaching regime spearheaded by Graeme Welch raised hopes of a bright new dawn, yet a desperately sluggish start generated fears of a return to the doldrums. With yet another disastrous Twenty20 campaign - Derbyshire won only once - the peak of those problems.

Slowly but surely however in line with the easing of a Championship relegation hangover Welch’s methods have taken effect, with five wins from their final six fixtures securing a respectable fourth place finish in the longer format.

At the same time an unexpected journey to the Royal London Cup quarter-finals - Derbyshire's first foray into knockout cricket since 2005 - added to the growing feel-good factor surrounding the club.

Star man

With 82 first-class wickets to his name Mark Footitt showcased extraordinary levels of advancement and was debatably the most venomous seamer across both divisions.

The future

The final furlongs indicate a bright horizon in four-day cricket, provided Derbyshire’s batsmen can offer a greater degree of support to one of the division’s better attacks. Significant success in limited overs cricket appears testing with Derbyshire lacking both hitting power and control options with the ball, nonetheless their 50 over exploits offers hope of at least competing.

Durham

How it went

After the euphoria of lifting last season’s County Championship Durham appeared a pale imitation of that animal through the opening two thirds of the season, with an unspectacular Twenty20 journey coinciding with walking the relegation trap door in the longest format.

Those difficulties were influenced by the consistent absence of Graham Onions and arguably it wasn’t until the arrival of Australian John Hastings combined with Ben Stokes' availability that the tide dramatically turned. Through the final month of the season Durham eased clear of relegation waters, before a supreme run of six consecutive wins - all in must-win situations - guided them to an unexpected Royal London Cup victory - Stokes proving influential in securing a fifth trophy in only seven years.

Star man

Stokes provided the fire to Durham’s revival, however just as imperative was the all-round contribution of the evergreen Paul Collingwood.

The future

The doubters will again be out for Durham with Stokes’ availability liable to be minimal nonetheless similar concerns were raised prior to this campaign. Much however could hinge on Onions’ recovery, while the retention of Hastings is welcome in combatting Stokes' absence.

That Collingwood has extended his deal is a boost which should not be undervalued.

Essex

How it went

Only Warwickshire won more games than Essex, yet exasperatingly the Chelmsford outfit can boast scant reward for that return.

Warwickshire proved quarter-final stumbling blocks in both limited overs competitions, with Essex twice falling to frustrating home defeats. The Twenty20 setback will have cut particularly deep given Essex had dominated the Southern group.

The Championship however generated the most substantial point of aggravation, given no side has ever eclipsed Essex’s 229 points tally and not been rewarded with promotion. The critical ground was lost through the season’s opening half where bowling injuries left Essex with just one win in nine and not even a phenomenal run of six wins in seven could avert another near miss.

Star man

Jesse Ryder’s bowling success was unprecedented and while his batting disappointed slightly Essex have handed him a new deal; youngsters Nick Browne and Tom Westley also impressed.

The future

Provided their bowlers steer clear of the treatment table Essex should again be there or thereabouts in regards to promotion, although a second consecutive season without a batsmen passing 1,000 runs is a concern.

In limited overs cricket Essex aren’t short of match-winners and should again be in the mix, although doubts reside whether they boast a strong enough all-round package to lift trophies.

Glamorgan

How it went

A season which began with substantial signs of promise quickly petered out into one which can be best labelled in the disappointing category.

Having gone through their opening nine Championship games suffering only a sole defeat, Glamorgan then capitulated to a sequence of five losses in their final seven, a return which left the Welsh county only propped up by Leicestershire. The batsmen arguably carry the bulk of the blame for that given Glamorgan can boast just five individual centuries.

A run to the Twenty20 quarter-finals was a memorable bright spot, however elimination at the Royal London group stage was inadequate for a side who reached the final a year previous.

Star man

Jacques Rudolph topped the Royal London Cup run scoring charts, while Jim Allenby bowled well in the Championship and batted exceptionally in the Twenty20. Michael Hogan was however superb across all formats.

The future

Glamorgan’s array of experience should continue to serve them well in limited overs cricket, with a run to the latter rounds of either competition far from unfeasible. It is the Championship however where Toby Radford must improve and in particular extract more out of his maligned batsmen.

Gloucestershire

How it went

Third bottom of the Championship represented minimal improvement on 2013’s effort, at the same time Gloucestershire rarely threatened to escape their Twenty20 group – finishing above only Middlesex in the Southern table.

The Royal London Cup signified relief with Michael Klinger’s side advancing to the last eight, although a defeat at that stage to Kent will be considered a missed opportunity.

Star man

Worryingly for Gloucestershire their undisputed star performer across all formats was the departing Will Gidman who shone with both bat and ball. On a more positive note in a season where results largely brought little reason for cheer Gloucestershire will take heart from encouraging developments by numerous younger players, most notably William Tavaré who scored four Championship centuries.

The future

Without both Alex and Will Gidman - the county’s leading four-day run-scorers and wicket-takers respectively - Gloucestershire’s already arduous assignment will only stiffen. A promising crop of youngsters - Craig Miles, Tavaré and Gareth Roderick among the most notable - mean the future is not completely bleak, however if Gloucestershire are to excel Michael Klinger must rediscover the runs regularity of last year - provided he is retained.

Hampshire

How it went

Having criminally underachieved in the longer format since relegation in 2011, in the process barely threatening a top-flight return, Hampshire finally brought that exile to an end by lifting the Division Two trophy.

That achievement was completed with just a single defeat and discounting a few hairy moments with the finish line in site, few would question Jimmy Adams’ side as worthy champions.

That accomplishment was paired with a sixth consecutive appearance at Twenty20 Finals Day, although having reached Edgbaston Hampshire then underperformed against a buoyant Lancashire in the last four. Their Royal London Cup campaign never got going; however that was a minor flaw in a season in which the primary objective was realised.

Star man

Nobody in the country scored more four-day runs than James Vince and international recognition is a matter of when rather than if.

The future

Hampshire’s imposing batting, which accounts for three of Division Two’s top five scorers, should adjust to life at the top level yet their bowling can be looked upon with less confidence - even bottom side Leicestershire acquired more bowling points.

Their limited overs outfit remains formidable and should continue to threaten at the business end of competition.

Kent

How it went

After a prolonged spell of seemingly being consigned to county cricket’s basement, 2014 finally offered rays of hope for Kent.

Four Championship wins arguably didn’t do justice to Kent’s progress, although throughout the campaign they were plagued by constantly following steps forward with another back.

Limited overs cricket perhaps best outlined Kent’s advancements, with the Canterbury outfit enjoying an excellent run to a deserved 50-over semi-final appearance while also showing glimpses of capability in the shortest format.

What makes Kent’s campaign most encouraging is that the bulk of their positive performances have been orchestrated by a promising crop of young players.

Star man

Sam Billings was breakthrough player of the Royal London Cup; nonetheless it is again impossible to look beyond the all-round qualities of Darren Stevens.

The future

The 2014 performances of Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sam Northeast, Billings and Adam Riley, among others, offer substantial reason to envisage a brighter future.

In spite of that, Kent remain hindered by a lack of genuine seam bowling fire, despite Stevens’ best efforts, and selecting the right overseas bowling spearhead could dictate how 2015 pans out.

Consistency was also an issue this year; however the expectancy will be for that to diminish as their young side matures.

Lancashire

How it went

Lancashire’s instant return to the second tier was only confirmed on the final day of the season, nonetheless the Red Rose rarely threatened to seriously survive - winning just a single Championship fixture aside from those against Northamptonshire.

Peter Moores' departure weeks into the season didn’t help nor did bowling injuries, with Lancashire’s penchant for conceding first innings leads not solely an issue relating to their maligned batsmen.

The T20 Blast provided substantial respite, with Lancashire winning more games than any other county, although clinical Warwickshire denied Andrew Flintoff the dream story on Finals Day. The 50-over competition was less satisfactory with Lancashire never entertaining the prospect of qualification.

Star man

Tom Smith enjoyed a stellar campaign across all formats and Lancashire will rue the injury which ruled him out of the relegation decider against a vulnerable Middlesex.

The future

For all Glenn Chapple’s commitment to the cause, there is a viewpoint he will be a mere stop-gap to a county in need of substantial rebuilding, with Ashley Giles' name being linked to the club.

Lancashire’s much feared bowling attack is now lacking bite, at the same time if they are to succeed the batting must improve; nonetheless their Twenty20 showing suggests there is ample character to work with.

Leicestershire

How it went

By the season’s conclusion Leicestershire again cut a sorry state, with a second consecutive winless Championship campaign - the first time a county have suffered such an ignominy since the war - the most startling aspect of their troubles.

That strife was far from unexpected and to Leicestershire’s credit they did show glimpses of improvement through the early rounds before their ineptitude, influenced by consistent departures, was fully exposed.

The shorter formats - so often in the past a solace of comfort - offered little relief either with only Derbyshire losing less Twenty20 games in the group.

Star man

Nail O’Brien displayed the fighting qualities essential to Leicestershire hauling themselves back to a position of respectability.

The future

The confirmed exits of Joshua Cobb, Nathan Buck and Shiv Thakor only heightened the mood of desperation surrounding the club with many suggesting a complete overhaul of the club’s running being necessary to generate even a speck of light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

A productive overseas player was a must and Clint McKay should bring much-needed venom while new deals for both Ned Eckersley and Angus Robson at least averted a worst-case scenario - with that young duo alongside O’Brien providing a platform to building a batting base.

© Cricket World 2014