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Lancashire’s Tom Bailey has been crowned the County Championship MVP after a stunning red-ball summer
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Tom Bailey finished the campaign as the higher wicket-taker in Division One with 64 poles to his name at less than 20 apiece. Despite his side’s relegation to Division Two, Bailey finished top of the pile, demonstrating how consistent he has been over the course of 2018.
Not only did he take wickets, Bailey also chipped in with runs when it mattered, finishing with a total of 308 runs. Although the season ended in relegation for the red rose county, Bailey’s 330 MVP points showed he did everything he could to try and prevent their fate.
Essex spinner Simon Harmer was Bailey’s biggest challenger at the top of the rankings, pushing the Lancashire seamer until the very end, finishing just eight points short of Bailey in second. The spinner took 57 Div One wickets in another solid campaign and also scored over 450 runs, including a brilliant unbeaten hundred during the last game of the season as Essex beat Surrey to stop the Rey going the whole season unbeaten.
It was a sparkling 2018 for Surrey as they won the County Championship at a canter with two games to spare and although plenty of players contributed, the contribution of veteran Rikki Clarke can not be underestimated.
Clarke was part of the Surrey side that claimed the title 16 years ago so it’s perhaps fitting he made such an impact this campaign.
The 36-year-old finished second in the overall MVP rankings and third in the Championship standings with 303 points. Exactly 500 runs and 47 wickets showed how valuable he was to the teams cause, and although others will take the plaudits, the contribution he made to their first title since 2002 cannot be underestimated.
Likewise, the effect Morne Morkel had on the team was astonishing. The former South African quick only played ten games for Surrey but racked up 292.62 points at an average of 29.26 a game. No player averaged higher over the same amount of games. His wickets provided that final push for the title.
In Division Two Kent and Warwickshire dominated and earned promotion to the top tier of red-ball cricket.
Matt Henry was simply unstoppable for Kent and in eleven games claimed a staggering 295.67 points at 26.88. He finished the leading wicket-taker across both divisions with 75 at just over 15. If he had stayed the full season at Canterbury he could’ve well won the crown and possibly have pushed the overall MVP winner and teammate Joe Denly for the £10,000 cheque.
However, it wasn’t enough for Kent to take the Div Two title as Warwickshire beat them in the final game of the season to go up in style.
Jeetan Patel was once again the talisman for the county, finishing 19th in the county championship MVP rankings and their top wicket-taker with 56 to his name. Keith Barker also had another good year finishing inside the top 50 players in the red-ball competition.
The Rapids star man has been youngster Pat Brown with the 20-year-old going into Finals Day as the top wicket taker in the entire competition. Taking 27 scalps at an average of 14 means he is the highest placed Worcestershire player in the MVP Rankings, sitting in 19th position.
It could be surprising to see Brown not firmly inside the top 10, however, the paceman has never scored a T20 run and has only faced six balls in his entire career. This means he has zero batting points and only two fielding points, the fewest in the top 20.
So despite currently top of the bowling stats according to the MVP, taking everything into account he has had a breakthrough season to remember and will be a key man if the Worcestershire are to go all the way.
However, Moeen Ali is arguably the key man for the Rapids. The all-rounder will captain his side on their first ever Finals Day and is fresh from winning the PCA Player of the Month for August and playing a key part in his country’s 4-1 victory over India.
Ultimately, Denly will be a tough man to overhaul at the top of the Blast MVP Rankings. He remarkably scored a hundred and took a hat-trick in the same game, and although his efforts were not enough to help the Spitfires to Finals Day, his form throughout the Blast proves he is worthy of his current position.
409 runs with the bat, 20 wickets with the ball and leading Kent to the quarter-finals. If Denly retains the top spot come Saturday night, he would have deserved it.
View the MVP Rankings here.