The cricketer looks back on the first round of the 2022 County Championship season by naming a standout XI after a busy four days of racing…
Joe Weatherley (Hampshire)
Moved to open the innings alongside Ian Holland, after a disappointing top-class campaign in 2021, Weatherley responded in wonderful fashion.
His career-best 168 – spread over just over six-and-a-half hours and 281 face balls – was the hammer blow an already shocked Somerset simply couldn’t recover from.
Weatherley, who hadn’t done a ton in four years, shared an opening position with Holland worth 180 – matching the score the entire Somerset team had managed, and setting a huge marker for the upcoming season.
Alex Lee (Durham)
After a solid but unspectacular start to life in England’s Caribbean Test team, Lees returned to county cricket and underlined why he was selected in the first place.
The fly-half batsman carried his bat for 182 paces, spending almost eight hours in the crease unbeaten, in Durham’s draw with Glamorgan in Cardiff.
Lees is unlikely to be dropped for the New Zealand series in June, despite scoring 31 against West Indies, and this further example of his perseverance will have done his international chances no harm.
Joe Weatherley was in excellent form for Hampshire [Alex Davidson/Getty Images]
Hassan Azad (Leicestershire)
If you wanted to see the old-fashioned batting backline, Grace Road was the place to be this past weekend.
Hassan Azad and Beauran Hendricks combined to ensure Leicestershire picked up a share of the points when they met Worcestershire, seeing over 25 overs together as the Foxes’ last couple on the final day.
Azad, who batted throughout the game’s fourth inning, contributed a consistent 104 on 280 balls, spanning over six hours.
Ben Compton (Kent)
Zak Crawley opted out of the campaign opener and Ben Compton took the opportunity.
Crawley opted to rest after a winter with England, and in his place debutant Compton – signed from Nottinghamshire over the winter – hit 129 as Kent made sure they didn’t give in after conceded 514 to Essex in the first innings of the game.
Compton shared one hundred stands with Tawanda Muyeye and Jordan Cox as Kent responded with 581 for 9 in the draw. Release it now.
James Bracey (Gloucestershire)
In a round full of runs and stacked with 20 individual Centurions, James Bracey’s hundred was probably the best.
Bracey, who has been open about dealing with the effects of her poor start to life on the international stage last summer, has been focused on presenting her class for her county and she was there in abundance at Wantage Road.
The wicket-beater keeper made 117 in Gloucestershire’s first 223 innings, more than half the team’s total, and struck for all but the first two overs of innings. Without him it could have been a miserable start to the season for Gloucestershire. In the end, they managed to get a share of the points. For good measure, Bracey also had seven kills behind the stumps.
Ben Compton made his debut at the hundred for Kent [Jacques Feeney/Getty Images]
Ryan Higgins (Gloucestershire)
Why the hell did Middlesex let this guy go?
Ryan Higgins is among the best all-rounders on the circuit right now, and this all-around performance in the Gloucestershire draw at Northamptonshire underscored that statement.
Higgins scored 167 runs in the match and returned numbers of 7 for 115. A fantastic cricket manager’s delight.
Matt Critchley (Essex)
As for the debut, it wasn’t bad.
Matt Critchley swapped Derbyshire for Essex in the off-season and, in Simon Harmer’s absence, is the county’s main rotation option.
He took center stage unflinchingly, going 132 with the bat on his first hit for his new team, then came back 4 for 114 with the ball, passing 46 overs in the process.
Michael Burgess (Warwickshire)
Michael Burgess has competition for the gloves in Warwickshire, following the off-season arrival of Alex Davies. Against Surrey he showed he wasn’t going to be usurped without a serious fight.
Burgess cracked a magnificent hundred from No. 8, blasting his way to 178 on 221 balls and playing a huge role in recovering the Bears from a somewhat foreboding 41-for-4 position to hit 531.
The bat-keeper’s partnership with Olly Hannon-Dalby for the last wicket was particularly noteworthy. Hannon-Dalby took 67 balls out of the mark and finished with 11 of 89 (from two o’clock at the crease), but between them he and Burgess added 122 for 33 and a bit more.
Matt Critchley was in the runs and wickets for Essex [Jacques Feeney/Getty Images]
Mohammad Abbas (Hampshire)
Hampshire’s vaunted new ball pair Mohammad Abbas and Kyle Abbott have always enjoyed doing damage this season, and in the first round Abbas immediately stepped in.
He claimed match figures of 6 for 50 as Hampshire tore through Somerset to win their opener at a canter.
Liam Patterson-White (Nottinghamshire)
For an early April spinner, Liam Patterson-White put in a huge amount of work in Nottinghamshire’s hard-fought win at Sussex.
The off-spinner had 76.1 overs in the match, returning numbers of 8 for 138.
Ben Sanderson (Northamptonshire)
A great start to the season for Northamptonshire’s reliable fly-half.
Ben Sanderson claimed 9 for 132 in the game – 4 for 66 in the first set followed by 5 for 66 in the second.
He couldn’t quite deliver victory to his side, but he could shut them down powerfully.
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