The group stage of this year’s County Championship has come to a close – next stop: three divisions.
Hampshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Somerset, Warwickshire and Yorkshire are the six teams through to Division One and in with a shout of winning the whole thing.
But before we get there, it’s time to reflect on the individual performances we’ve seen so far this year. Here, four Wisden writers pick their player of the 2021 County Championship group stage.
9 matches, 459 runs @ 41.72 | 28 wickets @ 20
By Ben Gardner, Wisden.com managing editor
Stevens is in the midst of compiling the best season of a career packed full of special campaigns. The one-year contract extension was announced in June – the 45-year-old all-rounder refuses to slow down – while his 149-ball 190 against Glamorgan remains the most astonishing innings of the season so far. A reminder: from 128-8, he stitched together a 166-run partnership with Miguel Cummins (contribution: 1), falling one six shy of equalling the all-time Champo record for the most hit in one innings.
9 matches, 47 wickets @ 13.06
By Taha Hashim, Wisden.com features editor
Nottinghamshire entered this season without a first-class win since June 2018 and have ended the group stage with more points than any other side. At the heart of this resurgence has been Fletcher who, 13 years on from his debut, is enjoying the best red-ball season of his career so far. No one in the country has taken as many Championship wickets as the 32-year-old this season, while he’s moved from one career-best to another in a hurry: figures of 6-24 against Essex in May were followed by a seven-for against Worcestershire a couple of weeks later.
10 matches, 945 runs @ 72.69
By Jo Harman, Wisden Cricket Monthly magazine editor
The Championship’s leading run-scorer by nearly 150 runs, Bedingham’s prolific form very nearly catapulted an unfancied Durham side into Division One. Against Derbyshire in April, the South African right-hander broke the record for the most runs scored by a Durham batsman in a first-class match (310 for once dismissed), and at one stage he looked on course to become the first player since Graeme Hick in 1988 to reach the milestone of 1,000 runs before the end of May.
10 matches, 790 runs @ 65.83
By Yas Rana, Wisden.com head of content
Now 23, Carlson has been tipped as a player to watch for some time without ever really building a record to speak of. But it’s all clicked for him this season. Pleasant to watch and a fluent run-scorer – only Ollie Pope has a higher strike rate among those with more than 500 runs this season – Carlson has been superb for a middling Glamorgan side, finishing the group stage as the competition’s third-highest run-scorer.