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LV= County Championship Division Two review

It was a good year for the (Red) Roses, as Lancashire won the title. Northamptonshire capped a superb year by sealing promotion and winless Leicestershire picked up the wooden spoon by some margin...

Lancashire celebrate winning the Division Two title with a game to spare

The Division Two season saw a county bowled out for 20, Australian seamers run amok and a summer to remember for the Steelbacks, not to mention the bearded wonder that is Moeen Ali.

Here we take a look back at the performances of all nine counties, pick out their star performer and also a player who will be looking to produce bigger and better things in 2014.

As ever, give us your thoughts by filling in the feedback form...

ESSEX

LV= County Championship: 3rd

Yorkshire Bank 40: Group stages

Friends Life t20: Semi-finals

Dominic Cork takes a look back at the County Championship and domestic cricket season.

Review: A case of so near but yet so far for Essex in all competitions. A talented squad would have hoped for better, particularly in the LV= County Championship. They will look back and curse the weather for costing them a victory over Kent in September, though there were no excuses when they were bundled out for an embarrassing 20 by Lancashire at Chelmsford. Wickets were not a problem - David Masters once again led the way, with superb support from fellow seamers Graham Napier and Reece Topley. In a hot, dry summer the spinning cupboard was left to look bare, while their batsmen all flattered to deceive.

They will be without Owais Shah in first-class cricket next year and Ryan ten Doeschate will again be away for long periods due to his commitments around the world. Both played important roles in limited overs action, with the latter inspired in a T20 quarter-final win at Nottinghamshire. Yet the failure to secure a trophy will frustrate the captain-coach combination of James Foster and Paul Grayson.

Star man: Graham Napier - After an injury-hit 2012 Napier made up for lost time, and in some style too. Topped Essex's batting averages at 49.75 and also claimed 48 scalps with the ball. Now a genuine all-rounder.

High hopes for: Tymal Mills - A physical specimen who can undoubtedly bowl quick (as he proved against England before the Ashes), but managed just six first-class scalps. Needs to deliver more consistency, as does the very talented Ben Foakes.

GLAMORGAN

Lv= County Championship: 8th

Yorkshire Bank 40: Runner-up

Friends Life t20: Group stages

Review: Nothing much changed for Glamorgan in four-day cricket - they won one less fixture than in 2012 but only finished up with four fewer points. However, the limited overs competitions did provide some success, most notably in the Yorkshire Bank 40, as they went all the way to Lord's. They ended the reign of white-ball specialists Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl in the semi-finals before coming up short against Nottinghamshire, meaning they are still the only first-class county who haven't won a final at cricket HQ.

Their triumph over Hampshire pretty much summed up their season as a whole. Jim Allenby led the way with the bat and Michael Hogan did the majority of the damage with the ball. The latter must have been the signing of the summer, finishing up with 67 wickets. Murray Goodwin was another good recruit as he rolled back the years. New director of cricket Hugh Morris has plenty to work with and will now want to see some homegrown talent come to the fore.

Star man: Jim Allenby/Michael Hogan - Impossible to split the two Australians who now wow the crowds in Wales. Allenby just continues to pile up the runs in all forms of the game. Hogan, meanwhile, was a revelation having arrived from Western Australia.

High hopes for: Hugh Morris - Back at home in Cardiff after a successful spell on top of England's cricketing pyramid, the former Glamorgan opener will be looking to build for the long-term. The early signing of Jacques Rudolph as overseas player looks astute.

Jim Allenby (left): Deserves a thumbs up for his performances for Glamorgan

GLOUCESTERSHIRE

LV= County Championship: 6th

Yorkshire Bank 40: Group stages

Friends Life t20: Group stages

Review: There was an improvement from Gloucestershire in first-class action, even if that always had to be the case after they finished 2012 with the wooden spoon in Division Two. Michael Klinger took over as captain and did a sterling job as both a leader in the field and at the top of the order, forming an excellent opening partnership with Chris Dent. Alex Gidman and Hamish Marshall also scored over 1,000 runs while Gareth Roderick, an import from Natal, impressed with bat and gloves.

Will Gidman was the leading bowler (see below) and he had help in the seam department from teenager Craig Miles and French-born batsman Benny Howell, the pair claiming 43 and 28 victims respectively. Tom Smith will hope to do a little better as the frontline spinner after signing on a permanent deal. With so many all-round options - and John Bracewell as coach - Gloucestershire should do better in the shorter forms of the game. Work to do during the winter.

Star man: Will Gidman - While older brother Alex scored plenty of runs, Will led the Gloucestershire attack superbly. Finished the summer with exactly 50 first-class wickets, including 10 in a match against Leicestershire. He just so happened to hit 143 in the same game, too.

High hopes for: Gareth Roderick - The South African-born gloveman was spotted in the West of England Premier League and showed no signs of struggling when making the step up from club cricket. Hit two centuries, both in tough situations when his team needed him.

HAMPSHIRE

LV= County Championship: 4th

Yorkshire Bank 40: Semi-finals

Friends Life t20: Semi-finals

Hampshire prevailed by one run in a FLt20 quarter-final against Lancashire that saw 403 runs scored in total.

Review: Inquest time at the Ageas Bowl. After winning both limited-overs competitions in 2012, reaching the semi-finals of the t20 and YB40 was respectable enough this year and they remain a major force in pyjamas cricket. But Hampshire's performances in Division Two were once again massively disappointing. Fourth flattered them - they were never in promotion contention. Only James Vince and Liam Dawson scored 1000 runs, and mighty Sean Ervine - usually the lynchpin - had a nightmare, managing just 458 runs and 17 wickets.

It was just as well James Tomlinson stayed fit. He took 53 wickets, more than double the next best from Danny Briggs and the disappointing David Balcombe who both took 22. Chris Wood, a fine performer in limited overs cricket, took just 15 wickets in nine matches in the Championship. The permanent signing of Matt Coles will help next year, but Hampshire need at least one new fast bowler if they want to challenge for promotion and play in a division befitting of their ground. Whatever happens, Dimitri Mascarenhas - a Hampshire great - will not be there for the first time in 18 years and the fans will miss him.

Star man: James Vince - No better sight in county cricket than Vince in full flow. His elegance and style mark him out as a serious prospect for international honours.

High hopes for: Matt Coles - He may be one of the bowlers Hampshire need, suggesting as much with a fine performance in the final game of the campaign.

KENT

LV= County Championship Division Two: 7th

Yorkshire Bank 40: Group stages

Friends Life t20: Group stages

Review: It was a disappointing season at Canterbury, finishing third-bottom in Division Two of the Championship and making no impact in the limited overs competition. Unlike other struggling counties, it is hard for Kent supporters to be enthusiastic about the future. Three men passed 1,000 runs for the season - the irreplaceable Darren Stevens, Rob Key and Brendan Nash. Average age? 35. Their top wicket-takers? Matt Coles (gone to Hampshire), Charlie Shreck (age 35) and Stevens (37). Their much-vaunted young batsmen Sam Northeast and Daniel Bell-Drummond scored just 650 and 466 runs respectively.

Fast bowler Calum Haggett does look a prospect, but beyond that, Kent are utterly reliant on veterans keeping them competitive, a terrible state of affairs for a county with such a fine cricketing heritage.

Star man: Darren Stevens, this year and every year. What would they do without him? Well Kent fans, pray that he is found not-guilty of failing to inform the authorities about an illegal match-fixing approach in Bangladesh. Otherwise they may have to find out.

High hopes for: Calum Haggett. The 22-year-old former Millfield schoolboy looks promising, and he can bat a bit too. If he can add a yard of pace playing in Australia this winter, Kent may really have something.

Jos Buttler: Will get the chance to keep in four-day cricket for Lancashire

LANCASHIRE

LV= County Championship: 1st

Yorkshire Bank 40: Group stages

Friends Life t20: Quarter-finals

Review: Mission accomplished. Having been relegated the year after winning the Division One title, Lancashire made sure their stay in the second tier was a short one. Indeed, they weren't beaten in championship action until Kent chased down over 400 on the final day of the season. The key to their success? Runs. And wickets. Veteran internationals Simon Katich and Ashwell Prince plundered opposing attacks for plenty, while young opener Luis Reece impressed. There were runs all the way down the order, too. As for the bowling, Glen Chapple and Kyle Hogg formed a formidable new-ball pairing (just ask Essex after they were bowled out for 20) and Simon Kerrigan took 57 county wickets to win an Ashes call-up. Those at Old Trafford will be hoping his harsh Test debut at the Oval won't have left any permanent scars.

The Lightning were also competitive in one-day cricket, falling just short of the knockout phase of the Yorkshire Bank 40 and then qualifying for the last eight in the Friends Life t20, where they lost a thriller to Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl. Yet while limited-overs success would've been nice, the Red Rose county's major aim was always to win promotion in the longer format.

Star man: Kyle Hogg - Took 60 wickets at an average of 18.41, including 7-27 in one innings. He must now pull up trees in Division One to spare Lancashire from becoming a yo-yo county.

High hopes for: Jos Buttler - He will provide some much-needed power to their one-day line-up. For his Test chances, he also needs to become much more consistent in first-class action. At least he'll get the gloves now.

LEICESTERSHIRE

LV= County Championship: 9th

Yorkshire Bank 40: Group stages

Friends Life t20: Group stages

Review: It was a tough summer at Grace Road. They finished bottom of Division Two having failed to muster a solitary win in 16 fixtures. Their final total of 79 points was barely more than half of their nearest rivals in the table, while they only managed to register 23 batting bonus points throughout the season. What made it even worse was that there was no real success in the shorter forms of the game to fall back on. They were not helped by the fact skipper Ramnaresh Sarwan played just seven first-class matches, but a return of six centuries for the Foxes is not good enough. That stat is even more concerning when you take into account Ned Eckersley hit four of those hundreds. Shiv Thakor never kicked on after impressing in 2012 and Michael Thorneley, Greg Smith and Josh Cobb all struggled badly.

The bowling was not much better. Eckersley actually finished top of those averages as well, albeit that he only took two wickets. After featuring in seven games Matthew Hoggard decided to hang up his boots, as too did veteran spinner Claude Henderson. The Foxes desperately need some fresh blood.

Star man: Ned Eckersley - How could it be anyone else? To go with his four hundreds the wicketkeeper-batsman also managed four 50s. His only real failure came when he was arrested after a fracas on a night out.

High hopes for: Ollie Freckingham - 36 wickets made him comfortably the county's leading wicket-taker, though the concern looking at the figures is that they averaged out at over 44 apiece. A late-comer to the county scene, there is still time for him to develop further.

Matthew Hoggard: Leaves the field of play after his last game for Leicestershire

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

LV= County Championship: 2nd

Yorkshire Bank 40: Group stages

Friends Life t20: Winners

David Willey took a hat-trick to complete Northamptonshire's 102-run triumph over Surrey in the Friends Life t20 final.

Review: From second bottom to second top in the LV= County Championship, plus Friends Life t20 champions to boot - 2013 was certainly a year to remember for those at Wantage Road. Their promotion in first-class cricket was given strong foundations in the opening months with three victories in their first four outings. It gave them enough of a cushion to afford them the luxury of limping over the line. While no player managed to reach 1,000 first-class runs, plenty made strong contributions, four-day skipper Stephen Peters amongst them. James Middlebrook did a sterling job alongside his captain as an opener, while there were runs all the way down the order as 15 players made half-centuries. Their bowling attack was equally about a team effort - seam quartet Trent Copeland (an excellent overseas recruit), David Willey, Steven Crook and Andrew Hall combined for 180 wickets.

Such all-round depth also proved the key to their Twenty20 success. Willey was deployed as an opener and proceeded to play a starring role on Finals Day at Edgbaston, including taking a hat-trick to clinch the trophy. Captained by Alex Wakely, they bowled with excellent discipline and stumbled across a star in Azharullah, a brilliant bowler in the death overs.

Star man: David Willey - His left-arm seam is quick enough to keep all batsmen honest and he strikes the ball so cleanly with the bat. Rewarded for his efforts with a place in England's Performance Squad.

High hopes for: Azharullah - Recommended by James Middlebrook's dad Ralph after playing in the Bradford League, the Pakistan-born seamer became a star for the Steelbacks. Now he needs to prove he's no one-season wonder.

WORCESTERSHIRE

LV= County Championship: 5th

Yorkshire Bank 40: Group stages

Friends Life t20: Group stages

Moeen Ali has been awareded the most valuable player award for his performances across all forms of cricket this summer.

Review: Unlike Lancashire, the Pears were unable to pick up promotion straight back to Division One of the LV= County Championship. In truth they never really threatened to finish in the top two, despite managing the same number of wins (five) as Northamptonshire. Their fortunes weren't much better in the 40 and 20-over formats either, so Worcestershire's highlights were as much about individual performances during the campaign.

To that point, two players stood out at New Road. MVP Moeen Ali amassed 1,357 first-class runs, including a knock of 250. He also weighed in with 28 wickets. England took note, picking him for the Performance Squad this winter. They might not be watching Alan Richardson as a potential future international, considering he is 38, but the veteran seamer deserves high praise for his 69 wickets in four-day cricket at an average of just under 20.

Star man: Moeen Ali - 'The beard to be feared', as he became known. His off-spin continues to offer an extra string to his bow, but it his batting that suggests that, even though he is now 26, the chance will come to play at the highest level.

High hopes for: Tom Fell - Signed on a summer engagement after playing for Oxford MCCCU, the teenage batsman was cruelly denied the chance to make a maiden first-class century against Kent by rain, as he ended up 94 not out.