Will Hawkes: Red Rose bloom is welcome amid the thorny old problems

County Focus: In a tremendous summer for the England team, county cricket has provided plenty of heroes of its own
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The Independent Online

County cricket sometimes seems to exist in a time warp: the same old problems (muddled fixture list, poor attendances, apparently diminishing public interest) appear each summer only to be forgotten with the onset of winter. Thankfully, the good often comes round each year too, and Lancashire's title triumph provided the same sort of exciting finish that we enjoyed just 12 months ago, when Nottinghamshire pipped Somerset.

Admirable as Lancashire's triumph was, however, they're not the only club who can celebrate as the domestic game goes into hibernation. In a tremendous summer for the England team, county cricket has provided plenty of heroes of its own:

Team of the season: Lancashire

An obvious choice, given their first title in 77 years – but Lancashire's triumph was notable for more than just its scarcity value. Led ably by Glen Chapple, the Red Rose has carried the banner for local talent even as Yorkshire, thought the more likely to challenge for honours, slumped on the other side of the Pennines.

Player of 2011 Alan Richardson

Worcestershire have achieved something almost as remarkable as Lancashire in avoiding relegation – and, like the northern club, much of their success can be attributed to a tireless old campaigner, in this case Alan Richardson, the division's top wicket-taker with 73 at 24 and a half. The 36-year-old's best performance came with his destruction of the new champions at Worcester a few weeks back.

The surprise package: Leicestershire

They finished bottom of the Championship, by too many points to count, but in winning the Twenty20 competition (their third triumph in the short stuff), the Foxes may have put their eggs in the right basket. Thanks to their victory they're now in India on the trail of Champions League glory. The retiring – in one sense only – Paul Nixon (above left) will ensure they give everything they have got.

Flops of the season: Hampshire

The South Coast club like to imagine themselves as one of the big boys but, having lost their T20 crown and surrendered their First Division spot, that claim is almost entirely reliant on the Rose Bowl's international status. Now is the time for the club to put their faith in a group of talented young cricketers: if they do, Hampshire could bounce straight back up.

One to look out for: Jason Roy

An impetuous stroke saw him fall for not very many in Surrey's CB40 win on Saturday, but elsewhere this season the 21-year-old batsman has shown he can mix it with the best when it comes to hitting the ball hard. One of a group of players at The Oval to have been born in South Africa, he looks ready to challenge for 50- and 20-over international recognition.

Back to the drawing board: Floodlit four-day cricket

It was a worthwhile experiment but few of those involved seem to have enjoyed Kent's pink ball game against Glamorgan at Canterbury last week. Kent's captain, Geraint Jones, spoke for many when he said: "Our lights worked, very well. The rest, not a lot going for it." Then again, you might expect him to be grumpy. Kent lost by eight wickets.