Four counties could brag two players in the 1,000 runs club; Durham (Scott Borthwick & Mark Stoneman), Middlesex (Sam Robson & Chris Rogers), Sussex (Ed Joyce & Chris Nash) and Yorkshire (Andrew Gale & Gary Ballance).
Not only could Yorkshire claim that accolade but also a total of five players who scored at least 500 runs while averaging 40 plus, with Adil Rashid, Alex Lees and Jonathan Bairstow together with Gale and Balance all achieving this feat. For large parts of the season Yorkshire will be able call on Kiwi Kane Williamson and with a first-class average of 42.3 he should soften the blow of possible England calls for Joe Root and Ballance.
Warwickshire may only have Varun Chopra on the 1,000 run list; however four players averaged in excess of 40 including Laurie Evans who only fell short of the golden 1,000 by 57 runs – only Yorkshire boasted more players who filled these criteria.
This was also the second successive season where Warwickshire have had four players in this group and with Jonathan Trott available for the early season at least, runs shouldn’t be an issue.
Concerning for Middlesex is that aside from Robson and Rogers no batsman averaged higher than 33, they will be looking to Eoin Morgan’s early season availability to assist them in this regard especially should Robson earn England recognition.
Durham did not have a single batsmen average above 40; however the tricky conditions at Chester-le-Street do play a part in this, nonetheless the pressure will again be on Stoneman and Borthwick to deliver enough runs for their excellent seam attack to work off with Durham’s predicted line-up possessing the lowest combined first-class average.
Alarmingly for Northants despite promotion, nobody reached 1,000 runs. On a more encouraging note they can boast great depth given that five players averaged over 40 with run tally of at least 450 including Stephen Peters and Andrew Hall who averaged over 50, whilst they could also count a total of seven who averaged over 35.
Even with the loss of Simon Katich, Lancashire, in Ashwell Prince, Luis Reece and Paul Horton still have three players who averaged over 40, albeit in Division Two where runs came significantly easier in 2013.
With Lancashire’s predicted XI’s combined average only superior to Durham (although like Durham, their home surfaces do affect this stat) that top three together with Jos Buttler must again fire, Prince does have past history in Division One where in 2012 he was one of only four men to pass the 1,000 run mark.
Despite what is on paper a powerful batting line up in which five men average above 39 only Nick Compton and Alviro Petersen could boast 2013 averages surplus of 40 for Somerset, with the former the only player of that prestigious line-up to reach the 1,000 run landmark.
Two years previous Somerset could call on three players whose averaged soared over 40 in a dire summer for batting, that year they finished second and a similar show of prowess is needed to ensure there is no repeat of 2013’s relegation scrap.
It was a similar story of frustration for Nottinghamshire in 2013, who were indebted to the efforts of Michael Lumb and James Taylor, with these the only two Notts batsman to average over 40. Notts will be sweating over any possible England call for Taylor given he is the only player in their side to average over 40. Their long search for a reliable opener showed little sign of let up with Alex Hales averaging just 14.9.
After Warwickshire and Yorkshire it is Sussex who can proclaim the highest combined team average with Ed Joyce and Chris Nash ranked in the top 10 run scorers in both 2013 and 2012. Further to that with Luke Wright also averaging over 40 last year and Luke Wells just under Sussex should have no problems scoring heavily in 2014, particularly if they see a significant amount of Matt Prior and new capture Ashar Zaidi lives up to a first-class average of 38.2.
© Cricket World 2014