Lancashire were one of only two counties who could vaunt three bowlers who captured over 45 wickets in 2013, with Glenn Chapple, Kyle Hogg and Simon Kerrigan all passing this landmark.
Time will tell whether such impressive returns can be transferred to a higher level; however the acquisition of Kyle Jarvis who has 30 wickets in eight Tests and the early availability of James Anderson bolster an attack whose combined average runs per wicket even without Anderson (26.4) can only be bettered by Durham.
The base for the 2013 champions success was a fearsome bowling attack, in particular Graham Onions (70 wickets) and Chris Rushworth (54 wickets) who sat first and fifth on the wicket taking list respectively.
With Chester-le-Street likely to be as conductive as ever to seam bowling Durham should again shine with the ball, such is their depth that even if Onions is handed England recognition they can still roll out a four man seam attack whose combined average per wicket is under 25.
The only other county who could claim three bowlers in the 45 wickets club are Sussex, with Steve Magoffin, Chris Jordan and James Anyon all achieving this – this somewhat belittling the first-class stats which indicate Sussex have the second most toothless attack with a combined average of 30 runs per wicket. Whether they can continue in a successful vein could hinge on whether England opt for Jordan in all formats, who disparaged his career record more than most.
Trent Copeland was Northants’ leading wicket taker in 2013 and without him only David Willey of their current crop took 45 or more scalps, although a further three players did claim at least 25 wickets under 30 – nevertheless with injury ruling Jackson Bird out of a spell as overseas player the newly promoted outfit will worry where consistent wickets will come from.
Middlesex were overly reliant on Tim Murtagh last year, given he was their only bowler to pick up more than 45 wickets – they will hope Toby Roland-Jones can regain the form that saw him capture 61 wickets at 19.1 in 2012 and to benefit from Steve Finn’s attempts to rediscover his best form.
In Ollie Rayner Middlesex possess last year’s leading spinner with 43 wickets, with successful slow bowlers a rare breed that could be a pivotal advantage.
Warwickshire can back up their imposing batting prowess with a reliable balanced bowling attack, both Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel took over 45 wickets in 2013 whilst their three-pronged seam attack of Barker, Boyd Rankin and Chris Woakes possess an impressive combined bowling average of 26.3.
The success they enjoyed with the ball in 2013 was no one off, with the title campaign of 2012 built on five bowlers claiming regular wickets at under 30.
Another side who can back up a strong batting with impressive bowling are Yorkshire, however a lack of a reliable spinner could hold them back in going further than last season’s second place – without question Adil Rashid must improve on a return of 29 wickets at 46.2 apiece.
There are no qualms with their seamers given Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Patterson took 49 and 46 wickets respectively last year, at the same time Jack Brookes and Liam Plunkett offered support at fewer than 30 runs per scalp.
Wickets were an issue for Nottinghamshire in 2013, with nobody able to take more than 45 – Luke Fletcher (44) and Harry Gurney (43) coming closest. Andre Adams for a prolonged period Notts’ spearhead began to show signs of ages and the hope will be that Peter Siddle can step into this void.
Like many counties the absence of a major spinner is a real issue and it is asking a lot of Samit Patel with a first-class average of 40.1 to undertake this role.
Alongside Notts, Somerset were the only side not to have a bowler who took 45 wickets or more in 2013 and only Alfonso Thomas made regular breakthroughs at under 30. In Somerset’s favour is that their attack is youthful and the likes of Jamie Overton, Craig Meschede and Lewis Gregory showed enough promise last year to suggest brighter returns in 2014.
© Cricket World 2014