Scoring runs for the majority of sides was not a problem in 2013. In spite of finishing in sixth Gloucestershire boasted a remarkable four players who passed 1,000 runs (Chris Dent, Hamish Marshall, Alex Gidman & Michael Klinger), similarly Kent despite a disappointing season in which only Leicestershire finished below them had three batsman (Brendan Nash, Darren Stevens & Robert Key) who scored in excess of 1,000.
Glamorgan, another relative struggler, saw Murray Goodwin and Jim Allenby score clear of 1,000; the arrival of Jacques Rudolph will only strengthens them further in this department.
Fourth-placed Hampshire could claim James Vince and Liam Dawson who passed the golden landmark, whilst Michael Carberry also averaged clear of 40.
Remarkably only one player from the top three (Ashwell Prince, Lancashire) passed the milestone last season, perhaps indicating the vitality of a wicket-taking bowling attack. Nevertheless for third place Essex to take the next step this is an area that requires improvement, given that of their batsman only Jaik Mickleburgh averaged in excess of 40.
In Essex’s favour is that they will have the rare luxury of Alastair Cook being available early season and that could allow them to steal a march on the rest, as we’ve seen from Northants and Derbyshire in recent years sides who hit the ground running can be tough to catch.
Worcestershire must also improve in this field; Moeen Ali was the country’s leading run scorer in 2013 but was afforded precious little other support with no other player scoring more than a single century. An absence of senior players is a major issue throughout their side and the batting is no different with Daryl Mitchell and Ali the only seasoned campaigners in the top order.
Wayne Madsen was a fighting a similarly lone stand for Derbyshire in 2013 and although life should be more comfortable in the second tier, that only three players averaged in excess of 30 and one of those was heavily inflated by a single score of 270 will be of some concern – even if it is hard to see Shivnarine Chanderpaul not scoring heavily this time around.
Surrey’s batsman, none of whom scored over a 1,000 runs last year should also enjoy the drop in level and the likes of Vikram Solanki, Steve Davies and Rory Burns who were all within 150 of the 1,000 mark in 2013 should excel, whilst Graeme Smith will bring a constant run source.
Leicestershire are another side where one man accounted for a significant bulk of the runs with rising star Ned Eckersley their only player to pass 1,000 and to average above 40. The availability of Ramnaresh Sarwan for the entire campaign will help in this regard, not only in runs but the experience The West Indian will bring to a youthful side.
© Cricket World 2014