Excluding the promoted sides only six bowlers claimed 45 wickets or more in 2013, of which three (David Masters, Reece Topley & Graham Napier) are accounted for by Essex and again wickets should not be a problem for the Chelmsford club, especially if they can get Monty Panesar back on track.
James Tomlinson took 53 for Hampshire; although their second leading wicket-taker offered just 22 and The Ageas Bowl club will be looking for new recruits Matt Coles and Kyle Abbott to address this. Further to that if David Balcombe can rediscover the form of 2012 in which he topped the wicket taking charts then Hampshire’s sole issue looks to be the lack of a dependable spinner.
Gloucestershire were again indebted to the wickets of Will Gidman, however besides young Craig Miles he was afforded little consistent support and a worrying there was as huge spin bowling void.
It was a similar story for Paul Hogan at Glamorgan who took 67 wickets yet nobody else could manage over 40, although Dean Cosker’s 37 were the second highest for a spin bowler. Both counties though possess young attacks who they will hope improve following the experience of last year.
Worcestershire's long time spearhead and 2013’s leading wicket taker Alan Richardson has retired to leave a huge void and of their current squad nobody claimed more than Jack Shantry’s paltry 34 wickets. The signing of Saeed Ajmal to drive the bowling is likely to prompt a change of tact, which should bring fellow spinners Moeen and Shaaiq Choudhry to the fore.
Worryingly for Leicestershire no bowler took consistent wickets at under 40, again though their bowling unit is largely inexperienced and the hope will be that Ollie Freckingham (36 wickets at 44) and Alex Wyatt (20 wickets at 45.2) can progress in 2014.
Kent’s bowlers endured a nightmare 2013, with their highest wicket-taker who remains on their books Darren Stevens picking up just 32 – the lowest of any other county in the division. Overseas player Doug Bollinger is the man tasked with addressing these issues and should he stay fit looks will provide a focal point for the rest to work off.
In Division One bowling was Surrey’s main issue with Tim Linley’s 37 wickets their best return, whilst Jade Dernbach’s 34 wicket at 30.7 was as close as they got to anybody averaging under 30. For Surrey to succeed they be looking to Stuart Meaker to generate the sort of form that saw him claim 44 wickets at 22.6 in 2012.
Derbyshire’s attack which was a major contributor to their promotion in 2012 fared somewhat better, as Tim Groenewald passed the 45 wicket mark and despite missing a large chunk of the season through injury Tony Palladino took 23 at 28. During that 2012 campaign Palladino and Groenewald were ranked in the top 12 wicket takers together with David Wainwright and Derbyshire will be looking for more of the same.
It is worth noting that no spin bowler in Division Two with the exception of Lancashire’s Simon Kerrigan picked up wickets at under 30 or claimed at least 45 wickets in 2013.
Essex will hope the acquisition of Panesar can give them an advantage in this aspect, although for Worcestershire, Ajmal with a Test bowling average of 27.5 brings a unique match winning threat.
© Cricket World 2014