Cricket World looks ahead to the County Championship which begins tomorrow and predicts how each county will fare in 2012.
Division One should be a closely contested affair with as many as six counties in with a shout of winning the Championship. Lancashire surprised many in 2011 by beating perennail bridesmaids Somerset, and the consistent Warwickshire to the title, and they will need every ounce of Peter Moores' skill as coach if they are to defend their crown against some determined opposition this time around.
Captain: Phil Mustard
In: Mark Wood (youth)
Out: Kyle Coetzer (Northamptonshire), Ben Harmison, Mark Davies (both Kent), Paul Muchall (Gloucestershire)
Main man: Ian Blackwell has already shown for the MCC why he is so vital to any side. If he doesn’t get you with the bat, then his slow left-armers will tie you down.
Player to watch: If he can get into the side, expect Scott Borthwick to come into his own, especially in limited-overs cricket where his excellent temperament has already proved to be a tremendous asset under pressure.
Prediction: Always challenge for the title so expect them to be there or thereabouts yet again. Their middle-order is, however, rather dependent on some ageing players and they aren’t the fittest side so they could lose out in the final reckoning – 2nd.
Captain: Glen Chapple
Overseas Player: Ashwell Prince
In: Ashwell Prince (South Africa), Naqaash Tahir (Warwickshire)
Out: Mark Chilton (retired), Steven Cheetham (released), Farveez Maharoof (Sri Lanka)
Main man: It is difficult to pick one player from Lancashire’s team as they are a team in every sense of the word. However, Glen Chapple is both inspirational as captain and still a potent threat with the ball as he showed last season.
Player to watch: Another solid season from Karl Brown at number three could see whispers of England begin to circulate around the Shires. He played well at first drop last year and coach Peter Moores clearly sees a bright future ahead for him.
Prediction: Last year’s champions still look a little light on batting despite the recruitment of Ashwell Prince in place of the retired Mark Chilton. They should be pushing all the way to the end, but there are some quality sides at the top of English domestic cricket – 4th.
Captain: Neil Dexter
Overseas Player: Chris Rogers
In: Joe Denly (Kent), Ollie Rayner (Sussex), Gurjit Sandhu, Ollie Wilkin (both youth)
Out: Ben Scott (Worcestershire), Dan Housego (Gloucestershire), Jamie Dalrymple (released), Scott Newman (on loan to Kent)
Main man: Joe Denly desperately needs a good season to kick-start his international career. After all, a bad start for England against the West Indies this summer and a place could become available as England opener very quickly.
Player to watch: While the likes of Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler have been much talked about among the next generation of England wicket-keepers, the name John Simpson has been conspicuously lacking in spite of the Middlesex gloveman producing the goods for his county last season. He will be hoping that a strong 2012 will add his name to that list.
Prediction: A strong-looking team that is well lead by Neil Dexter and Angus Fraser and his coaching team, but they just don’t quite have the big name players – which could indeed prove a blessing – so they shouldn’t finish above mid-table but should avoid the drop – 7th.
Captain: Chris Read
Overseas Player: Adam Voges (from 25th May)
In: Michael Lumb (Hampshire), Harry Gurney, James Taylor (both Leicestershire), Karl Turner (signed after trial in 2011), Sam Kelsall, Sam Wood, Brett Hutton (all youth)
Out: Mark Wagh, Ali Brown (both retired), Akhil Patel (released), Charlie Shreck (Kent), David Hussey (Australia)
Main man: James Taylor has slipped down the England pecking order over the winter following a quiet Lions tour, but expect diminutive right-hander to pile on the runs and end the season as the Outlaws’ leading run-scorer.
Player to watch: Luke Fletcher was rebuked by head coach Mick Newell at the end of last season after his fitness became an issue. However, his style of bowling is tailor-made for county cricket so he should come back strongly in 2012.
Prediction: Winners – They have depth with the ball and with the bat and have recruited well over the winter. The only worry is whether Andre Adams can continue his excellence with the ball and lead the bowling attack once again.
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