2011 season preview
There has barely been a chance to draw breath since the end of the World Cup but the 2011 county season is now upon us.
Nottinghamshire will be looking to defend their LV= County Championship crown after clinching the title in nail-biting fashion in the final session of the season. They picked up a late bonus point at Lancashire to draw level on points with Somerset and Chris Read’s men finished top by virtue of winning more games.
That summed up Somerset’s luck on the grand stage: they finished runners-up in all three domestic competitions in Marcus Trescothick’s first season as captain.
Hampshire will be keen to keep the Friends Life t20 trophy at the Rose Bowl after their memorable triumph last year in another pulsating finale. The scores were tied but the Royals were crowned champions courtesy of losing one less wicket.
Ian Bell was the hero with a captain’s knock of 107 to see Warwickshire to a three-wicket victory in the Clydesdale Bank 40 final. Will they be able to repeat their success?
Whether you want to find out which players have moved where over the winter, keep up to date with the latest domestic news, or simply enjoy our blogs from around the country, ecb.co.uk is the place to be.
Our reporters have been keeping tabs on all the counties as another eagerly-awaited domestic campaign swings into action...
Luke Sutton, returning to captain his native Derbyshire, takes heart from the talent and depth in his squad, while Usman Khawaja, Australia's brightest young hope, fulfils another boyhood ambition by sampling county cricket. He is due to be replaced as overseas player by New Zealander Martin Guptill.
A return to England colours is the ultimate ambition of Durham pace bowler Graham Onions, who admits he feared his career was over during a 14-month injury lay-off. A bullish Steve Harmison insists the 2008 and 2009 champions "are good enough" to repeat the feat this summer. Phil Mustard and Dale Benkenstein will share the captaincy.
Alastair Cook accepts it will be "almost impossible" to match his Ashes feats, but Essex can look forward to calling on the England opener until late May, while Ravi Bopara hopes to join Cook in the international set-up next month. The county enjoyed a productive winter off the field, most notably with the capture of former England batsman Owais Shah from Middlesex, although securing the services of South Africa's left-arm seamer Lonwabo Tsotsobe is a major coup.
Restoring stability will be high on Glamorgan's county's list of priorities after an eventful winter that saw captain Jamie Dalrymple and director of cricket Matthew Maynard leave under a cloud. South African Alviro Petersen takes the reins on the field, while new first XI coach Matthew Mott is keen to broaden his cricketing horizons. Robert Croft, the second oldest player on the county circuit, claims playing for Glamorgan still feels like representing Wales.
Coach John Bracewell is confident Gloucestershire can cope with the loss of Steve Kirby, Gemaal Hussain, Anthony Ireland and Will Porterfield, while David Wade is keen to make the most of increased opportunities after swapping Afghanistan for Bristol. Alex Gidman will have the honour of captaining Muttiah Muralitharan.
The Hampshire captaincy for 2011 passes to an "honoured" Dominic Cork, who will work alongside coach Giles White to ensure the side avoid a repeat of last season's relegation scrap. The evergreen Nic Pothas' enthusiasm for the new campaign remains undimmed despite his advancing years. At the other end of the age spectrum, much is expected of left-arm spinner Danny Briggs - and not just from those at the Rose Bowl.
The departure of Amjad Khan was the most noteworthy feature of a low-key off-season for Kent and, although their bowling attack may lack depth, captain Rob Key says the onus is on the batsmen this season. Key's side enjoyed some warm-weather pre-season training despite their financial problems. News that the dependable Darren Stevens has signed an extended contract was another welcome boon.
Coach Peter Moores harbours high hopes for his youthful Lancashire squad, in which Steven Croft has graduated from promising youngster to established senior player. Sri Lanka all-rounder Farveez Maharoof is the sole overseas import, while, off the pitch, ongoing legal challenges continue to stall the multi-million pound Old Trafford redevelopment.
Nostalgia is in the air at Grace Road as Paul Nixon, the third oldest player on the county circuit, heads into his 23rd season. A successful winter with England Lions has heightened James Taylor's appetite for the new campaign. Although financial matters at Grace Road are far from rosy, the off-field issues which dogged the club last summer may be a thing of the past.
Neil Dexter's sights are set high as he begins his first full season in charge of Middlesex, who boast prolific Australian batsman Chris Rogers in their ranks. Steven Finn is hoping to convince the England selectors of his worth through his domestic performances.
Niall O'Brien has adopted the role of agent as he tries to earn brother Kevin a county contract, although he hopes it is with Northamptonshire rather than one of their rivals. Chaminda Vaas, the star of their t20 campaign last year, will play in all cricket this summer, while Johan Botha arrives for the Friends Life t20.
Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad are keen to make as much of an impact as possible for Nottinghamshire when England commitments allow - providing they thaw out following a chilly pre-season media day. The Notts players have been warned by Paul Franks to guard against complacency as they begin the defence of the title they won in such thrilling fashion. This summer represents the last of Ali Brown's distinguished career
News that Somerset are widely regarded as favourites to win at least one trophy this year is music to Marcus Trescothick's ears. Optimism is borne in part from the arrival of Steve Kirby, who can barely contain his excitement, Gemaal Hussain, Ajantha Mendis and the return of Kieron Pollard. Meanwhile James Hildreth, a prolific scorer for Somerset and England Lions, is hoping to catch the England selectors' eye.
Surrey have been busy behind the scenes since the end of last season, with Kevin Pietersen the most high-profile name on an arrivals list that also features Shaun Tait, Yasir Arafat, Zander de Bruyn and Tom Maynard, who already feels at home. Having signed a contract extension, captain Rory Hamilton-Brown wants to lead Surrey "back to where this great club deserves to be", while Jade Dernbach knows he will have to be firing on all cylinders to get an England call-up.
The 2011 season sees Sussex favourite Rana Naved-ul-Hasan return to Hove - he will share overseas duties with Wayne Parnell - while Kent pace bowler Amjad Khan, who hopes to earn an England recall, and Lou Vincent, the former New Zealand batsman, can also include themselves among the winter recruits.
Overseas signing Younus Khan may be absent for the first two months of the season, but Mohammad Yousuf has come in as short-term cover. New skipper Jim Troughton insists a top-four finish is well within Warwickshire's grasp and director of cricket Ashley Giles, who is satisfied with the players at his disposal, is aiming even higher as is Chris Woakes, who wants another taste of England action.
Director of cricket Steve Rhodes admits he is worried about losing more homegrown players as he and skipper Daryl Mitchell face up to Worcestershire's unenviable status as favourites for championship relegation. The signings of Damien Wright and Saeed Ajmal to complement Shakib Al Hasan's return are a further source of optimism after a winter in which the county were one of the few to record a profit.
Captain Andrew Gale, buoyed by a successful first season in charge, believes Yorkshire can be "one of the top teams" this summer, while the returning Ryan Sidebottom is chasing a second title in as many years. Being back on the field is an achievement in itself for Joe Sayers. Highly-rated opener Joe Root has benefited immensely from a winter in Adelaide.
Roll of Honour 2010
LV= County Championship Division One: Nottinghamshire
LV= County Championship Division Two: Sussex
Clydesdale Bank 40: Warwickshire Bears
Friends Provident t20: Hampshire Royals