Promotion race takes centre stage
With Warwickshire crowned Division One champions last week while Worcestershire and last year’s winners Lancashire were relegated, the spotlight is on the top of Division Two for the last round of LV= County Championship games which begin tomorrow.
Leaders Derbyshire, who have not won in their last four championship matches, are a point ahead of Yorkshire with Kent five further back. Fourth-placed Hampshire, 24 points behind the White Rose, can mathematically go up but it would take an improbable set of results.
Derbyshire host Hampshire at the County Ground, Yorkshire face Essex at Chelmsford and Kent, who last week threw the race open by beating Derbyshire for a second straight win, play Glamorgan at the SWALEC Stadium.
Derbyshire, who are offering bargain ticket prices, are again without injured bowlers Mark Footitt and Jonathan Clare.
Captain Wayne Madsen told ecb.co.uk: “They’re still out with niggles and injuries so they probably won’t be available. The squad is pretty much the same squad that we had down at Kent.”
Hampshire have rested Simon Katich ahead of Saturday’s Clydesdale Bank 40 final with Warwickshire. They are also without the injured Dimitri Mascarenhas, England Twenty20 squad member Danny Briggs and Neil McKenzie, who is set to return from South Africa for the CB40 showpiece.
Yorkshire are still missing Richard Pyrah, who has a hand problem, plus England duo Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan.
Maurice Chambers, who has a quad strain, has joined David Masters on Essex’s injury list. Chambers’ place will be taken by Tymal Mills in the only change to the side that beat Hampshire last week as Ravi Bopara remains on England duty and Test captain Alastair Cook is unavailable.
Glamorgan’s Robert Croft is expected to make his 407th and final first-class appearance. The bottom side have again omitted departing paceman James Harris and are without Marcus North, who is back in Australia.
The teams immediately above Glamorgan, Leicestershire and Gloucestershire, meet at Grace Road. Ramnaresh Sarwan misses out for the hosts, whose opponents are without Chris Dent and Ian Saxelby, respectively due to shoulder and knee complaints, but have Australia batsman Ed Cowan available for an unexpected extra fixture.
Warwickshire - who play Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge - have Ian Bell and Chris Woakes back from England duty but not Jonathan Trott, who is out for the rest of the season with a hand injury.
Wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose remains sidelined by a hamstring problem although Jeetan Patel is available after Test duty with New Zealand. Will Porterfield and Boyd Rankin have linked up with Ireland’s World Twenty20 squad.
Notts are without Adam Voges, who has returned to Australia, the injured Andre Adams plus England quintet Stuart Broad, Alex Hales, Michael Lumb, Samit Patel and Graeme Swann.
Somerset and Sussex are challenging Middlesex, who have completed their season, for second place in Division One.
Somerset - missing England duo Craig Kieswetter and Jos Buttler plus Ireland’s George Dockrell - take on Worcestershire at Taunton. Nick Compton is set to return from a back injury that interrupted his prolific season with the bat.
Sussex are away to Durham, who will be unchanged unless Mark Wood comes in. England’s Luke Wright and Ireland’s Ed Joyce are on international duty, while Matt Prior and Murray Goodwin also miss out for the Emirates Durham ICG visitors. Chris Nash leads in Joyce's absence and Amjad Khan remains sidelined with a knee injury.
Lancashire host Surrey at Aigburth, with England bowlers James Anderson and Jade Dernbach unavailable for their respective sides. The visitors have rested Kevin Pietersen and Murali Kartik. Steven Davies returns behind the stumps after Gary Wilson joined Ireland’s T20 squad.