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Counties gear up for 2013

Posted in Domestic Cricket

Ashley Giles

Warwickshire must make do without Ashley Giles as they aim to win the LV= County Championship once again

While back-to-back Ashes series are sure to generate plenty of headlines in 2013, an exciting domestic season can also be anticipated.

Here, ecb.co.uk looks ahead to what the new year may have in store across the counties.

Warwickshire must do without director of cricket Ashley Giles as they look to retain their LV= County Championship title, while Hampshire were kings of the limited-overs game in 2012 - capturing both the Friends Life t20 and Clydesdale Bank 40.

With just under three months until the season curtain-raiser between Warwickshire and MCC in Abu Dhabi, the county champions are yet to strengthen their squad, although having taken the title by 24 points last season they may not need to.

Finding the right replacement for Giles, who was confirmed as England's new ODI and T20 coach earlier in the winter, is likely to prove Warwickshire’s biggest recruitment dilemma.

Perennial contenders Somerset look set to launch another tilt at the title, and the acquisition of Alviro Petersen should boost an already formidable batting line-up.

Surrey have added a wealth of experience in Vikram Solanki, Gary Keedy and - perhaps most importantly - new skipper Graeme Smith.

The Proteas captain is one of the most highly-regarded leaders in the world game, and if he can rejuvenate a squad left shattered by Tom Maynard's tragic passing last season, Chris Adams' troops could be serious challengers 11 years after their last title.

Middlesex and Nottinghamshire have made early moves for new recruits - promising seamer James Harris has headed to Lord's, and both Australia batsman Ed Cowan and Ajmal Shahzad for Trent Bridge - as both look to challenge for honours.

Durham are yet to add to their squad and may need to strengthen after an uncomfortably close skirmish with relegation in 2012, while newly-promoted Yorkshire and Derbyshire have already set about preparing for life in the top flight. The White Rose have recruited Jack Brooks and Liam Plunkett, while Derbyshire have signed Richard Johnson on a permanent basis together with Billy Godleman.

Sussex have taken Rory Hamilton-Brown and Chris Jordan from Surrey as they look to improve on a respectable first showing back in the top-flight last year.

In Division Two, Lancashire will look to put the disappointment of relegation 12 months after winning the championship behind them, and the addition of veterans Kabir Ali and Simon Katich could see them do just that.

Worcestershire, the other team relegated in 2012, will have to try and bounce back without talisman Solanki, while Hampshire and Kent both look strong again after narrowly missing out last year.

The captures of Australian T20 captain George Bailey and Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal - England's chief tormentor in 2012 - suggest continued success in the shorter forms of the game could continue for a while yet at the Ageas Bowl.

Essex have gambled on Sajid Mahmood recapturing his form, and if Ravi Bopara does not spend too much of the summer on England duty they could be promotion contenders.

Glamorgan's signing of Murray Goodwin was one of the more surprising moves so far this winter, but their success this season is likely to depend on how quickly they can adjust to life without Harris and the retired Robert Croft.

Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire will be determined to enjoy improved fortunes, and the latter's signing of Niall O'Brien could prove a shrewd piece of business.

All 18 counties are likely to share one wish for the new year - a few more days of sunshine and a lot fewer overs lost to rain than 2012 would be a good start to ensuring an exciting season.

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