LV=CC Div 1 predictions
Posted in Domestic Cricket
Lancashire exceeded all expectations last year by claiming the LV= County Championship crown on the final day of the season against Somerset. But, with the top flight likely becoming a lot stronger this time round, they may find the defence of their crown slightly more challenging.
However, something that will work in the Red Rose’s favour is their ability to perform on their outgrounds.
In Liverpool, Blackpool and Southport, their bowling attack worked wonders, with Glen Chapple, Gary Keedy and Simon Kerrigan influential, but it is their batting that must remain consistent if they have a genuine chance of making it back-to-back titles.
Warwickshire also surprisingly went the distance last term, losing ground on the champions after failing to force a win against relegated Hampshire on the final day of the campaign.
The Bears will be relying on heavy run-scoring from Varun Chopra and Ireland captain William Porterfield and will also be hopeful talented all-rounder Chris Woakes will quickly recover from his injury.
The return of New Zealand spinner Jeetan Patel will also enhance Jim Troughton’s side’s chances of claiming more victories, but they may struggle to finish at the top end of the table this year.
With the talent and experience Durham have within their team, it was a surprise they failed to challenge for the title in 2011. But this season they should be considered as one of the favourites.
The likes of Scott Borthwick and Ben Stokes compliment the experienced heads of Dale Benkenstein, Phil Mustard and Ian Blackwell, while they also have former England pacemen Steve Harmison and Liam Plunkett at their disposal.
Durham have players at the top of their order that have the ability to score heavily and ensure their title challenge is as strong as ever.
After challenging for the title in 2010, Somerset suffered an indifferent campaign a year later. They will be hoping to start better following last season’s two defeats and will be reliant on county stalwart Marcus Trescothick passing the 1,000-run mark again.
Trescothick’s side’s middle-order will be subject to England call-ups for Jos Buttler and Craig Kieswetter but, while he may be lacking Alfonso Thomas for the the start of the new term due to his Indian Premier League commitments, impressive South Africa seamer Vernon Philander will fill that void perfectly.
And with James Hildreth looking to get back in the runs, Somerset will be a good bet for another top-four finish.
Sussex have had success in the championship in recent seasons, but last year was an inconsistent campaign.
They may well find life tough again after failing to attract any new players to freshen up their squad. Michael Yardy’s side have questions marks over the availability of spinner Monty Panesar after his return to the England Test team and will need to preserve Luke Wright, who has struggled with a number of injuries.
Sussex will be relying on their ageing players in Yardy, Murray Goodwin and Ed Joyce as well as hoping their emerging youngsters can quickly adapt to top-flight cricket, otherwise they may be close to the relegation zone come September.
Notts have enjoyed an active close season with a trio of new recruits that will boost their side’s chances of not just winning the championship, but limited-overs competitions too.
Former Leicestershire duo James Taylor, who has a huge reputation to keep intact, and Harry Gurney will boost the batting and bowling ranks, while Michael Lumb will solve Notts’ struggles at the top of the order.
With England internationals Samit Patel and Ales Hales, consistent wicketkeeper-batsman Chris Read and experienced seamer Andre Adams, Notts will be in the market to reclaim the crown they dramatically won in 2010. The injury to Darren Pattinson is a huge blow, but Luke Fletcher will have a point to prove in the four-day game.
Worcestershire surprised everyone by securing their Division One status last campaign but, with the promotions of the two London counties, they may be struggling to beat the drop this year.
Alan Richardson topped the wicket-taking charts and will be needed to perform again, while the signing of Australian opener Phil Hughes will intrigue everyone who saw his struggles in the Ashes. Evergreen captain Daryl Mitchell will need to make full use of his options, with Moeen Ali and Vikram Solanki key to the Pears’ four-day performances.
The injury to Gareth Andrew will hurt Worcestershire’s hopes of staying afloat in the top-flight, with Matthew Pardoe and Alexei Kervezee needed to step up and perform.
Middlesex were the stand out performers in Division Two and now face a huge test of their ability. The Lord’s based county have a number of experienced players relishing the opportunity to prove a point on their returns to the top-flight, with Tim Murtagh and Corey Collymore wanting to settle scores.
Ollie Raynor has been given a new lease of life as Middlesex’s number-one spinner following his move from Sussex and former Kent opener Joe Denly will need to score runs at the top of the order if he is still to harbour England ambitions.
Neil Dexter’s side are expected to struggle, as any promoted side would, and the performances of Paul Stirling, Dawid Malan and John Simpson are likely to determine their fate this season.
A lot is expected of Chris Adams’ emerging Surrey side, who will be the dark horses for championship glory. Surrey will be brimming with confidence come the first game of the season following their surge up the Division Two table last season.
They boast a number of youngsters that compliment their experienced performers and play an exciting breed of cricket that will force results on their return to the top flight. Jason Roy, Steven Davies and Tom Maynard add flair to the likes of Mark Ramprakash, Zander du Bruyn and new signing Jacques Rudolph, while Tim Linley, Jon Lewis, Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker should make major in-roads on plenty of top-orders.
If Rory Hamilton-Brown’s outfit can maintain consistency, then they will be a shoe-in for a title push and a top-three finish.