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Five matches we're excited for in the LV= Insurance County Championship 2022

The LV= Insurance County Championship returns to two divisions in 2022 and brings with it some mouth-watering fixtures!

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Five matches we're excited for in the LV= Insurance County Championship 2022

The top two teams of 2021 will meet on 5 May

Fixtures for the 2022 LV= Insurance County Championship are out now, which means you can begin to plan out your summer of red-ball cricket, as the 18 First-Class counties compete for the title.

Teams have returned to a two division format, with ten teams in Division One and eight in Division Two. Each county will play 14 matches over the course of the summer, beginning on Thursday 7 April, with the final round getting under way on Monday 26 September. Warwickshire are the reigning champions and will be seeking to defend their title.

Here are five matches we're already looking forward to.

Gloucestershire v Northamptonshire - 25 July

For the first time since 2004, these two counties will meet in the top division of the County Championship. Gloucestershire haven't been in Division One since 2005 while Northamptonshire's last appearance there was in 2014 - so there's plenty for both to prove. 

The match at The County Ground, Northampton is among the first round of fixtures, but we've picked out the return match for one simple reason: it's at Cheltenham.

Cheltenham Cricket Festival is a key part of the Gloucestershire calendar and a glorious opportunity for spectators to bask in the outground sunshine. This is the second of two Championship matches in the town, following the visit of Hampshire, and it's sure to be a sublime four days in the west country.

Lancashire v Warwickshire - 5 May

Rewind to the end of September 2021, and the eyes of county cricket were transfixed on these two teams. Lancashire's nail-biting one-wicket victory over Hampshire left them set for the title unless Warwickshire beat Somerset at Edgbaston - and they did. The Bears would then go on to win the Bob Willis Trophy final against the Red Rose at Lord's, completing a red-ball double. 

So there may well be a sense of revenge for Lancashire when the two meet at Emirates Old Trafford in May. It's a chance to once again put themselves in the conversation as potential county champions and represents a possibly huge feather in their cap should they earn victory. 

It will be a particularly big match for Alex Davies, who left his boyhood club Lancashire at the end of 2021 to join Warwickshire. He scored 4,717 first-class runs for his former county and they'll hope for plenty more of that in this encounter.

Essex v Somerset - 25 July

They might not have been involved in the climax to 2021, but Essex and Somerset have been two of the best sides in the County Championship over the past few years. Essex won the title in 2017, 2019 and 2020; Somerset have been runners-up in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020. 

A mid-summer clash at The Cloud County Ground could well lead to a battle of the spinners, Simon Harmer and Jack Leach. Since joining Essex, Harmer has 303 wickets in the Championship and Bob Willis Trophy combined - no bowler has more. Leach has 136 in the same timeframe which has included his stints with England, and any surface that assists the Essex man will aid Somerset's. 

It's far too early to dub this a title decider, so just mark it in your diaries as "potential".

Yorkshire v Lancashire - 12 May

Everyone loves a Roses clash, don't they? The first of 2022 takes place in May at Headingley and promises to be a fantastic contest. And with no England Men's internationals taking place at the same time, you might well get to see some of your favourite Test stars. 

2021 was a big year for Lancashire in this fixture, beating their rivals from across the Pennines for the first time in the Championship in a decade. Emirates Old Trafford centuries for Keaton Jennings and Josh Bohannon formed the backbone of a mammoth 509/9d as Yorkshire were beaten by an innings and 59 runs. Jennings would go on and get another hundred in the match at Headingley.

Fans of the Red Rose will be looking at the bowling of Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson to make inroads into the Yorkshire batting line-up, in which Harry Brook will want to continue impressing. Yorkshire's bowling attack looks pretty handy too, led by Duanne Olivier and the consistent Ben Coad. 

Nottinghamshire v Derbyshire - 19 May

When Nottinghamshire beat Derbyshire at The Incora County Ground last May, it ended a quite remarkable run of form. It was the first time Nottinghamshire had won a first-class match in 1,043 days, having previously beaten Essex in June 2018.

They went on to win a further six matches last summer, including the return fixture against their nearest neighbours, and ended up third in the second stage of the Championship - narrowly missing out on a spot in the Bob Willis Trophy final. Meanwhile Derbyshire won just one match in 2021, their final encounter against Sussex. 

This season, they do battle once again as both look to regain promotion to Division One. The re-signing of Dane Paterson and James Pattinson will certainly aid that, while from an overseas perspective Derbyshire have secured the services of Shan Masood. Fynn Hudson-Prentice and Matt Critchley, who impressed in last season's clashes, have both departed but expect this to be a fierce encounter nonetheless.

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