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  • Specsavers County Championship 4m

    England stars return for Round Three

    A host of England players will turn out for their counties in a bumper weekend of Specsavers County Championship cricket

    Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali are available for the first time this season, while Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad return and Alastair Cook continues for Essex.

    Division One

    Hampshire v Yorkshire

    Hampshire aiming to complete an early-season double after their unexpected opening win at Headingley, but they will face a strong Yorkshire team as Root and Bairstow return for a rare Championship appearance. Adil Rashid and David Willey have already made an impact as they bounced back from that opening defeat with a convincing win at Warwickshire, and Ben Coad has relished his opportunity by taking 18 wickets in two matches. Reece Topley has endured a nightmare 12 months since suffering a broken hand batting on his Hampshire debut, with subsequent back and shoulder problems. He replaces Fidel Edwards, who was injured in last week’s draw against Middlesex.

    Lancashire v Somerset

    Liam Livingstone continues as Lancashire captain in the continued absence with a hand injury of Steven Croft, despite Anderson’s return – meaning both teams will be led by a 23-year-old, following Tom Abell’s appointment by Somerset to succeed Chris Rogers during the winter. Somerset have named a 13-man squad with Tim Groenewald and Josh Davey added to the 11 who lost their opening match against Essex in Taunton – Matthew Maynard, their director of cricket, conceding “We were on the wrong end of an Alastair Cook batting masterclass”. He expects a seam-friendly pitch given Anderson’s availability.

    Middlesex v Essex

    Alastair Cook will be on familiar territory at Lord’s, as he aims to continue the form which brought him a match-winning century at Taunton last weekend. He needs 30 to reach 20,000 first-class runs – 11,057 of them in Test cricket. Matt Quinn, a New Zealand-born seamer, makes a welcome return to the Essex squad after a long injury absence, with Ashar Zaidi dropping out. Middlesex return to Lord’s for the first time since clinching the title there on the last day of the 2016 season. They will pick from a 14-man squad with Tom Helm, Ryan Higgins and Ravi Patel added to the 11 who opened up with a draw at Hampshire.

    Cook eases Essex to victory

    An Alastair Cook masterclass saw Essex to victory against Somerset in Taunton.

    Warwickshire v Surrey

    For Surrey’s first away fixture of the summer, the early pace-setters will aim to complete a double over the Warwickshire team they crushed at the Kia Oval two weeks ago. They name the same 13-man squad, with Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker travelling with the 11 who played Lancashire. Ashley Giles, who returned to Edgbaston as sporting director in the winter, admits the team’s start to the season, with a heavy home defeat by Yorkshire following the mauling at the Oval, has “hit the dressing room hard”. Experienced opener Ian Westwood returns to the squad after injury, and youngster Matt Lamb replaces Sam Hain. 

    Division Two

    Gloucestershire v Durham

    Durham’s former wicketkeeper Phil Mustard captains Gloucestershire after Gareth Roderick’s pre-season preparations were affected by illness. He led them to victory over Leicestershire last week after an opening defeat at Kent, with Liam Norwell taking his tally of wickets for the season to 18 – comfortably the best in Division Two. Durham only reclaimed three of the points they were deducted during the winter in an opening defeat at home to Notts, in which Keaton Jennings carried his bat in the second innings.

    Kent v Derbyshire

    Kent are one of three counties to have opened up with consecutive wins in Division Two, while Derbyshire have not won since 2015. James Harris, the Welsh seamer who is on loan to Kent from Middlesex, returns to the squad and could team up with Wayne Parnell, the South African who has joined them for an early-season stint. Captain Sam Northeast enhanced his status as the form batsman of county cricket with his fifth Championship century since last June in last week’s win at Sussex – a run which started with a career-best 191 at home to Derbyshire last summer.

    Leicestershire v Glamorgan

    Leicestershire captain Mark Cosgrove misses the game against his former club as he serves the one-match suspension imposed for his team’s poor disciplinary record over the last two seasons. Consecutive defeats against Nottinghamshire and Gloucestershire means they have only reclaimed eight of the 16 points they were docked for those disciplinary offences. Meanwhile, Robert Croft’s Glamorgan team have taken only seven points from their heavy defeats against Northamptonshire and Worcestershire. South African Cameron Delport will replace Cosgrove with Ned Eckersley taking over the captaincy, and Charlie Shreck returning to the squad.

    Nottinghamshire v Sussex

    Broad returns to form a seam attack of at least three internationals with Jake Ball and James Pattinson. Steven Mullaney is still missing, and Alex Hales will be keen for a score in the middle order after 7 from two innings so far. Sussex have had a much tougher start to the season, losing their South African signing Vernon Philander with a groin injury in an opening defeat by Kent. Australian seamer Steve Magoffin would be an obvious replacement for Philander if he has recovered from a knee injury, and youngsters George Garton, Stuart Whittingham and Adam Barton are also included in the squad.

    Worcestershire v Northamptonshire

    Moeen’s availability is timely for Worcestershire as they face county cricket’s team of the moment. Northants have opened up with consecutive Championship wins for the first time since 1997, making it five on the bounce after their uplifting end to the 2016 campaign. But Worcestershire are on a three-match winning run themselves, having started with a big win at Glamorgan to follow two last September. They did the double over Northants last season, crushing them by 311 runs at Wantage Road before achieving their highest-ever fourth-innings run chase of 404 at New Road, with Daryl Mitchell scoring a century in each innings.

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