Vitality County Championship team-by-team preview: Division Two

Eight teams will be battling for promotion from Vitality County Championship Division Two this summer. Members of our Reporters Network look at each county's prospects.


Preview by Nigel Gardner – ECB Reporters Network

Captain: David Lloyd.

Head Coach: Mickey Arthur

2023 finish: Sixth (Division Two)

2023 highest run-scorer: Leus du Plooy (1236)

2023 highest wicket-taker: Alex Thomson (31).

Key winter moves: Blair Tickner, who has signed until early July, will lead the attack. The 30-year-old right-arm fast New Zealander has "some serious pace" according to Arthur although plans to form an overseas new-ball pairing with Mohammad Amir were torn up when the Pakistani quick announced he was coming out of international retirement.

The big question: Derbyshire failed to win a home match last season, losing twice with five of the six games at the Incora County Ground ending in a draw. The nature of the pitches will need to offer a better balance between bat and ball if the county is to mount a serious challenge for promotion.  

What we’re looking forward to seeing: The former Glamorgan skipper David Lloyd is expected to bring an attacking ethos to a squad which has undergone an overhaul during the winter with Arthur recruiting players capable of delivering a positive and entertaining brand of cricket that will give the team a better chance of turning draws into victories.

Player most likely to Bazball: Aneurin Donald can pepper the pickets as Derbyshire discovered when he shredded their attack, plundering an astonishing 234 off only 136 balls for Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay in 2016, equalling what at the time was the fastest first-class double century.  

Final thought: Although the loss of Amir so close to the start of the season is a disappointment, Derbyshire's seam attack still looks strong with Zak Chappell, Sam Conners and Ben Aitchison supporting Tickner. Lloyd and the evergreen Wayne Madsen should compensate for the departure of du Plooy to Middlesex while Luis Reece and Harry Came will look to build on the opening partnership they forged last season. Jack Morley's arrival on a season-long loan from Lancashire bolsters the spin department.


Previewed by Peter Miller - ECB Reporters Network

Captain: Sam Northeast

Head Coach: Grant Bradburn

2023 finish: Fifth (Division Two)

2023 highest run-scorer: Kiran Carlson (1,068)

2023 highest wicket-taker: Timm van der Gugten (39)

Key winter moves: The big news for Glamorgan was the arrival of new head coach, Grant Bradburn. He has secured the services of seam bowler Hamza Mir, who he coached when he was in charge of the Pakistan national team, and leg spinner Mason Crane has also joined the club on a season-long loan.

The big question: The issue for Glamorgan last year was a lack of wicket-taking prowess, with the batting unit all too often setting up a winning position that could not be seized upon. The real question is will the arrival of Bradburn, Mir and Crane lead them turning some of the 12 draws they managed in 2023 into wins this season.

What we’re looking forward to seeing: Local lad Kiran Carlson continuing his career progression will be high on the wish list for Glamorgan fans. It has been 19 years since the last time a player from the county appeared in an England team and another 1000-run season for Carlson must mean he is pushing for a place on an England tour at some level in the winter.

Player most likely to Bazball: Dan Douthwaite. Loves bowling bouncers and hooking them for six when one is sent in his direction. Swings hard in every format.

Final thought: It is strange to think of a Championship campaign with just one loss as a disappointment, but last year felt as if it was a team that underachieved. The 12 draws in 2023 involved some good luck and some bad, but the overall issue was a lack of killer instinct when ahead. For 2024 to be an improvement on last term this needs to change. The ability of the bowlers, new and old, to take wickets is vital for this season.


Previewed by Richard Latham - ECB Reporters Network

Captain: Graeme van Buuren

Head Coach: Mark Alleyne

2023 finish: 8th (Division Two)

2023 highest run-scorer: Miles Hammond (812)

2023 highest wicket-taker: Zafar Gohar (32)

Key winter moves: New head coach Mark Alleyne was delighted to announce the return of Australian Cameron Bancroft as an overseas player to boost the batting line-up for the whole of the 2024 Championship season, while fellow countryman Beau Webster, an all-rounder, will be available for two fixtures in June during his spell as an overseas signing in T20 cricket.

The big question: Can Gloucestershire remove the stigma of being the weakest side in the Championship, having failed to reach 100 points in 14 Second Division games last season, which saw them fail to register a single victory and suffer six defeats? The previous year saw them relegated in bottom place from the First Division with only two victories.

What we’re looking forward to seeing: The effect of the return of Alleyne to the club as head coach in place of Dale Benkenstein. There have been few more popular players in Gloucestershire’s history and Alleyne will be hoping his shrewd cricket brain helps reproduce the winning mentality of the hugely successful one-day team he captained in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Player most likely to Bazball: Jack Taylor is guaranteed to attack with the bat in all forms of cricket while hoping the leg-spin he has developed in recent seasons, since being deemed guilty of an illegal action as an off-spinner, can tempt mistakes from opponents with similar intent.

Final thought: Gloucestershire will have to improve in all departments to erase memories of two desperately disappointing seasons. Their 23 batting points last season was the lowest in the Second Division, while no seam bowler managed more than 20 wickets. Injuries took their toll, but key players underperformed, Chris Dent and James Bracey contributing less than 1,200 runs between them. Both will need to recapture top form if the team are to mount a promotion challenge.


Previewed by Jon Culley - ECB Reporters’ Network

Captain: Lewis Hill

Head Coach: Alfonso Thomas

2023 finish: Fourth (Division Two)

2023 highest run-scorer: Rishi Patel (1,075)

2023 highest wicket-taker: Chris Wright (48)

Key winter moves: A busy winter under new head coach Alfonso Thomas and assistant James Taylor saw eight players leave, with Ben Mike (Yorkshire), Liam Trevaskis (Durham), Scott Currie (Hampshire, on loan) and Ben Cox (Worcestershire, loan-to-permanent) coming in. Tying down Australia international Peter Handscomb to a second season is a coup, while fellow Aussie Marcus Harris returns to provide high-quality early-season cover.

The big question: The big question: Can Leicestershire build on the elation of winning a first one-day trophy for 38 years and mount a sustained promotion challenge? Away at Yorkshire in their season opener, the Foxes then host Sussex before travelling away to Derbyshire. A win in either of those could do wonders for confidence under skipper Lewis Hill.

What we’re looking forward to seeing: Young player of the year for 2023 Tom Scriven continuing his progress. Unable to establish himself in three seasons with Hampshire, the 25-year-old all-rounder is thriving at Grace Road, combining 62 wickets with 432 runs across all formats last season and playing a key part in giving the red-ball attack the depth that it has sometimes lacked in recent years.

Player most likely to Baz-ball: See-ball, hit-ball Sol Budinger is a natural Bazballer but Rishi Patel’s strike rate in making his 1,075 runs last year was none too shabby - plus he averaged almost 45.

Final thought: Eight wooden spoons in 14 seasons had some cricket commentators writing off Leicestershire as a basket case. Last season, though, they looked to have the makings of a decent side, an impression confirmed when they ended the summer as Metro Bank One-Day Cup champions. There is plenty of scope for improvement, though, and promotion to Division One would be the perfect follow-up.


Captain: Toby Roland-Jones

Head Coach: Richard Johnson

2023 finish: Ninth (Division 1)

2023 highest run-scorer: Ryan Higgins (955)

2023 highest wicket-taker: Ethan Bamber (41)

Key winter moves: Well publicised financial restrictions mean arrivals have been limited, but the acquisition of Leus du Plooy, prolific with Derbyshire last season, will strengthen the batting ranks while Henry Brookes’ arrival from Warwickshire is timely given Tim Murtagh’s retirement. John Simpson’s departure to Sussex leaves big shoes to fill behind the stumps.

The big question: Middlesex’s fragile batting was at the heart of their relegation last season, the decimation of the top order being the rule rather than the exception. Du Plooy’s arrival should add consistent runs at three or four, which hopefully will give a lead to youngsters like Josh De Caires and Joe Cracknell, so helping them to continue their progress.

What we’re looking forward to seeing: The short answer is for Middlesex to be competitive in red-ball cricket again. Their batting woes meant they were constantly on the back foot in 2023 with little or no respite for bowlers constantly expected to produce rabbits from hats to get them back into games. The drop in level should/must lead to more runs on the board.

Player most likely to Bazball: Ryan Higgins sometimes had to curb his aggressive instincts when rebuilding innings last season, but would be more explosive with runs behind him. Cracknell could be similarly belligerent in the middle order against an older ball.

Final thought: Middlesex need to get key decisions right if they’re going to be one of the promotion contenders in a competitive Division Two. Those include what to do with Josh De Caires. Generally regarded as top-order batter, he spent last year as leading off-spinner often left stranded with the tail batting at eight. Whether he is restored to the top-order may depend on Cracknell winning the battle with Robbie White and Jack Davies for wicketkeeping duties and dropping down the order accordingly.

Leus du Plooy has made the move to Lord's in 2024

Previewed by Jeremy Blackmore – ECB Reporters Network

Captain: Luke Procter

Head Coach: John Sadler

2023 finish: Tenth (Division One)

2023 highest run-scorer: Rob Keogh (780)

2023 highest wicket-taker: Jack White (50)

Key winter moves: Indian batter Karun Nair, who scored a majestic 150 against Surrey during a brief stay last season, returns for the first seven Championship fixtures while countryman Prithvi Shaw is also back following his record-breaking 244 in the One-Day Cup. Meanwhile in-form Australian quick Chris Tremain returns until the end of April fresh from taking 50 wickets in the Sheffield Shield.

The big question: Northants surprised many with a tough, attritional style of cricket in 2022, but a batting slump saw them firmly rooted to the bottom of Division One in 2023 following five innings defeats. Can their fragile batting stand up and mount a bid for promotion? The return of Nair and Shaw provides much-needed ballast alongside promising former Somerset batter George Bartlett.

What we’re looking forward to seeing: Hopes will be high though for new signing George Scrimshaw from Derbyshire who provides a point of difference with his height and express pace. While most of his wickets have come in white ball cricket – and earned him an England debut – he is keen to make an impact in the Championship at Wantage Road.

Player most likely to Bazball: Saif Zaib’s white-ball form and impressive strike rate earned him a call-up for The Hundred last year. While his Championship batting form dropped off in 2023, his century against Surrey the previous year revealed a batter of immense talent.

Final thought: Jack White led the attack last year, his dependable fast-medium pace garnering a season’s best haul, and he will be a key man again in 2024 alongside the evergreen Ben Sanderson. Meanwhile Tom Taylor’s departure provides opportunities for the club’s young seamers to stake their claim. Stepping away from the heat of Division One should help the batters recalibrate and find form, but Northamptonshire’s season will be judged on whether they can earn promotion at the first time of asking.


Captain: John Simpson

Head Coach: Paul Farbrace

2023 finish: 3rd (Division Two)

2023 highest run-scorer: Fynn Hudson-Prentice (879)

2023 highest wicket-taker: Ari Karvelas (35)

Key winter moves: The vastly experienced John Simpson arrives from Middlesex and will captain Sussex for the first seven games when the position will be reviewed. Overseas trio Nathan McAndrew, Jayden Seales and Jaydev Unadkat are all lined up for spells leading the bowling attack while the prolific Cheteshwar Pujara returns for the first seven fixtures and the expectation of plenty of runs. 

The big question: Sussex would have finished with the same total as promoted Worcestershire had they not been deducted 17 points for indiscipline against Leicestershire and a slow over-rate against Yorkshire, so they are not far away from ending a seven-year exile from Division One.

What we’re looking forward to seeing: There is the delicious prospect of Ollie Robinson and perhaps even Jofra Archer, who continued his rehab from injury on Sussex’s pre-season trip to Bangalore, sharing the new ball in the early weeks of the season. Even if it was just Robinson it would give the attack a real spearhead.

Player most likely to Bazball: Fynn Hudson-Prentice scored nine half-centuries from the lower middle-order last season with a better strike rate (73) than any of his top-order teammates. Farbrace has challenged the all-rounder to convert more of those fifties into hundreds and Hudson-Prentice definitely has the shots and temperament to do so.

Final thought: The squad looks stronger and better balanced while Tom Clark is talented enough to step up to open regularly following Ali Orr’s departure. Simpson is an excellent signing, as long as the pressures of captaincy don’t dilute his impact with the bat and gloves, while Farbrace should be able to rotate his bowlers to keep them fresh. But Sussex only won once before September last season and that record needs to improve if they are to mount a promotion challenge.


Previewed by Graham Hardcastle - ECB Reporters Network

Captain: Shan Masood 

Head Coach: Ottis Gibson

2023 finish: Seventh (Division Two)

2023 highest run-scorer: Adam Lyth (1,019)

2023 highest wicket-taker: Ben Coad (36) 

Key winter moves: Darren Gough departed as director of cricket last month, placing more responsibility on coach Ottis Gibson. Left-arm spinner Dan Moriarty has signed permanently from Surrey following a brief loan spell last summer. Yorkshire will start the season with captain Shan Masood, who returns for a second campaign, as their only overseas player. But they have been boosted by excellent early-season availability for Joe Root and Harry Brook. 

The big question: Yorkshire are the overwhelming favourites to win Division Two. Can they live up to that billing? A tumultuous three years off the field has had ramifications on it - they were deducted 48 points, for example, last season to kibosh a promotion push - the slate has been wiped clean and confidence is high that their primary goal can be achieved. 

What we’re looking forward to seeing: Yorkshire fans will be desperate to see prolonged fitness for key new ball seamers Ben Coad and Matthew Fisher, who have both had their injury issues in recent summers. They shared 64 wickets in 20 appearances last year. Better that in 2024 and the Headingley side will be difficult to stop. 

Player most likely to Bazball: George Hill could really push things on in the middle order if a good platform is set by opening duo Fin Bean and Adam Lyth, who excelled last summer. Hill can be particularly dominant against spin. 

Final thought: Yorkshire are desperate for promotion to kick-start what feels like a new era at Headingley. A fast start would settle both the dressing room and the fanbase, and a mouthwatering batting line-up should help them do it. In the first block of seven Championship matches through until late May, they will field a top six of Bean, Lyth, Masood, Root, Brook and Hill. That would be the best batting line-up in the country, never mind Division Two. Root and Brook are available for five of those games apiece.