With the white ball competitions done and dusted, it's full steam ahead in the Championship for the next month. Here's the lowdown ahead of Tuesday...
Lancashire v Essex (2nd v 1st) – Lancs closed the gap slightly in the last round with their home win against Warwickshire, but Essex ensured it remains a commanding 36 points by skittling Somerset to extend their winning run to five matches. They were not expected to have Mohammad Amir available, but he has been included in a 14-man squad. Essex have a poor recent record against Lancashire, with seven defeats in 15 Championship matches since their last win against them, in 1997. The previous meeting this season, Essex’s first back in Division One back in April, was drawn. Essex have the two leading wicket-takers in Division One in Simon Harmer (53) and Jamie Porter (52).
Hampshire v Surrey (3rd v 4th) – After fielding four teenagers in last week’s draw against Middlesex at the Kia Oval, Surrey will field another strikingly young side – although they hope that Tom Curran will return after a back injury. Captain Gareth Batty says he will continue despite a broken thumb. “I can manage it,” he says. “I’ve got another one.” Hampshire are aiming to bounce back from another Finals Day disappointment in the NatWest T20 Blast, but they will be without Mason Crane who is in England’s squad preparing for the Lord’s Test.
Yorkshire v Middlesex (6th v 5th) – Aussie batsman Shaun Marsh will make his Championship debut for Yorkshire, opening with Adam Lyth – provided Lyth is not called away on paternity duty. Gary Ballance returns to lead Yorkshire for the first time since they were beaten by Middlesex at Lord’s in June with 815 runs from his eight Championship appearances this season at an average of over 100. Middlesex have won the last four Championship matches against Yorkshire – three of them at Lord’s, including last September’s title decider, and one at Scarborough. But they have lost Toby Roland-Jones, the hero of Lord’s last September, back to the England squad, and are still missing Nick Gubbins with his hamstring injury – although Ryan Higgins returns to the squad after a collarbone injury.
Warwickshire v Somerset (8th v 7th) – Both teams are even more firmly entrenched in the relegation zone after defeats in the last round, at Lancashire and Essex respectively, which makes this a must-win for both, even though Warwickshire’s plight is slightly more desperate as they are 12 points adrift at the bottom. Still no Chris Woakes for them following his retention in England’s Test 13. Warwickshire announced on Monday that Will Porterfield and Ateeq Javid will be released at the end of the season as Ashley Giles continues his shake-up of their squad. Javid is to join Leicestershire.
Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire (1st v 2nd) – This game is Nottinghamshire’s last home clash of the season, meaning a last appearance at Trent Bridge for their captain and wicketkeeper Chris Read. There should be plenty of interest in this game in India, as Cheteshwar Pujara faces Ravichandran Ashwin, the spinner having played a key role in Worcestershire’s victory over Gloucestershire on his Championship debut last week which has consolidated their position in the top two. Notts are aiming for a seventh straight home win against Worcs which would effectively clinch promotion straight back to Division One – and may do so mathematically, as well.
Durham v Kent (8th v 4th) – Mark Wood is expected to return for Durham, who claimed their third win of the season at home to Derbyshire in the last round, and have now climbed two places off the bottom of the table after starting the season with a 48-point penalty. Graham Onions continues his bid to become the county’s record wicket-taker in first-class cricket – after passing 600 for his career in the Derbyshire game, he is now within seven of the existing record held by Simon Brown. Kent lost ground in the promotion battle with a draw at home to Leicestershire in their last match, but remain fourth with a match in hand on second-placed Worcestershire.
Northamptonshire v Sussex (5th v 3rd) – Ben Duckett is set to return for Northants after missing last week’s defeat at Notts with a finger injury, but they have lost Adam Rossington with a broken thumb and Ben Sanderson with a pulled hamstring, possibly for the rest of the season. Luke Procter has joined on loan from Lancashire and could line up alongside his long-time Red Rose team-mate Simon Kerrigan. Sussex claimed a fifth win in six matches against Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay last week, albeit a little close for comfort, to maintain their promotion challenge – 19 points behind second-placed Worcestershire with a game in hand. But they have not won a Championship match in Northampton since 1994, and received a mauling by Duckett on their last visit in the first game of last season, when the opener made an unbeaten 282.
Leicestershire v Gloucestershire (10th v 6th) – All change at Leicester with Graeme Welch and John Sadler taking charge for the rest of the season following the departure of head coach Pierre de Bruyn, after tensions came to a head at Kent last week. They remain bottom of the table and the only team in either division without a win, but are already planning ahead with the signing of Ateeq Javid from Warwickshire, and Michael Carberry returns for the second appearance of his loan from Hampshire after playing in Blast finals day for the latter on Saturday. Gloucestershire are still missing Graeme van Burren so Tom Smith will continue, and Matt Taylor, Josh Shaw and James Bracey are added to the squad, with David Payne still missing and Craig Miles and Will Tavare omitted.
Derbyshire v Glamorgan (9th v 7th) – Derbyshire’s only previous Championship win this season came at Glamorgan, where Afghanistan-born leg-spinner Hamidullah Qadri took five wickets on debut. Glamorgan have suffered double disappointment in the last week, with semi final defeat in Blast Finals Day on Saturday followed by a one-wicket loss against Sussex in the Championship match at Colwyn Bay. But that game offered considerable encouragement for the future as they included seven Welsh players in their 11. No news yet on whether that policy will continue.