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  • Specsavers County Championship 4m

    Specsavers County Championship preview

    Team news, stats and more ahead of eight huge Championship matches

    It's full steam ahead in the Specsavers County Championship until the end of September, with plenty up for grabs in both divisions...

    DIVISION ONE

    Middlesex v Hampshire
    The 2016 champions head for Uxbridge having been dragged into relegation danger by Somerset’s win last week. Toby Roland-Jones has been made available for their remaining three matches, adding to a range of seam options which already included Steven Finn, Tim Murtagh, James Harris and Tom Helm. But Dawid Malan is still missing because of his inclusion in England’s T20 squad, and Nick Gubbins has still to recover from his hamstring injury. Hampshire lose Liam Dawson to England, but Mason Crane returns, and England Lions batsman Tom Alsop is set to continue as wicketkeeper with Lewis McManus out for the season. George Bailey in the World XI that faces Pakistan in three T20 matches so James Vince takes over as skipper.

    Somerset v Lancashire
    Somerset are likely to name the same 11 who secured their second win of the season at Edgbaston last week, to breathe new life into their hopes of avoiding relegation. That would mean another chance for England Under-19s batsman George Bartlett, who made his debut against Warwickshire. But director of cricket Matthew Maynard has confirmed that seamers Lewis Gregory and Jamie Overton will not play again this season. Alex Davies will resume as Lancashire wicketkeeper because Jos Buttler is on one-day duty with England, after being handed a rare match with the gloves in last week’s rain-affected draw with Essex – which left them second, still 36 points behind the leaders. Davies scored a century in Lancashire’s home win against Somerset in April. Coincidentally, the game is scheduled to be played over the same four days as in 2011, when Lancashire clinched their first outright Championship for 77 years in Taunton.

    Surrey v Yorkshire 
    It's fourth v fifth yet neither of these teams are entirely clear of relegation danger, and both will be forced into changes. Surrey have now drawn nine and lost one of the 10 matches since their only win of the season in the opening round of the season at home to Warwickshire, and have lost Tom Curran and Jason Roy to England’s white-ball squad – although Mark Stoneman is available again after Test duty to stiffen their batting. Yorkshire are 10 points behind Surrey and only 13 points clear of seventh-placed Somerset, even though they have won three games, and Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett and David Willey have joined Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow on international duty. Shaun Marsh will again open with Adam Lyth before he is replaced by Kraigg Brathwaite as overseas player for their last two fixtures, against Middlesex and Essex.

    Warwickshire v Essex
    Ryan ten Doeschate resumes the Essex captaincy after missing last week’s draw against Lancashire for personal reasons, and the Division One leaders are also boosted by the return of Tom Westley from England duty, and of Neil Wagner for a second stint as overseas player after he made such a positive impression in the early weeks of the season. A win would almost certainly seal a first Championship title since 1992 if Lancashire fail to win at Somerset. Warwickshire are now 30 points adrift at the bottom after last week’s home defeat by Somerset, their seventh of the season, but will be boosted by the return from England duty of Chris Woakes. Tim Ambrose has a stiff neck so Alex Mellor keeps.

    DIVISION TWO

    Glamorgan v Northamptonshire
    Northants maintained their outside chance of promotion by beating Sussex last week, and they have a game in hand on the top two – although they remain 36 points behind second-placed Worcestershire. Glamorgan were frustrated by a rain-ravaged draw in Derby, with three of the four days washed out.

    Gloucestershire v Kent
    Kent slipped to fifth in the last round of the matches, but still returned south from Durham in good spirits after a brave innings from Sam Billings salvaged a draw. Billings remains available for their last three matches after being overlooked by the England selectors, and will be keen to make a point – especially with Kent remaining within striking distance of the two promotion places. Gloucestershire consolidated their position in the top six with a convincing win at Leicester last week, in which Liam Norwell took his tally of wickets for the season to 56.

    Sussex v Derbyshire
    Sussex are forced to make at least one change to the team beaten at Northampton last week, a big blow to their promotion hopes, with Chris Jordan joining England’s T20 squad. Guy Whittingham and George Garton are added to the squad. Derbyshire are without Imran Tahir who is in Pakistan to play for the World XI, and Gary Wilson, who is with Ireland ahead of their ODI with West Indies on Wednesday. Derbyshire remain ninth after enduring a washout against Glamorgan.

    Worcestershire v Leicestershire
    Steve Rhodes’s team will see the visit of rock-bottom Leicestershire as a chance to knock Nottinghamshire off the top of the table, in addition to maintaining their lead over the chasing pack in the promotion battle. Moeen Ali is not available, but Ravi Ashwin continues. Leicestershire have only two games remaining to avoid the indignity of going through the season without a Championship win, which would revive grim memories of their infamously long barren run which included two full seasons without success in 2013 and 2014.

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