The summer is nearly here and that means the County Championship cricket season is about to begin and we preview both Division One and Two with England and Durham legend Steve Harmison.
Steve runs down each division and we also have insights from BetFred’s cricket trader Phil Crawford.
I don’t think Yorkshire will win, I just have a feeling – they are going to lose so many players missing with England etc. I think Andrew Gayle will do a great job for them as coach, he has been a great servant – and it shows what Yorkshire think of him but I have a funny feeling that other teams have strengthened better than them, but I don’t see them living up to the short price they are with the bookies.
I think Middlesex, will be workmanlike and be there or thereabouts, Somerset should be OK although not sure they can take 20 wickets although I really like the Overton brothers. Will Somerset get runs? I’m not so sure.
Surrey have strengthened well and my only problem with them for me, is again would they take the wickets.
Hampshire have brought some good players in, and in this division for me it is who is going to take the wickets – the teams who have been successful is those who have taken the wickets, and not many are standing out.
Essex will have Alistair Cook around for five or more matches, and there is nobody better than Cook – and if gets in on those pitches, he could go a long way to keeping them alive.
If Yorkshire didn’t have international call-ups, they win the league, simple as that. Warwickshire and Surrey are the ones for me that could stand out. Bell will score hundreds, Trott will score runs and they have a style of bowling that is good for Edgbaston and Ashley Giles is going back there so I can see Warwickshire being a force.
And for me one person that could stand out for Surrey and that could turn the Championship for me is Stuart Meaker, if they get him fit with Jade Dernbach on the flat wickets at the Oval, they could be the team to beat – they have always had runs in them, so I think it could be the year for them.
We are joint best price at 9/4 about Yorkshire but have still seen very little money for them. Although they still have a very strong squad there are doubts about them with Jason Gillespie having left.
Yorkshire and Middlesex undoubtedly have the two strongest squads in Division 1 but Warwickshire and Surrey are certainly in with a shout. Indeed we have seen ‘bits and pieces’ for Somerset and Warwickshire at bigger prices.
It would not surprise me if Durham win this. The bowlers they have at home, I think they can expect to win every game at Chester Le Street – Onions and Rushworth. It is whether they cover the runs. They will also have Mark Wood for the first three games at least and batsmen in that division will never face pace like him. I remember 2005 before the Ashes with Durham we had all the big England players available and we were in the Second Division then and we won the first four with myself, Paul Collingwood etc. When you have quick bowlers in your team, is like have a top class spinner, you can have a team five down within six or seven overs – batsman down the order haven’t faced pace like it and no batsman like it. So if Mark Wood is fit, Durham win those and once you get off to that start, the minus 48 points start they have is gone. I can’t see past anyone other than Durham, Second Division cricket is not great and if I am being brutally honest and no disrespect to them, the First Division is just getting stronger and stronger.
I don’t think anyone else will get near to Nottinghamshire and Durham.
Kent’s youngsters probably depends how long they have Sam Billings for as they have Jason Gillespie coming in. Sussex are another that has stood still and have stagnated a bit, they are in that rut which you can get in if you don’t get out the division.
So for me the two that got relegated and Kent would be my outsider if Durham don’t get up to second – but the rest are the counties I just don’t see them pushing without much money, without big squads and with lots of young players who are still trying to find their way.
Nottinghamshire and Sussex are the only two teams we have seen any money for but at this stage it has still been pretty low key. We are expecting business to increase over the next few weeks.
No interest at all for Durham and this is understandable with the 48 points deduction – it would need several of the more fancied teams to under-perform and results in general to go their way.