By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid
Division 1 already looks to be a battle between 3 or 4 sides. There is only one really juicy clash, but some interesting games are promised.
Surrey v Yorkshire
Surrey squad: Rory Burns (captain), Gareth Batty, Scott Borthwick, Rikki Clarke, Sam Curran, Jade Dernbach, Dean Elgar, Ben Foakes, Conor McKerr, Stuart Meaker, Ryan Patel, Ollie Pope, Mark Stoneman, Amar Virdi
Yorkshire squad: Gary Ballance ©, Jonny Bairstow (WK), Tim Bresnan, Harry Brook, Jack Brooks, Karl Carver, Jack Leaning, Adam Lyth, Steven Patterson, Cheteshwar Pujara, Joe Root, Josh Shaw, James Wainman
Yorkshire lose Ben Coad for this match that is undoubtedly the pick of the Division 1 clashes. After their miracle win, Yorkshire are firmly back on the Championship train. Dean Elgar returns for Surrey, who will be disappointed to have managed only two draws against the bottom two clubs. This is the last chance for England Test contenders to impress: with runs for Gubbins and Jennings, Mark Stoneman knows that he needs runs. For Yorkshire, this is likely to be the last that they see of Root and Bairstow. An Oval pitch that was full of runs looks an unlikely surface to produce a positive result, but Amar Virdi can expect to get a lot of overs in and will hope to enhance his growing reputation.
Nottinghamshire v Lancashire
Nottinghamshire squad: Jake Libby, Chris Nash, Steven Mullaney (c), Stuart Broad, Riki Wessels, Harry Gurney, Matt Milnes, Luke Fletcher, Samit Patel, Tom Moores (wkt), Ross Taylor, Jake Ball, Billy Root.
Lancashire squad: Liam Livingstone (c), James Anderson, Tom Bailey, Shiv Chanderpaul, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Alex Davies, Haseeb Hameed, Keaton Jennings, Graham Onions, Stephen Parry, Matt Parkinson, Dane Vilas
Nottinghamshire start this round of matches in pole position and will see the Lancashire side as vulnerable and another potential win, having already beaten them at Old Trafford. Joe Mennie has a thigh strain and misses out, undoubtedly reducing the potency of the Lancashire attack, while Jimmy Anderson will hope for a much better outing this week. The Nottinghamshire attack has looked imperious so far this season and Stuart Broad has looked like the bowler of five years ago. There are signs though that Lancashire are starting to get to grips with Division 1, although they will be concerned that they could not close out a strong position against Somerset and the Nottinghamshire attack will test them sorely.
Somerset v Hampshire
Somerset squad: Tom Abell (c), George Bartlett, Eddie Byrom, Josh Davey, Steve Davies, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Matt Renshaw, Paul van Meekeren.
Hampshire squad: Jimmy Adams, Joe Weatherley, Mason Crane, Brad Taylor, Rilee Rossouw, James Vince*, Hashim Amla, Kyle Abbott, Gareth Berg, Ryan Stevenson, Fidel Edwards, Lewis McManus, Tom Alsop, Brad Wheal.
Could this be Somerset’s season? Most pundits have marked Somerset for relegation but, despite a relative lack of impact by Jack Leach so far, Somerset are looking to be one of the strongest sides in the Division. Marcus Trescothick is unavailable with a broken toe, but Eddie Byrom is available again, but there are doubts about Josh Davey’s fitness. Hampshire pushed Nottinghamshire very hard on the last day at Trent Bridge and will need to show similar determination to get a result from this game. While the Somerset seam attack is looking strong, Hampshire have been lacking an attack leader, with Fidel Edwards blowing hot and cold and often very expensive.
Worcestershire v Essex
Worcestershire squad: Mitchell, D’Oliveira, Fell, Clarke, Head, Cox, Barnard, Leach, Twohig, Morris, Tongue, Magoffin
Essex squad: Ryan ten Doeschate (27) Captain, James Foster (7) Wicket-keeper, Aaron Beard (14), Ravi Bopara (25), Nick Browne (10), Varun Chopra (6), Alastair Cook (26), Sam Cook (16), Simon Harmer (11), Dan Lawrence (28), Jamie Porter (44), Peter Siddle (64), Tom Westley (21)
This is not a game that many people would have picked as a relegation battle at this stage of the season, but Worcestershire, despite having their moments, have looked badly off the pace and how much Essex’s confidence will have been harmed by defeat to Yorkshire remains to be seen. Another defeat for Worcestershire would leave them short-odds to drop back into Division 2, while Essex desperately need the win to kick-start their season. Worcestershire welcome back Steve Magoffin to strengthen their attack. Essex’s problems are not hard to identify: Alastair Cook is struggling for runs at the top of the order and Tom Westley has hardly scored a run since being dropped by England, leaving the batting short of punch. The Essex squad is unchanged and they will look to restore their fortunes at New Road.
County Championship Division 2
Division 2 is lagging behind Division 1 but this round of matches throws up a couple of fascinating encounters that could help shape the table.
Kent v Sussex
Kent squad: 6 Joe Denly (c), 23 Daniel Bell-Drummond, 58 Sean Dickson, 4 Heino Kuhn, 16 Zak Crawley, 10 Alex Blake, 3 Darren Stevens, 25 Calum Haggett, 12 Adam Rouse (wk), 24 Matt Henry, 1 Harry Podmore, 5 Ivan Thomas, 33 Adam Riley.
Sussex squad: 26 Ben Brown (c/wk), 21 Danny Briggs, 5 Michael Burgess, 15 George Garton, 6 Harry Finch, 25 Ollie Robinson, 11 Abi Sakande, 28 Phil Salt, 97 Ishant Sharma, 74 Stiaan van Zyl, 96 David Wiese, 32 Luke Wells, 10 Luke Wright
Third against second in the table. Both sides had good wins last week. Kent have now won their last two games and a third win would see them well-positioned to make a long-overdue promotion bid. This though is the classic “promotion 32-pointer”, with the winner damaging the loser’s challenge, as well as setting-out their own credentials. Kent welcome back Blake and Hackett, while Will Gidman continues to tread water on the sidelines. Sussex have Ishant Sharma back in their squad. The struggling Kent batting will have their hands full with the Sussex attack.
Warwickshire v Northants
Warwickshire squad: Patel, Ambrose, Barker, Bell, Brookes, Hain, Hose, Hannon-Dalby, Lamb, Rhodes, Sibley, Stone, Thompson, Trott, Wright
Northants squad: Wakely (c), Newton, Duckett, Levi, Keogh, Procter, Rossington, Cobb, Crook, Bracewell, Hutton, Sanderson
Warwickshire have a chance here to go further clear at the top of the table against the side that appears to be comfortably the weakest in the Division. Ryan Sidebottom has a side strain, but Olly Stone and Keith Barker are available again for Warwickshire. The Warwickshire attack has so far swept all before it and comes up against a Northants side short of confidence that seems to depend too much on Bracewell. A third win in four games would leave Warwickshire in a very strong position.
Middlesex v Gloucestershire
Middlesex squad: Dawid Malan (captain), Tom Barber, Hilton Cartwright, Stephen Eskinazi, Steven Finn, Nick Gubbins, James Harris, Tom Helm, Max Holden, Eoin Morgan, Ollie Rayner, Sam Robson, John Simpson (wicket-keeper)
Gloucestershire squad: Dent (c), Howell, Bracey, Roderick, J.Taylor, van Buuren, Higgins, Noema-Barnett, Miles, Worrall, M.Taylor, Liddle, Hankins.
Not a game that would have caused Middlesex many sleepless nights when the fixture list was published but, now, they are desperately in need of a win and cannot afford a defeat. Tim Murtagh and Paul Stirling hope to make their Test debuts in Dublin, but Middlesex recover Steve Finn, who has been getting back match fitness in the 2nd XI and Eoin Morgan. Gloucestershire name the same squad that were robbed by rain of possible victory against Sussex. A measure of Chris Dent’s determination to regain form was that he joined van Buuren and various others of the 1st XI in the 2nd XI team that overwhelmed Glamorgan 2nd XI this week. Dent scored runs and van Buuren took wickets. Gloucestershire are likely to field an unchanged XI, with Ryan Higgins keen to join the long list of players released by Middlesex who have haunted their former county. Higgins has been promoted to the new ball and has runs and wickets to his name. The loser of this game will probably be parking any thoughts of promotion.
Derbyshire v Durham
Derbyshire squad: 1. Billy Godleman, 26. Ben Slater, 10. Luis Reece, 77. Wayne Madsen, 18. Alex Hughes, 20. Matt Critchley, 11. Daryn Smit, 16. Harvey Hosein, 41. Ravi Rampaul, 7. Hardus Viljoen, 74. Duanne Olivier, 28. Tony Palladino, 44. Will Davis
Durham squad: Paul Collingwood (c), Aiden Markram, Cameron Steel, Will Smith, Graham Clark, Gareth Harte, Michael Richardson, Stuart Poynter (wk), James Weighell, Mark Wood, Nathan Rimmington, Matt Dixon, George Harding
Mark Wood has decided to return early from the IPL in an attempt to get back into the England side. Gary Wilson is playing for Ireland, so Derbyshire name both Smit and Hosein as potential replacements and Tony Palladino is again available. Durham have been boosted by their extraordinary comeback win against Leicestershire and know that a second win would put them back in the hunt for promotion, while Derbyshire’s strong attack will pose a real challenge. Chris Rushworth and Barry McCarthy are injured, but loan signing Matt Dixon seems likely to play, while George Harding and Gareth Harte have been withdrawn from the current Durham 2nd XI match to reinforce the squad.
Leicestershire v Gamorgan
Leicestershire squad: Carberry (capt), Aaron, Ackermann, Cosgrove, Dexter, Griffiths, Hill (wk), Horton, Javid, Klein, Parkinson, Raine.
Glamorgan squad: Hogan (capt), Selman, Murphy, Marsh, Donald, Carlson, Cooke (wk), Lloyd, Salter, Carey, de Lange, van der Gugten, Smith.
Two sides that lost badly last time out and need a boost. Leicestershire have just about forgotten how to win and, on a dead Grace Road pitch, will at least be confident of avoiding defeat. Glamorgan name an unchanged squad. Ned Eckersley injured against Durham is replaced by Lewis Hill for Leicestershire, while Ateeq Javid's excellent 2nd XI form earns him a call-up to the squad. Leicestershire say that they feel that the team is “in a really good place” despite the loss to Durham, but Glamorgan have been showing signs of some real form.
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