By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid) & David Bowden (@BowdenwhU)
Last Season: 2nd (promotion) Division Two: 10W, 3L, 1D
Last Five Results: Lost vs Warwickshire (A), Win vs Glamorgan (H), Win vs Middlesex (A), Win vs Northamptonshire (H), and Win vs Derbyshire (A)
2018 Leading Run Scorer: Joe Denly - 941 Runs @ 34.50 (3x100, 3x50, HS: 119)
2018 Top of the Batting Averages: Joe Denly 941 runs at 34.50
2018 Leading Wicket Taker: Matt Henry – 75 @ 15.48 (BBI: 7-42, BBM 12-73)
2018 Top of the Bowling Averages: (Minimum of 10 wickets): Matt Henry 75 wickets at 15.48.
The bookies’ favourite to be relegated are Kent who are making their first return to the top flight of First-Class cricket since 2010. Much of last seasons’ success is owed to Joe Denly and Matt Henry who both starred to help the Spitfires’ to a second-placed finish in Division Two and with-it promotion to Division One.
However, worryingly for the Matt Walker’s men, you would think that Denly, the leading run-getter for the club will be missing for large chunks of the season with England duty and other T20 franchise cricket commitments. That will leave a lot of pressure on stand-in skipper Heino Kuhn, Daniel Bell-Drummond and overseas’ signing Matthew Renshaw to bring the bulk of the runs. The aforementioned three will need to have big seasons for the Canterbury-based club if they are to have any chance of survival. Kuhn is class, and I have no doubt that the South African will be able to handle the step up, the worry for Kent is that should Renshaw enjoy a fruitful early season spell he may well earn an Ashes call-up after becoming accustomed to conditions in England following a couple of stints of County action.
It is, of course, a big season for Bell-Drummond too, the opener has toured with the Lions and is undoubtedly being looked at as a potential opener for England in the future, he will need prove that he can handle the step up in quality in Division One to the England selectors.
On the bowling front, the loss of Matt Henry will hit them hard; the Kiwi did the bulk of the work for Joe Denly last season collecting a magnificent 75-Division Two scalps last summer. A lot will rest of the ageing shoulders of Darren Stevens – whose guile and experience could prove vital this summer, though you feel his dibbly-dobblers will be easy pickings for some of the batsmen in Division One. Matt Milnes and Mitch Claydon represent the other seam bowling options.
It was a fantastic feat from Matt Walker to even get Kent back up to Division One, and for his sake, I hope they perform miracles, but you fear their batting may leave them light and loss of Matt Henry will hit them hard.
Last Season: 7th Division 1. W3 L7 D3 (1 Tie).
Last Five results: Lost v Surrey (A), Won v Worcestershire (H), Tied v Somerset (A), Lost v Yorkshire (A), Won v Hampshire (A).
2018 leading run scorer: Dane Vilas, 792 @ 37.7 (3x100, 1x50, HS 235*).
2018 top of batting averages: Keaton Jennings, 709 @ 47.3 (3x100, 1x50, HS 177).
2018 leading wicket-taker: Tom Bailey, 64 @ 19.7 (BBI 5-53, BBM 8-67)
2018 top of bowling averages: Keshav Maharaj, 17 @ 16.6 (BBI 7-37, BBM 11-102)
Twenty-seven first innings runs against Hampshire in their last game – the difference between two and three batting points – proved to be the difference between Division One and Division Two cricket at Old Trafford in 2019. However, it could easily have been settled before then. An epic fight-back against Surrey on August 22nd left them just seven runs short of victory and, at Taunton, on September 5th, Lancashire recovered from being dismissed for 99 in the first innings to set Somerset 78 to win and took the last two wickets with the scores level, to produce a rare tie. A win in either game would have secured safety. However, until that late-season revival, it is fair to say that their season was pretty dire. Poor starts were ensured as Haseeb Hameed continued his lonely vigil in the wilderness: an average under ten and a top score of just 31 saw him twice relegated to the 2nd XI, yet he ended up playing ten Championship games. With veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul also having a disappointing campaign, far too much rested on Keaton Jennings and Dane Vilas: between them, they scored all but one of the Lancashire centuries in the season. How much more patience Lancashire will show with Haseeb Hameed remains to be seen: he has taken a full part in Lancashire’s pre-season tour, showing that he is still central to their plans and ended 2018 just missing an unbeaten double century for the 2nd XI, but another mediocre season may be a prelude to a change of county. Similarly, Shivnarine Chanderpaul will surely retire this season. Keaton Jennings does not figure in England’s World Cup plans but, early season runs may yet save his place in the Test side.
Lancashire have had something of a clear-out. Australian batsman, Joe Burns, will be available for ten games and Glenn Maxwell for the full season. Between them, they replace Joe Mennie and Keshav Maharaj for the Championship and should ensure that the overseas position is thoroughly covered. Jordan Clark goes to Surrey, Aaron Lilley to Leicestershire and Mark Watt to Derbyshire. Karl Brown, who has had few opportunities, has been released and also, sadly, Simon Kerrigan, who has put his playing career on hold to move into coaching. Kerrigan who, at one stage, seemed to be the natural successor for Monty Panesar in the England side, never recovered from his rough handling on his England debut. Richard Gleeson, who made a significant impact in the last two games of the season on loan from Northants, joins the Lancashire attack, full time. Lancashire have also given contracts to four players from the youth programme: George Lavell, George Balderson, Tom Hartley and Jack Morley. Dane Vilas takes over as captain from Liam Livingstone, who had a torrid season, failing to reach fifty and having few opportunities with the ball. Karl Krikken becomes Performance Manager, and Mark Chilton adds the post of Performance Director to Assistant Coach.
Prediction: What are a historic club like Lancashire doing in Division 2 for the second time this decade? The last time that they found themselves in this predicament they made sure that their return was the fastest possible. It will be a major shock if they do not take one of the three promotion places on offer.
Last Season: 6th Division 2. W5 L7 D2.
Last five results: Lost v Gloucestershire (A), Lost v Sussex (A), Lost v Warwickshire (H), Won v Durham (H), Lost v Glamorgan (A).
2018 leading run scorer: Colin Ackermann, 876 @ 39.8 (2x100, 3x50, HS 196*).
2018 top of batting averages: Zak Chappell, 145 @ 48.3 (0x100, 0x50, HS 40).
2018 leading wicket-taker: Ben Raine, 51 @ 22.5 (BBI 4-44, BBM 7-89)
2018 top of bowling averages: Colin Ackermann, 9 @ 15.2 (BBI 2-26, BBM 3-29)
For a few wonderful weeks in mid-season, Leicestershire had a run of form that had their fans dreaming of playing in Division 1. After starting with two draws and a defeat, leaving the suffering fans thinking that another wooden spoon battle was on the way, four of the next five matches were won. It was a vindication for the pundits who looked at the signings made for the season and felt that Leicestershire had reinforced wisely and effectively. An extraordinary win against Glamorgan by three runs, just when the Glamorgan last wicket pair seemed about to snatch an incredible victory, was followed by a calm chase in a low-scoring match against Northants. A heart-stopping defeat against Middlesex, interrupted the sequence, as the last pair of James Harris and Tim Murtagh got their side over the line in a big chase. Two more comfortable wins then moved the Foxes up to a totally unexpected third place and left them pressurising the top two. Sadly, it was not to be, because five of the last six games were lost. Sixth place was probably better than most fans expected before the season started, but was ultimately bitterly disappointing.
The reasons for the difficulties are not hard to see. While Mohammad Abbas and Ben Raine sent down 740 overs and took a heroic 101 wickets between them, at a combined average of 20.1, only Colin Ackermann scored a century, and only one other batsman reached 90. Abbas and Raine carried the side, aided and abetted by Ackermann’s bat, with only bit-parts from other members of the squad. Without Raine in 2019, Leicestershire will need Gavin Griffiths to step up after a decent 2018 with the ball and will need more from Fireball Dexter who, although third in the batting averages, managed just 3x50 and averaged a modest 34.4, although his bowling continued to produce valuable wickets, often when most needed. Paul Horton and Harry Dearden averaged 28.3 and 22.3 respectively and will both need to step up their game if Leicestershire are to set totals that their bowling attack can defend.
Leicestershire have had an enormous clear-out of the playing staff. No fewer than ten players have left, four to other counties and six released. The loss of Ben Raine and Zak Chappell will surely be felt, as will the experience of Mark Pettini, Ned Eckersley and Michael Carberry. Mohammed Nabi did not feature in the Championship, but he too departs, leaving the county searching for a T20 specialist. Mohammad Abbas will return to lead the attack and will be expected to bowl a lot of overs in the absence of Ben Raine. Entering are Chris Wright, from Warwickshire, Will Davis from Derbyshire and Aaron Lilley from Lancashire. Overall though, the squad looks significantly weaker than it was in 2018.
Prediction: The end of season implosion and loss of key members of the team suggests that 2019 will be a season of struggle. Anything better than bottom three will be a pleasant surprise.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid) & David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Last Season: 10th Division 2. W2 L10 D2.
Last five results: Lost v Warwickshire (H), Lost v Derbyshire (A), Lost v Gloucestershire (H), Lost v Kent (A), Won v Leicestershire (H).
2018 leading run scorer: Chris Cooke, 606 @ 24.2 (0x100, 4x50, HS 69).
2018 top of batting averages: Usman Khawaja, 420 @ 52.2 (3x100, 0x50, HS 126).
2018 leading wicket-taker: Mike Hogan, 45 @ 22.5 (BBI 5-49, BBM 8-102)
2018 top of bowling averages: Tim van ter Gugten, 43 @ 21.8 (BBI 7-42, BBM 8-71)
Glamorgan had big wins in their first and last game of the season. In between, they lost ten of the remaining twelve matches and finished bottom by a distance. While there are some big changes in the backroom staff, the playing staff are largely the same as in 2018, which makes one fear for their chances in 2019. The form of the new Captain, Chris Cooke was one of the biggest worries. When your top run-scorer averages under 25, you know that the team has big issues. In the opening game, against Gloucestershire, centuries for Marsh and Lloyd set up a total of 526-9d and a big win but, even then, a collapse from 51-0 to 67-4, chasing 83, produced more than a few nerves in the closing stages. Lloyd and Marsh managed just two more fifties between them in the rest of the season and just twice more did Glamorgan pass 300.
Glamorgan will be waiting on Shaun Marsh’s fortunes. He is expected to be in the Australian World Cup squad, thus making him unavailable for the first half of the season. Whether or not he is selected in the Ashes squad is less certain. Marsh has dropped out of Test XI but, as a batsman with experience of English conditions, he will be hoping to have one of the batting reserve slots. If Marsh is again unavailable for much of the season, Glamorgan will be scrambling for a replacement who can hold together a flaky batting line-up. Aneurin Donald has rejected a new contract and left for Hampshire, for whom he played on loan after saying that he wanted to leave Cardiff, while Joe Burns, who has only played T20 for Glamorgan, has gone to Lancashire. They are replaced by Billy Root, signed from Nottinghamshire and Queensland batsman, Charlie Hemphrey. While neither is a big-name signing with stellar statistics to back him, both are solid players who management hope will solidify the batting. Two Youth signings join them – Callum Taylor and the delightfully named, Devon-born, Kazi Szymanski – and by MCC Young cricketer, Jamie McIlroy. Szymanski had some impressive 2nd XI performances, while Taylor has come through club cricket and is reckoned to be probably the best player in the South Wales Premier League, although all are on a Development contract and none of the three is expected to be a 1st XI regular this season.
Chris Cooke will have the massive job of being Captain, wicket-keeper, dominant batsman and One Day captain. No new Head Coach has been named since Robert Croft left in mid-October, with Matthew Maynard doing the job on an interim basis and Mark Wallace as Director of Cricket and Hugh Morris dedicating himself exclusively to the position of Chief Executive. It is hard to avoid the sensation that there is some turmoil at Sophia Gardens.
Prediction: Glamorgan are likely to struggle again. Their chances of success may rest on the availability of Shaun Marsh, but anything better than bottom three will require a significant turnaround in fortunes.
Last Season: 5th Division 2. W5 L4 D5.
Last five results: Won v Leicestershire (H), Drew v Middlesex (H), Won v Glamorgan (A), Drew v Northants (H), Won v Derbyshire (A).
2018 leading run scorer: Chris Dent, 851 @ 34.0 (1x100, 4x50, HS 214*).
2018 top of batting averages: Kieran Noema-Barnett, 323 @ 35.9 (0x100, 2x50, HS 73*).
2018 leading wicket-taker: Craig Miles, 56 @ 21.1 (BBI 5-50, BBM 8-90)
2018 top of bowling averages: Ryan Higgins, 48 @ 18.4 (BBI 5-21, BBM 8-54)
There was a moment before rain intervened at Hove on April 29th when Gloucestershire fans could contemplate possibly going top of Division 2, with two wins from three. The season went downhill rapidly from there as a succession of poor first innings performances left the side chasing the game, time and again. Things at Bristol then went from bad to worse as, first, overseas signing Dan Worrall went home injured after just four games, then stalwarts Craig Miles and Liam Norwell announced that they would leave Bristol and head to Birmingham, leading to unhappy fans to dubbing their side “Warwickshire 2nd XI”. Although the signing of Dan Worrall had been preceded by the same scepticism that had met the signing of Michael Klinger initially some years before, he rapidly showed himself to be a fine bowler and a shrewd pick, although all-too-briefly available. With Worrall gone, Liam Norwell injured for all but one game and David Payne and Kieran Noema-Barnett all missing a lot of games through injury, the batting misfiring badly and Captain, Chris Dent, looking as if he were batting with a stick of rhubarb, the season could have disintegrated totally.
However, wins in four of the last seven matches led Gloucestershire to pass from being wooden spoon contenders to their best finish for several seasons and boast more wins than defeats. The reasons for the resurgence were not hard to find: Ryan Higgins and Craig Miles showed some excellent form; Chris Dent produced, at last, huge, match-winning innings and several of the young players such as Ben Charlesworth and Bobby Bracey had their moments. Higgins, a fringe player at Lord’s, had a wonderful season, showing himself to be a destructive bowler and scoring a century – Middlesex fans wondered why they had let him go. And Craig Miles, who has struggled since touring with the England performance squad, signed-off at Bristol with some huge performances. One cannot not mention Kieran Noema-Barnett, who has attained legendary status at Bristol: his roly-poly appearance and an attitude described as “if it were any more laid-back, he’d be asleep”, has endeared him to the fans and, before his crippling injury, he was showing some fine form in organising low-order resistance.
The end of the 2018 season at Bristol has resembled the end of 2011, then, almost all of the first-string attack left. At the end of 2018, Craig Miles and Liam Norwell went to Warwickshire. Kieran Noemi-Barnett returned to New Zealand, accepting a major job offer at home, and although he remains the nominal overseas signing for 2019, Dan Worrall has had such an injury-plagued winter that his chances of a return must be deemed slim and, if fit, may be in the Ashes squad anyway. Gloucestershire’s only signing to replace the losses has been Stuart Whittingham, brought up from Sussex, where he got few chances to bowl much. The fans are hoping that someone will be signed as cover for Worrall but, as yet, there is no news of a replacement.
Prediction: The loss of the majority of the bowling attack from 2018 could be a crippling blow, but there is some optimism around Neville Road given that a group of good, young players are showing their ability. Realistically, repeating the fifth place of 2018 would be a fine result and mid-table would be no disgrace.
Last Season: 5th – Division One: 4W, 5D, 5L
Last Five results: Lost v Lancashire (H), Draw v Yorkshire (A), Win v Somerset (H), Win v Worcestershire (A), Lost v Essex (A)
2018 Leading run scorer: James Vince 1,101 @ 44.04 – (3x100, 2x50, HS: 201*)
2018 Top of the Batting Averages: Hashim Amla 492 runs @ 54.66 ( 2x100, 3x50, HS: 112)
2018 Leading Wicket Taker: Fidel Edwards – 54 wickets @ 26.72 (BBI: 6/50, BBM: 7/112)
2018 Top of the Bowling Averages (min of 10 wickets): Dale Steyn: 30 wickets @ 19.10 (BBI: 5/66, BBM: 7/71)
Hampshire will hope a change at the top will bring much-needed success after a couple of years of disappointment. Indeed, if the Hawks had a walkout tune to the middle, it would ‘The Great Escape’ admittedly last season wasn’t as hairy as 2017 but will still be deemed a failure in the eyes of the Ageas Bowl faithful.
For a team stacked full of international experience, particularly with the ball, it is somewhat baffling that they so severely underachieved in recent years. Fidel Edwards and Kyle Abbott alone have a shed load of test wickets between, while the tweaks provided by Mason Crane (who is looking for a big year in 2019 with an outside chance of an Ashes Call-Up) and Liam Dawson should be enough to take 20-wickets regularly. So often is the case though that they fall short and that is the first issue on the whiteboard of fixes for new coach Adrian Birrell.
Second on that list in big, bold capital letters will be runs on the board, only James Vince came out of last year with any real credit hitting an impressive 1,101 runs as he continues to carry the load for his side. The arrival of Aiden Markram (a late replacement for Sri Lankan Dimuth Karunaratne) should help add some stability, but the likes of Sam Northeast and Rilee Rossouw need to improve on last year’s outlay of 451 and 489 runs respectively. A concern for Birrell’s men is the potential loss of James Vince to Ashes action; the Hampshire Skipper harbours hopes of opening for England in the Ashes and a long spell without the talismanic leader could prove problematic for the Hawks.
Should their bowlers fire though they could yet enjoy a solid season, and a new coach with fresh ideas could turn their fortunes but, I do not expect to see them challenging at the top, expect them to survive (again) but be in for another season of mid-season mediocracy at best.
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid) & David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Last Season: 7th Division 2. W4 L7 D3.
Last five results: Lost v Kent (A), Won v Glamorgan (H), Won v Northants (A),
Lost v Middlesex (A), Lost v Gloucestershire (H).
2018 leading run scorer: Wayne Madsen, 1016 @ 37.6 (2x100, 7x50, HS 144).
2018 top of batting averages: Ben Slater, 676 @ 42.3 (0x100, 6x50, HS 99).
2018 leading wicket-taker: Tony Palladino, 51 @ 19.7 (BBI 6-29, BBM 10-81)
2018 top of bowling averages: Luis Reece, 11 @ 17.9 (BBI 7-20, BBM 7-38)
Derbyshire's problems could be encapsulated in the struggles of Captain Billy Godleman. The first eight games of the season brought him just a solitary fifty. Although he ended strongly, with 2x100 and 2x50 in the last six games, an average of 26.3 is not what you hope for from a batsman who had appeared re-born at Derby. An attack of Ravi Rampaul, Mark Footitt, Duane Olivier and Tony Palladino looked sturdy enough to give any batting line-up a hard time, but Footitt managed just a single game, and his England ambitions now seem to be over, and Ravi Rampaul’s 13 wickets came at more than 50 apiece. Rampaul’s season ended prematurely at Hove on August 19th when he left the field with breathing difficulties and spent several nights in the hospital bed.
Derbyshire have seen important changes both on and off-field over the winter. They have signed New Zealand all-rounder Logan van Beek as their overseas player for the entire 2019 season for all formats. A medium-fast bowler and middle-order batsman, Derbyshire hope that he will strengthen their attack. An international with The Netherlands, he has been out of their side for more than three years now but, instead, has played for New Zealand A and is close to a cap for them. Batsman, Tom Lace has been signed on loan from Middlesex but, as part of the agreement, will not be available for games against Middlesex. And Scotland spinner, Mark Watt, has crossed the Pennines from Lancashire, hoping for the opportunity of regular cricket. On the negative side, Ben Slater has left for Nottinghamshire, Duanne Olivier has taken a Kolpak deal at Yorkshire and stalwarts Gary Wilson (T20 captain), and Hardus Viljoen have both been released, alongside Will David and Callum Brodrick. While the playing staff seem thinner in 2019, the backroom staff is now full of experience. David Houghton comes back to his post as Head of Cricket. Steve Kirby is bowling coach, and Dominic Cork is Head Coach for T20, while John Wright will work as an advisor on recruitment and strategy.
Although 2018 was ultimately disappointing, it was, at least, despite all the injury problems, a small advance on the three wins and eighth place of 2017. However, one feels that 2019 is going to be a challenging year because recruitment has not matched the talent that has left the club. Derbyshire will need Billy Godleman to continue his late-season form from 2018 and for van Beek to get both runs and wickets. More than anything though, they will need Rampaul and Footitt to stay fit and have one, last hurrah if they are to bowl sides out regularly.
Prediction: Derbyshire will struggle to avoid a bottom three finish.
After several seasons of losing their best players, the county seems to be returning to stability. For 2019, Durham must do without Paul Collingwood, who has retired finally. Collingwood had a season to forget, without a single fifty and averaging under 15, but Durham will miss his calm and his authority. In his place they have made the brave, one might almost say, courageous signing of Cameron Bancroft. There is no question that Bancroft has talent, although his common sense and sartorial judgement might be questioned. It will be interesting to see what he makes of the spicy pitches of the Riverside, as an extended run for Gloucestershire in 2016 and 2017 brought minimal success: almost a quarter of his runs over sixteen matches came in a single inning. Bancroft will undoubtedly receive some “chat” from opposition players and fans alike and how he handles it may define Durham’s season. Elsewhere, the squad seems reinforced, with two shrewd signings in Leicestershire’s Ben Raine, a useful all-rounder, who enjoyed a wonderful 2018 season, and Yorkshire’s Alex Lees, exiting the club are Barry McCarthy as he is now, with Ireland’s promotion, an overseas player. Ryan Davis, a fringe player in the Championship, has also left for personal reasons. The county is unlikely to see much of Stokes and Wood – if he stays fit, Wood is likely to be playing for England – so a lot of weight will fall, again, on the shoulders of Chris Rushworth to hold together the attack. More critical still is for the batsmen to make top-order runs after a horrific collective 2018: if Durham is to challenge, they will need at least two batsmen to top 800 runs for the season and several more to go past 600. James Franklin is expected to join the coaching staff, bringing with him a wealth of experience.
Prediction: Durham needs to show that an up and down 2018, including some remarkable wins from unpromising positions, was the first sign that they are turning the corner. More consistency in 2019 and they could be dark horses to go up.
Cook’s return will be most welcomed perhaps by Tom Westley and Nick Browne who will be looking to have big seasons after disappointing large parts in 2018. The pair both tend to improve when batting with Cook with both men benefiting from the former England captain’s guidance and coolness in the middle. Whilst, unlikely a strong start to the season for either Westley or Browne could see an unlikely call-up for the Ashes, and learning from Cook can only set them in good stead.
In terms of winter arrivals the Eagles have secured Peter Siddle for a further two season after the Australian Paceman impressed last season, but there are fears that the club lose the opening bowling to international duty with the Aussies coming to town for the Ashes this Summer, and good start to his county campaign could see him receive another Ashes call-up. Siddle proved to be a popular character around the Cloud FM County Ground with the 34-year-old often seen helping the Essex bowling youngsters develop their game, and his experience will prove key for Jamie Porter, Sam Cook and Aaron Beard’s development long term, of course Porter will be hoping to line-up against Siddle in the Ashes come June.
Andre Nel, former Essex and South African strike bowler has linked up with the Eagles once again to become assistant and bowling coach replacing the departed Dimitri Mascarenhas, who struggled to make an impact at Essex in his year with the club. Nel’s international experience could prove important for the club’s young prospects with Jack Plom in particularly highly thought of within the club.
Prediction: Another season of challenging at the top awaits for the Eagles, they shouldn’t lose too many key men for the Ashes, and with the returning Alastair Cook they should be able to get the runs to set up their talented bowling attack.
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu) & Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
The powers at be inside ECB Headquarters cannot go a year without changing the layout of the First-Class game, and yet again the tinker men at the top have decided to change the configuration of the leagues for the 2020 season – with ten teams set to compete in Division One and just eight in Division Two.
With only one dreaded relegation spot available it could well leave a side languishing at the bookend of the table and lots of drab cricket come the end of the summer as team battle it out for the minimal ‘prize’ money available for teams in mid-table mediocrity.
Make no mistake though, after a rather sombre opening gambit, it could well turn into an exciting fight for the top prize – with Surrey, Essex, Warwickshire (a potential surprise package), and Somerset all surely in the mix.
How did Division One finish in 2018?
A very strong Surrey side romped away with the title narrowly missing out on an unbeaten season after Essex edged home by one-wicket during an intense finale at the Oval. In a summer where everything seemed to click for the ‘Rey, runs were plentiful and an attack led by the Curran brothers, Rikki Clarke and the quite brilliant Morne Morkel often proving too hot to handle.
Somerset suffered a familiar feeling of Deja-vu after another stellar season, they will be hoping to be the bride rather than the bridesmaid in 2019 after finishing runners-up for the second time in three seasons. You worry for the west-countrymen that potentially losing Jack Leach to the Ashes could well harm their chances this season. Essex enjoyed another positive season finishing third in their second season back in the top flight; it was always likely that they would struggle to repeat their heroics during the 2017 season after losing coach Chris Silverwood to England.
There was a significant drop off to the teams in mid-table with Yorkshire, Hampshire, and Nottinghamshire all battling more for survival than really challenging for the top. In the end, bonus points meant Nottinghamshire survived by the skin of their teeth in what proved to be a disappointing season for the Outlaws. Hampshire completed their almost now yearly great escape, this time with slightly more time to spare than usual finishing in fifth 11 points clear of relegation. While the White Rose finished in a comfortable fourth place in the end. It proved to be a task too much for newly promoted Worcestershire, who in all honestly looked woefully out of place throughout the entirety of the season winning just two of their 14 games, losing 10. Lancashire joined the Pears in relegation to Division two following a disappointing season for the Red Rose with their one-point deduction for slow over-rate proving pivotal in their demise after finishing level on points with Nottinghamshire.
The Promoted Teams:
Warwickshire and Kent are the new boys in the Division after both easing to promotion in 2018. Kent look strong with many astute signings in the offseason with Matthew Renshaw sure to bring them some vital runs this season alongside the ever impressive Heino Kuhn who will deputise as captain in early season with Sam Billings away on IPL duty. Warwickshire, have a lovely mix of youth and experience, with their ever-present overseas Jeetan Patel likely to prove key with the ball for the Bears, Olly Stone will also be looking to impress early season with half an eye on an unlikely call-up to the Ashes Squad.
The Teams in Division One in 2019:
Top tips for the title:
It could be a wide-open race of the title this summer, with the Division looking the strongest it has been for a long time. Surrey will once again be strong but could be hampered by Ashes call-ups. Somerset will be there or thereabouts again come the business end of the season, as will Essex who will be boosted by having Alastair Cook available for the entire season for the first time in a long, long time. If you want a dark horse, look at the newly promoted teams Kent and Warwickshire who could well surprise a few this season. Nottinghamshire and Hampshire are the teams that will be battling out for the wooden spoon, in my opinion, come September.
A season of change in Division Two:
After just three seasons of an 8/10 configuration for the two divisions, the County Championship will change to 10/8 for the 2020 season. At the end of the season, three teams will be promoted from Division 2, with just one coming back down. With an extra promotion place up for grabs, most of the sides in Division 2 will be thinking that this might just be their year.
How did Division Two finish in 2018?
For much of the season, Division 2 appeared to be a two-horse race between Kent and Warwickshire with both wrapping-up promotion with something to spare. Warwickshire’s innings victory over Kent in the final fixture gave them the Division 2 title. Challenges by Sussex, who finished with two heavy defeats and a draw in their last three games, leaving them a distant third and, more surprisingly, Leicestershire, faded as the season closed. In contrast, Middlesex’s challenge never appeared: although wins in the final two games lifted them to a somewhat flattering fourth, a slow start meant that they were never at the races. Behind them, there was little to choose between the mid-table sides.
At the other end of the table, Glamorgan’s season was about as bad as it could get. Wins in the first and last game of the season bookended ten defeats and condemned the Welsh to the wooden spoon long before the end of the season. Four losses in their first five matches and the other abandoned without a ball bowled left Northamptonshire’s season in ruins. Although they improved as the season went on, only Glamorgan finished below them. And, despite two stunning comeback wins in early season, being dismissed for under one hundred four times, including twice in the same match against Leicestershire and another four times for under 135, left Durham condemned to another season in the bottom three.
The relegated teams:
Worcestershire’s yo-yo relationship with Division 1 has continued. After one year in Division 1, they are back in Division 2. Lancashire have joined them, having fallen just 27 runs – one batting bonus point – short of condemning Nottinghamshire in their place.
The Division Two sides for 2019:
Tips for the Top Three
The Division looks weaker than in 2018 with any one of six sides seemingly candidate to go up. History suggests that one of the relegated teams almost invariably bounces straight back; that looks more likely to be Lancashire than Worcestershire. Middlesex and Sussex will think that surely this is their chance to get back into the top flight after various seasons trapped in the second division. The dark horses might just be Durham, who seem to be climbing out of the deep, dark hole that the ECB dug for them.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
All Charlie Jennings County Championship David Bowden Derbyshire Durham Essex Glamorgan Gloucestershire Hampshire Harry Hil Harry Hill Hector Cappelletti Jamie Ramage Kent Lancashire Leicestershire Mark Kidger Matthew Nichols Matt Layton Middlesex Northamptonshire Nottinghamshire RLODC Season Previews Somerset Surrey Sussex T20 VFTO Predicts Warwickshire Worcestershire Yorkshire