We all know that person who thinks he is a know-it-all, onto a sure thing, a gambling expert. Well sadly, here at View From The Outfield we are none of those people. So please do refrain from taking this as gospel, I messaged all our writers on the eve of the County season started to get their views on the upcoming season and here is what they have said. Again, I really must stress keep your wads of cash firmly in your wallet.
Thank you to all our wonderful writers who have donned the tin hat and braved having egg on their face come September.
County Championship Winners:
David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu): Essex
Harry Hill (@HarryHill96): Essex
Charlie Jennings (@AVCJX): Lancashire
Matthew Layton (@matt_layton5): Nottinghamshire
Jamie Ramage (@famousstrauss): Lancashire
Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid): Surrey
Matthew Nichols (@mwgnichols): Essex
Bob Bowden (@54bobb): Lancashire
Kevin Watts (Too cool for Twitter): Lancashire
DB: Worcestershire & Lancashire
HH: Somerset & Nottinghamshire
CJ: Worcestershire & Somerset
ML: Worcestershire & Lancashire
JR: Worcestershire & Somerset
MK: Hampshire & Worcestershire
MN: Worcestershire & Somerset
BB: Hampshire & Yorkshire
KW: Worcestershire & Somerset
(Sorry Worcestershire fans)
Promotion to the Promised land:
DB: Middlesex & Sussex
HH: Middlesex & Sussex
CJ: Warwickshire & Middlesex
ML: Middlesex & Sussex
JR: Warwickshire & Middlesex
MK: Warwickshire & Northamptonshire
MN: Middlesex & Warwickshire
BB: Sussex & Middlesex
KW: Middlesex & Sussex
Royal London One-Day Cup winners:
(So book your tickets up Surrey & Notts fans - you're off to the final!)
Glitz and glamour Finals day glory:
Comment below or reply to us on Twitter to let us know who you'd trust your last tenner in the bookies with (if any!)
By Matthew Nichols (@mwgnichols)
Where? The Oval, South London
Ins: Morne Morkel (SA, Kolpak 2-year deal), Will Jacks (YTH), Gus Atkinson (YTH), Mitch Marsh (AUS), Aaron Finch (AUS, T20)
Outs: Kumar Sangakkara (RET), Ravi Rampaul (Derbyshire)
Last Year: Championship: 3rd, RLODC: Runners-up, T20: Q/F
Key Man: Morne Morkel
2018 odds: County Championship: 11/2, RLODC: 10/1, T20: 13/2
The King (Sangakkara) is dead (seeing out his glittering playing career in a number of T20 competitions worldwide), long live the kids (the Surrey youth system).
Wait, what? Moneybags Surrey? The Surrey who have picked up South African duo Morne Morkel and Dean Elgar and have their eye on Indian superstar Virat Kohli for 2018? The ones with the brown hats and swagger? Actually producing players not buying in players? $$$urrey?
2018 is the Year of Youth for Surrey.
The sudden influx of youngsters has been partially thrust upon Surrey, with Zaf Ansari, Mark Footitt and Dom Sibley ending their times at the club mid-season, Matt Dunn spending extended time on the sidelines, and a severe loss of form from Scott Borthwick. However, credit must go to Michael Di Venuto for his work integrating a fine set of young players into Surrey's squad, and with all of them stepping up to the plate across the season. A maiden first-class hundred from Ollie Pope, a maiden 50 from Ryan Patel, Amar Virdi looking at home bowling to high-quality batsman, Connor McKerr tearing it up on a short-term loan at Derbyshire, and Sam Curran showed once again, if sporadically, why he’s considered one of the most talented young players in the country, all suggest that this squad has a good future.
Two more academy players, Will Jacks and Gus Atkinson, have signed their first professional deals this winter. The strength of the young contingent at the Kia Oval is really shown by Euan Woods, who was at the under-19 World Cup with England, not having received a contract at the time of writing.
If Surrey are going to compete in all three formats, these youngsters are going to have to have to do some leg work this summer.
In the Championship, Surrey’s core remains strong, but not having the best part of 1500 runs at an average of over 100 from Kumar Sangakkara will be sorely missed. Along with Jason Roy missing parts of the summer with England and the IPL, Sangakkara’s absence will put more pressure on Mark Stoneman, skipper Rory Burns and Ben Foakes, with places now up for grabs for younger players around them. An overseas batsman secured sooner rather than later would certainly help.
Stoneman’s potential England berth will hurt Surrey. Even if he is dropped by England, Mr Consistent Rory Burns should be in the running to replace him. With Mark Ramprakash calling for more batsmen to top 1,000 runs a year, having achieved the feat four times in four years, it remains a mystery to Surrey fans as to why he didn’t receive Lions recognition over the winter.
Surrey will be looking for a lot more out of Scott Borthwick: a player of his class surely can’t have two shocking seasons back-to-back. Ollie Pope will also be given a chance to cement his place at the start of the year, and Sam Curran looks to be in good touch with the bat in preseason.
Surrey’s real issue in red ball cricket will be taking 20 wickets a game. A very flat Kia Oval wicket, and a bowling attack that lacked a spearhead hindered Surrey significantly in 2017. No bowler took more than 25 wickets in the County Championship, with only Rikki Clarke and Footitt averaging under 30. Ten draws, two more than any other team, kept Surrey in the Division, but their third-place finish flattered the team somewhat.
If Morne Morkel remains fit, Surrey will have a bowler who will be able to take wickets on flat decks. He will really need some support though if they are going to win more than just the two games they won in 2017.
2018 is probably a couple of seasons too early for Surrey to challenge for the County Championship. A mid-table finish would be a good result.
Surrey have competed well in white ball cricket over the past couple of years, but their lack of late-order hitting still hasn’t been resolved. This may provide an opportunity for the likes of the hard-hitting Will Jacks and the versatile Pope to really make a mark in coloured clothing.
In the RLODC, Sangakkara will again be missed. His hundreds against Northants, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire over the last two years were as good as any knocks as you will see.
Ben Foakes was a revelation in the 50 over format, averaging 96 across the whole competition in 2017, and Mark Stoneman provided strong top order runs averaging 60, which included 144* in the final, only to be outdone by Alex Hales doing only things Alex Hales can do.
Dernbach (a much better bowler than when he was playing for England), Morkel, two Currans, Rikki Clarke and Gareth Batty makes for a strong a bowling line up as any. Don’t be surprised to see spinner Freddie van den Bergh getting some one-day game time as the club seeks to find a successor for Batty, who has turned 40 in the off-season and is in the last year of his contract.
Surrey will most likely go well in the Royal London One Day Cup on the back of their bowling, but without Sangakkara, reaching another final is unlikely.
Surrey’s Vitality Blast team again lacks lower-order hitting, something that Mitch Marsh would definitely have added. Aaron Finch is back to provide top-order pyrotechnics alongside Jason Roy, and the team’s bowling will be strong on slow Oval wickets. Like 2017, they should be targeting getting out of the group stages, but a second overseas batsman to replace Marsh is a necessity if they are going to achieve this.
All-in-all 2018 will be a year of consolidation for Surrey. If the core of their current squad remains in South London, trophies could well be heading their way in the near future.
4/11/2018 0 Comments
By Jamie Ramage (@FamousStrauss)
Where? 1st Central County Ground, Hove, Brighton
Ins: Ishant Sharma (IND, 4th April - 4th June), Rashid Khan (AFG, first half of T20)
Outs: Steve Magoffin (Worcestershire), Chris Nash (Nottinghamshire), Ross Taylor (also Nottinghamshire)
Key Man: Jorfa Archer
Last Season: Championship (2nd Division): 4th, RLODC: 5th in south group, T20: 5th in south group
2018 Odds: Championship: 11/2, RLODC: 12/1, T20: 12/1
When both Chris Nash and Mark Davis left Sussex within a matter of days of each other it could quite easily have left many Sussex fans wondering what direction their team was headed. The era under Davis had largely been disappointing.
Those fears were eased however when Jason Gillespie was announced as the new coach. Gillespie is one of the most respected coaches in the game after he guided Yorkshire to back to back County Championships in 2014 & 2015. It came as a surprise to many as Gillespie’s future looked to be in his native Australia coaching in the Big Bash whilst many believed he would be the next Australia coach.
Things in the past month may have changed that certain destiny. Gillespie will be pleased to inherite a good crop of young Sussex seamers packed full of good potential and it is a bowling attack that has got the Sussex faithful excited, there is finally geniune competition for places.
Jofra Archer truly announced himself on the world stage with an exceptional Big Bash. It made many including the British press to ask just who this young all-rounder was, although it came as no surprise to those who have witnessed his hard-hitting approach to both batting and bowling at Hove.
George Garton a young left-arm fast bowler is held in high esteem within England circles. If anyone can help him perform to the best of his ability it is Gillespie. There is still a rawness to Garton that in the right hands can not only help Sussex to future honours but also aid his ability to represent England.
Stuart Whittingham, the Scotland international is another young bowler Sussex will look to use and along with Ollie Robinson, there are enough enthusiastic bowlers to use in rotation.
Chuck Ishant Sharma and Chris Jordan into the mix and it certainly does look like a well-balanced bowling unit.
The spin department will again rely on Danny Briggs and Will Bear in the LV County Championship and Royal London One Day Cup. With Luke Wells now fit enough to bowl and Delray Rawlins an allrounder who can bowl spin and Sussex’s battery of fast bowlers it is conceivable that a specialist spinner will be seen as a luxury in the four-day competition.
Rashid Khan is one of those truly inspiring signings for the Vitality Blast. The theme of this Sussex side is one of youth. That isn’t to say that Khan lacks experience, although how the Afghanistan international adapts to English conditions remains to be seen. That hasn’t stopped him becoming one of the best bowlers in the world in the shortest format of the game.
One of the biggest concerns is the batting line-up that without the familiar figure of Nash looks short of experience. Wells was the leading run-scorer in Division Two last year and much will depend on him replicating that form.
If pre-season form is anything to go by then this could be the year that Luke Wright regains the aura that made opposing attacks fear. Relentless T20 cricket and the slog of county cricket along with the burden of captaincy took a noticeable toll on Wright who took a rest after the Big Bash to recover from little niggles that have stopped him from performing at his best.
It will be a big year for a number of batsmen who can establish themselves in the first-team. This year you feel is the year that Harry Finch finally establishes himself in the top order, he is highly thought of amongst the Sussex coaching staff but has yet to fully cement his place in the side.
The same could be said for Phil Salt and with Nash no longer around one of these two will be given every opportunity to become a fixture in the Sussex side for years to come. Tom Haines who has impressed in the second XI will be given the chance to add to his two first-class appearances.
The two South African Kolpack players Stiaan van Zyl and David Wiese add experience to the middle-order, and with Michael Burgess breaking through the middle-order looks in good shape. Burgess will also act as the backup wicketkeeper to Ben Brown who has been made club captain.
Brown has played many important innings for Sussex in the last few years aided by a lower-order that has been able to rescue early batting collapses. Ever since Sussex were relegated to Division Two of the Championship they have faced some of the most competitive seasons of the division.
The strength of that was proven when Essex ran away with the Championship last year, in their first season in the top flight.
This year is no different. Middlesex and Warwickshire have experienced and talented squads that should both be looking to bounce straight back. Middlesex have retained the majority of the side that won the County Championship only the year before their relegation, whilst Warwickshire have players like Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott who should take the second tier by storm.
If Gillespie gets the undoubted talent firing, then there is no reason why Sussex can’t push the favourites close.
Hove is one of those venues that really embraces the T20 Blast to the maximum, and Sussex have the match winners in that format and with the signing of Khan they are going to be a tough team to beat in that format.
The Royal London One Day Cup is the competition where the biggest inconsistencies can be exposed, or with a young side that has a licence to go out and take the game to the opposition.
While it is still unclear just how good this side can be it will be certainly fun to watch. There is an air of optimism back amongst the Sussex faithful that this could truly be one of the best seasons on the south coast in quite a while.
County Championship: 2nd
RLODC: group stage
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Where? The Essex County Ground, Chelmsford
Ins: Matt Coles (Kent), Feroze Khushi (YTH), Peter Siddle (AUS, April – Mid May) Neil Wagner (NZ, Mid-May to end of July – with option of extending), Adam Zampa (AUS, T20)
Outs: Kishen Velani (REL)
Key Man: Simon Harmer
Last Season: County Championship: Winners, RLODC: Semi-finalist, T20: Q/F
2018 Odds: Championship: 4/1, RLODC: 14/1, T20: 12/1
Essex had waited 25 long years to get their hands back on the County Championship trophy, not since their golden era in the eighties has there been this much excitement around Chelmsford.
A lot can be compared now to that of the great teams in the eighties and early nineties. Essex has always prided itself on bringing through the brightest talents in the local area. In the 20th century, the Eagles had players like the great Graham Gooch, Ray East and the adopted favourite Essex son Keith Fletcher. Fast-forward to 2018 and they have a new crop of local stars in Jamie Porter, Nick Browne and their new adopted son Ryan Ten Doeschate hoping to lead them to a new golden period.
Credit must be given to Derek Bowden and Ronnie Irani who took the bull by the horns and made big changes to the mentality of this little county from the East of England. They saw that the club was stagnating in the Second Division under Paul Grayson and made the much called for change in leadership. Out went the former Essex opener to be replaced by his number two, Chris Silverwood, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Chelmsford-based club suddenly had a complete change in playing style, there were no more cautious decisions on the outfield and with some shrewd signings, the club are back where they historically belong.
It was always going to prove key to keep hold of the core group that has taken Essex to the ‘next level’. There were plenty of murmurings around the County Ground that Surrey were sniffing around Dan Lawerence and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that the ‘bigger counties’ are starting to look at Jamie Porter too given his incredible breakthrough season in Division One. Perhaps though the fact that Lawrence ignored the glitz and the glamour of the Surrey dressing room shows how far the club has come. There is a real togetherness in the camp and with the supporters, and that was always going to be the key going into their defence of their newly held crown.
The only major blow for the club was the departure of the man that orchestrated Essex’s revival, Chris Silverwood, many expected his departure the minute the England Bowling coaching job came about, and it was quite fitting for the Eagles to wrap up their memorable season by finishing unbeaten and hammering his former county Yorkshire in that final game week.
His departure will be felt for sure though, many players grew under him as coach but what Bowden and Irani will hope is that the style and mentality won’t be hugely affected given the fact Anthony Mcgrath was part of that wonderful journey to where they are today. It is important that McGrath stamps his own authority on the camp whilst keeping things similar to the previous regime.
He will of course, like Silverwood was, be heavily reliant on two of Essex’s biggest weapons, Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer. The pair combined to lethal effect last summer collecting 148 wickets between them, as the Eagles ripped through sides time-after-time to claim big wins.
Porter’s story is perhaps one of the warmest in County Cricket. The Leytonstone-born seamer was about to turn his back on cricket when he was spotted by Essex’s chief scout Barry Hyam playing for Chingford. Two years later, back-to-back title-winning seasons and a tour to the Carribean with the England Lions it is safe to say he loves the game of cricket once again. He will be crucial again for the Eagles as he looks to continue his fine form with half an eye on taking over from James Anderson in a couple of years in the England set-up.
If you talk to many at Essex they will tell you that Harmer was the missing link that the club have been crying out for a long time. A man that can hold up an end and look constantly dangerous throughout. Porter claims his partner in crime is the best spinner in the county circuit and you’d be foolish to argue with him given his 72-wicket haul from his first season in county cricket.
The big shoes of the departure of Mohammed Amir have been left with Aussie Peter Siddle who will be joining the Eagles this week for the first six games of the Championship season. Essex will see this a big coup and after years of chasing the fierce quick and they have finally got their man. He will offer something different to the Essex attack, much like Amir did. He will show heart, spirit and will be a man that will run through brick walls for the side. Neil Wagner will replace Siddle in May, Wags as he is affectionally known around the County Ground was a popular signing after making such an impact last season at the club. Whilst he didn’t pull up any trees, he was Mr. Reliable and played a massive role in the dressing room helping young Aaron Beard and Sam Cook master their trade. If Wagner can produce half the level of skill he showed in the recent Test match series in New Zealand against England he will prove to be another very astute resigning from the Eagles.
Joining Siddle in the dressing room for the first time will be Matt Coles; the former Hampshire and Kent man has crossed the Dartford tunnel to join the Champions. It was a curious signing for the Eagles giving his somewhat bad boy reputation, but if any county can get the best out of Coles it is Essex. Jesse Ryder came with a similar reputation a few years ago but his reputation was soon forgotten about as the tight-knit dressing room welcomed him with open arms and he soon became one of the boys. Essex will hope that Coles will fall into that category too as he certainly offers white-ball guile as well as hard hitting down the order. Perhaps a nod to what Essex are aiming to become this season under new assistant Dimitri Mascarenhas, the former Hampshire all-rounder has developed quite the reputation of being an excellent white-bowl coach and his appointment, to me at least, seems like the club are wanting to become a unit that can fire in all competitions.
So what will 2018 bring for the reigning Champions? Can they retain their title or will they be the next Middlesex and go down straight after the highest of highs? Last year Ten Doeschate’s men came from no-where to absolutely dominate the top flight, even the most biased of Essex fans didn’t see that coming. They will be hard pushed to repeat the feat that took them to glory. They will, of course, have goals, firstly to get enough points on the board to keep their heads above water, and then who knows. It will be a fiercely competitive league this year and being title-holders they are there to be shot at. They will no longer have that element of surprise they perhaps carried last summer, but the bowling attack is strong enough to take 20-wickets consistently it is just whether the batting line-up can set them up consistently enough.
As for the white-ball game, the Eagles will hope that Adam Zampa (signed for the entirety of the T20 campaign) will offer them that element of mystery, and the newly acquired white-ball skill of Coles will offer them another wicket taking option at the top of the innings. T20 has always been the competition to elude Essex and they will want to put that right this summer under the tutelage of Mascarenhas.
Perhaps though, their best chance of white-ball success will come in the Royal London One-Day Cup, I feel as though the Eagles batting line-up is more suited to the longer formats of limited overs cricket. Essex’s line-up is more about craft and subtlety than the brute force and strength that T20 requires. They’ll qualify out of the group in the 50-over competition but they’ll have to get over their Knockout stage hoodoo to give their fans a trip to any sort of limited overs final.
County Championship: 3rd
By Harry Hill (@HarryHill96)
Where: Grace Road, Leicester
Ins: Michael Carberry (Hampshire), Ateeq Javid (Warwickshire), Tom Taylor. (Derbyshire), Mohammad Abbas (PAK, first CC game, then mid-June onwards), Mohammad Nabi (T20 Blast), Varun Aaron (IND, Late April - Late June) .
Outs: Clint Mckay, Will Fazakerley (retired).
Last season: County Championship Division Two 10th, One-Day Cup 6th (North Group), T20 Blast 4th (North Group) – Quarter-finals.
2018 odds: County Championship Division Two winners: 33/1, RLODC: 25/1, T20 Blast 33/1 - Odds powered by Oddschecker.com
There is a sense of renewal at Grace Road ahead of the new season, a new coach and captain has given a much-needed boost to the club that has simply drifted through the motions for too long. Leicestershire have had the displeasure of propping up the bottom of Division Two for four of the past five years and find themselves without a Championship win since 2016. The man tasked with turning the ship around is none other than former captain and club stalwart Paul Nixon. There was at least something for the Grace Road faithful to enjoy last year, as they progressed to the quarter-final of the T20 Blast, a format that has served them well down the years.
One man who can be more than happy with his return last year includes Mark Cosgrove, as the Australian scored 1,112 runs at an average of 48.34 in the Championship, which was right up there with the best in the Division. Despite relinquishing the captaincy to new signing Michael Carberry, you can be sure that Cosgrove will be key to any success this season. Despite struggling for form on loan at Grace Road towards the end of last season, Carberry has proven class over many years and will add some vital nous to a relatively inexperienced side. With the ball, Mohammad Abbas is a cracking signing and will be available when not playing the two-match test series for Pakistan against England in May and June. Abbas has built up a global reputation after bursting onto the test scene against the West Indies last April and will be looking to transfer an excellent domestic record in Pakistan to the County Championship this year.
A couple of youngsters to look out for this year include Sam Evans; the 20-year-old batsman scored 114 in just his second first-class match for Loughborough University against Northants last season. After impressing for the 2nd team last season, Evans has been promoted to the first team and will be looking to feature at Grace Road at some point this summer. Another good prospect to look out for is left-arm spinner Callum Parkinson, who toured Australia over the winter with the England Lions. A mainstay of the successful T20 Blast side last year, he also enjoyed some fine end of season form in the Championship, culminating in a 10 wicket-haul against Worcestershire last September. Parkinson also appears to be more than able to contribute with the bat, as he scored an impressive 75 from just 92 balls at number 11 against Kent last year. Despite this, I do wonder whether Leicestershire lack batting depth, as only Mark Cosgrove and Callum Parkinson averaged above 33 in the County Championship last year, an area that I am sure has been worked on over pre-season.
The white ball had clearly been a priority for Leicestershire last season, and I expect that it might be again this year. However, two players who were key to their success in the Blast last year, Luke Ronchi and Clint McKay will not be returning to Grace Road this year. The explosive Ronchi was one of the stand out players in the Blast last year, scoring 429 runs at an incredible strike rate of 180, leaving quite a hole for someone to fill in the Blast this year. The aim for the County Championship will simply be to find 2 or 3 wins and avoid occupying bottom spot again come the autumn, a feat that I predict they’ll achieve.
Where I think they will finish
County Championship: 9th
One-Day Cup: 7th (North Group)
T20 Blast: 6th (North Group)
3/26/2018 0 Comments
By Harry Hill (@HarryHill96)
Where: The 3aaa County Ground, Derby
Ins: Ravi Rampaul (Surrey), James Kettleborough, Duanne Olivier (SA, first half of season)
Outs: Tom Taylor (Leicestershire), Shiv Thakor, Tom Milnes, Ben Cotton, Tom Wood, Rob Hemmings, Greg Cork
Key man: Wayne Madsen
Last Season: County Championship 8th, One-Day Cup: 7th, T20 Blast: 2nd - Q/F
2018 odds: County Championship Division two winners: 20/1, RLODC: 25/1, T20: 25/1 - Odds powered by Oddschecker.com
Derbyshire supporters can take plenty of pride from last season, particularly with a spectacular run to the quarter-finals of the T20 Blast after finishing 2nd in the North Group. Moreover, some fine September form in the County Championship with two home wins over Sussex and Gloucestershire saw Billy Godleman’s men finish 8th in Division Two. Looking ahead to this season, Derbyshire begin their campaign at home to recently relegated Middlesex on the 20th April.
Over the winter, there was the surprise that four young fast bowlers, Greg Cork, Tom Taylor, Tom Milnes, and Ben Cotton have been released despite the latter three having spent time as part of England’s pace bowlers programme. However, they all had limited opportunities and Kim Barnett has looked to trim his squad to a more manageable size. There have been a couple of notable incomings to the bowling department as Ravi Rampaul joins from Surrey and the impressive Duanne Olivier will be available for the first half of the season. The tall and fast South African is expected to take the new ball with compatriot Hardus Viljoen in a dangerous looking opening bowling partnership. In addition, James Kettleborough bolsters the batting department, after impressing with three back-to-back centuries in minor counties cricket last season with Bedfordshire. Disappointingly for Derbyshire supporters, however, is the recent injury to Mitchell Santner, the exciting Kiwi all-rounder was due to replace Olivier as the overseas player for the second half of the season, before injuring his knee; ruling him out of action for between six to nine months.
One to watch is Hamidullah Qadri, the young spinner was the first player to appear in the County Championship born in the 21st century. In just three Championship matches last season, the 17-year old took 10 wickets at 28.80, including a five-wicket haul on debut against Glamorgan last June. Another youngster to look out for is Callum Brodrick, who scored 52 on his first-class debut against the West Indies last season. Although yet to feature in the County Championship, he did appear in the middle-order for most of the T20 Blast campaign last season.
Noticeable from last season was Derbyshire’s lack of bonus points in the Championship, with the lowest number of bowling points and only Glamorgan had fewer batting points in Division Two. I worry if Derbyshire have the bowling depth for the season ahead, especially after Olivier leaves the county late June. 33-year-old Ravi Rampaul and 34-year-old Tony Palladino may be required to do a lot of the hard overs once the new ball stops swinging.
As to whether Derbyshire can repeat the success they enjoyed last year in the T20 Blast will rely a lot on Wayne Madsen, who took 13 wickets in addition to his 526 runs at an impressive average of 47.82 last year. The Falcons will miss the loss of Imran Tahir and Matt Henry who were key with the ball last year, taking 22 wickets between them in 14 matches they appeared in. In the County Championship, Derbyshire will be looking to recreate the end of season momentum, and look to find a first away win since beating Northants in August 2015.
Where I think they will finish:
County Championship Division Two: 7th
One-Day Cup: 6th (North Group)
T20 Blast: 5th (North Group)
By Charlie Jennings
Where: Riverside Ground, Chester-le Street
Ins: Will Smith (Hampshire), Nathan Rimmington (Overseas), Aiden Markram (Overseas), Tom Latham (Overseas)
Outs: Paul Coughlin (Nottinghamshire), Graham Onions, Keaton Jennings (both Lancashire)
Last Season: County Championship: 9th, RLODC: Group Stage, T20: Group Stage
2018 odds: County Championship 16/1, RLODC: 25/1, T20: 25/1 - Odds powered by Oddschecker.com
Durham will be looking to put a sorry 2017 campaign behind them, a period of transition naturally ensuing after the pathetic treatment of the ECB bearing its tainted fruit last season. Dealing with a 48 point deduction in the County Championship Durham did, however, gain the respectability of not earning the dreaded wooden spoon – an admirable feat considering the aforementioned deduction. The evergreen Paul Collingwood will once again be looking to lead his troops to bigger and better things this season, with an exciting looking blend of talented youth prospects and some shrewd overseas acquisitions – notably the capture of Aiden Markram – Durham are my tip to be dark horses this year.
In Tom Latham and Markram, Durham have two batsmen with undoubted promise – if both perform to their potential and knuckle down on the green tops of the North, batting should not be of much worry with Collingwood acting as the middle order anchor. A poor showing with the bat last term will no doubt reinstate the desire, and necessity, for heavy runs – and in Cameron Steel, they have someone who looks to have the promise to provide. Fresh off the back of a maiden first-class double century in his breakthrough season, Steel will be looking to tie down that upper middle order position. With this potential comes responsibility however and Collingwood will be looking to Steel to live up to the hype that surrounds him at Durham. The loss of Keaton Jennings at the top of the order will no doubt lay heavy on what looked a weak lineup in 2017, Latham and Markram will need to deliver if Durham want to compete this term.
The bowling department has taken a massive blow – the loss of record wicket-taker Graham Onions and promising young quick Paul Coughlin has left a gaping void to fill. In Nathan Rimmington, the Northerners have a solid fast-medium bowler, someone with a lot of experience of Sheffield Shield cricket; someone who will have a lot of pearls of wisdom to impart on the youngsters coming through the Durham system. He and the ever-reliable Chris Rushworth have the potential to form a destructive opening bowling partnership. A lot will also depend on how much cricket Durham get out of Mark Wood, who no doubt will be in and around the England setup for much of the summer. If Durham can get a decent amount out of the injury-plagued quick he will provide a nice change up for this bowling attack. Wood can provide a nice variety, his pace together with the swing and accuracy of Rushworth and Rimmington looks a daunting task for any batting lineup. Besides those three, Barry McCarthy and James Weighell will be looking to push on from encouraging maiden first-class campaigns.
Perennial white-ball strugglers, there is no doubt that ground needs to be made up to compete in both limited-overs competitions. The captaincy of Tom Latham in the Royal London One Day Cup will be, if anything, interesting to observe. There is no doubt that there is potential there for a side that only as recently as 2014 were 50-over champions. In last years Blast, a sorry performance saw only 3 wins from 14 matches. The aim must surely be to compete for a qualification spot, and in the likes of Usman Arshad, James Weighell and Barry McCarthy the Jets do possess some firepower which could be used to propel them up the standings this time around. However, I fear the financial heavyweights may put pay to any hopes Durham have of competing in this competition.
Predictions: County Championship – I feel a middling campaign is on the cards; there will be plenty of highs and lows as is ever the case with Durham. I, along with the majority of the cricketing community, will be rooting for Durham to rise in the face of the adverse position they have been placed into by the ECB
Royal London One Day Cup: 6th
T20 Blast: 8th.
You can follow Charlie on Twitter @AVCJX
By Hector Cappelletti
Where? The Ageas Bowl, Southampton
Ins: Chris Sole (YTH), Sam Northeast (Kent), Hashim Amla (SA, 3-month deal)
Outs: Michael Carberry (Leicestershire), Will Smith (Durham)
Key man: Hashim Amla
Last Year: County Championship: 5th, RLODC: 6th, T20 Blast: S/F
2018 Odds: County Championship: 7/1, RLODC: 11/1, T20: N/A - Odds powered by Oddschecker.com
Twelve months on and the smell still lingers. If anything it has become stronger. Hampshire continues to be the Grinch that keeps on grinching. Post copping plenty of scorn for the demotion of Durham and the whole Kolpak farrago little has changed in terms of cause celebres in the intervening period. The club managed to dodge the relegation bullet again at the conclusion of the 2017 summer, reigning champions Middlesex dropping to the second division instead, before a winter of discontent.
Limited overs skipper James Vince was surprisingly included in the Ashes party and for almost four hours and eighty-three glorious runs, it appeared as if the West Sussex native was set to fulfil his promising potential and become the mirror image of David Gower. The calamitous run out which followed was arguably a metaphor for England’s chances and Vince regressed back to the norm, each edged drive to the slips provoking further howls of derision. Liam Dawson last winter, James Vince this and Mason Crane’s ignominious debut amid much trumpeting of his abilities seemed to provide further grist to the mill against Hampshire.
Once the England issues had subsided the non-award of an Ashes test to the ‘Bransgrove Bowl’ stirred the pot whilst Reece Topley’s decision to concentrate on white ball cricket (a sensible choice bearing in mind his injury woes) added further fuel to the fire. The club then had the temerity to deny the remainder of the first division in the chase for Sam Northeast’s signature, a boon for the club but most cricket fans will likely be less than enamoured that he has signed for Hampshire. Only signing Morne Morkel as a Kolpak player would make things worse.
On the field of play, the season undertook a rather schizophrenic sojourn. Three early Championship victories, with Kyle Abbott to the fore, prompted thoughts of a potential title challenge but as the season ventured through its fragmented median the victories dried up and only a last day ‘they shall not pass’ resistance at Edgbaston maintained the county’s top-flight status. The Royal London Cup proved a particularly damp squib but the combination of Shahid Afridi and Mason Crane, a leg-spin student and master scenario, contributed to a seventh Finals Day appearance in eight years, although the almost annual exit at the semi-final stage proved particularly disappointing.
The club, of course, carries on regardless and six weeks prior to the genesis of the new season the announcement of Hashim Amla’s signing proved invigorating. Truly world class performers are few and far between in the modern day County Championship so the prospect of the South African anchoring the batting order proves mouth-watering, if only for three months. Amla’s signing does not bode well for long-time servant Jimmy Adams or promising academy graduate Tom Alsop though. With the likes of Rilee Rossouw, James Vince, Liam Dawson, Sean Ervine, Sam Northeast and Amla forming the top six opportunities look limited for the two batsmen. Alsop may well look for pastures new to further his career but one ponders whether Adams’ long tenure at the club has reached its conclusion, a sad loss whatever the outcome. The club also said goodbye to another long-time servant in Michael Carberry as the stylish left-handed opener moved to Leicestershire to become the club’s captain.
Amla’s three-month residence at the Ageas Bowl dictates that Hampshire will need to take advantage of his presence considering the nosedive the four-day team undertook once the limited overs play began last summer. If Hampshire can avoid such a scenario again this year then a Championship challenge is not out of the question. Fifty-over cricket remains something of an enigma for the team, the club has only progressed from the group stages twice in the last five seasons, but one suspects that the T20 Blast will provide the main white ball focus, such is Hampshire’s success in recent times. Much will depend on whether Mason Crane’s discombobulated cricketing brain can be unscrambled. Post his Ashes baptism of fire the young leg-spinner appeared all at sea during the disastrous Lions tour to the Caribbean as his bowling appeared to be unravelling. No overseas signing has been announced for the Blast and one suspects that the club need to look elsewhere as signing the ageing Afridi again could prove one season too many.
One cannot deny that the general ambience toward Hampshire remains as hostile as ever, and may well have worsened over the winter, but one feels that the club could capture some silverware this summer. Kyle Abbott aside, the bowling attack remains light though and one wonders how long the evergreen Gareth Berg can keep performing at the highest levels in domestic cricket but the presence of a vastly improved batting line-up offers the strongest top six that the club has been able to call upon for many a summer. One hopes that the difficult winters endured by Messrs Vince and Crane can be filed away by the respective players as they will have major parts to play during the summer.
County Championship: 4th
Royal London Cup: 5th
T20 Blast: Champions (being optimistic!)
You can follow Hector on Twitter @YahoooverCC
By Matt Layton
Where? Edgbaston, Birmingham
Ins: Jeetan Patel (NZ - full season), Colin De Grandhomme (NZ - T20), Will Rhodes (Yorkshire)
Outs: William Porterfield (Released), Ateeq Javid (Leicestershire)
Last Season: Championship 8th (relegated), RLODC (9th in group), T20: runners-up
2018 odds: County Championship promotion: 5/1, RLODC: 10/1, T20: N/A - Odds powered by oddschecker.com
It has been a turbulent 12 months at Edgbaston with the county suffering their 1st relegation out of Division One since 2007 under the leadership of controversial figure Mark Greatbatch. There are a number of similarities between the relegation season of 10 years previously and the Bears recent campaign where they dropped out of Division One with an incredibly poor 86 points (with 1 win) and a full 60 points behind Middlesex who unexpectedly got sucked into Division Two during the last game of the 2017 season. In 2007, Warwickshire were relegated by 14 points and although that doesn’t quite seem as bad as 2017, the turbulent leadership of Greatbatch behind the scenes was clear to see. Zimbabwean international seamer Heath Streak relinquished the captaincy after one game of that season and was replaced by Darren Maddy for the remainder. Postseason there was a restructure in coaching staff, notably the employment of Dougie Brown and Allan Donald – both former and successful Edgbaston favourites who were installed to develop the talent line of young hungry local players and enhance the qualities of the established pros within the dressing room. Ian Bell who had subsequently taken over the captaincy from Varun Chopra in 2015 who cited poor batting form when passing the reigns to Bell followed the trend by resigning the role during 2017. Jonathon Trott (maybe reluctantly) took the leadership of the team for the remainder of the season. It was an obvious and safe move at the time to try and bring some stability to their cricket.
Changing of the Guard
The winter has also seen a management reshuffle with established and well-respected backroom staff being moved on including Strength and Conditioning coach Chris Armstrong and Alan Richardson as bowling coach. They were replaced by, again, former Warwickshire man Graeme Welsh (returning for a 2nd spell as bowling coach) and Ian Westwood returning after immediate retirement early in 2017 as batting coach to support Tony Frost and the head coach Jim Troughton.
There is one common denominator that remains between 2007 and 2017 and that is Ashley Giles. Like in 2007 ‘Gilo’ answered an SOS call to be appointed to a new role of Director of Cricket and although his role has changed in wording to ‘Sporting Director’ Ashley is again very much at the helm and taking charge of rebuilding and re-establishing Warwickshire as a superpower of county cricket. The appointment of so many former Bears to guide the fortunes of the club can be viewed in 2 ways. 1: These highly qualified former teammates trust, check and challenge each other and work exceptionally well in partnership. They understand the operations of the whole club inside out and have a deep desire and passion to bring success to back to THEIR club. or 2: The management staff is too cosy, does not challenge each other which brings apathy and a culture of mediocre acceptance. All members hope the former is true and judging by the interviews and comments coming out of Edgbaston since ‘Gilo’s’ reappointment there seems to be a clear plan and structure to the development of the playing squad and direction of their cricket ‘brand’, which is the popular phrase used these days.
What Has Gone Wrong?
Even during the major successes of recent times, winning the Championship in 2012 and more recently in one day cricket, winning the T20 Cup in 2014 and One Day Cup in 2016 there was a feeling amongst members that well-established players were all performing at their peak at the same time and that some had too much negative controlling influence. Standards were allowed to slowly slip meaning results started to become inconsistent. Although these alarm bells had been loudly ringing for some time, this was not addressed. Giles must now take control yet again. Will it bring immediate returns like in 2007?
There is now a clear focus on youth. Not since Ian Bell, Chris Woakes, Ian Westwood and a little more recently Ateeq Javid has a young player developed through the Academy system to establish themselves as a first-team regular. This is a desperately poor record for a TMG County who’s catchment area covers England’s 2nd city. To date, apart from Moeen Ali’s elevation and very early departure to neighbours Worcestershire to seek 1st team cricket, the Bears have failed to capitalise on the talent of young inner-city cricketers.
There are seeds of optimism, however. Sunny Singh is developing and became the 1st player nurtured through the ECB Chance to Shine programme in the country to make a first-team debut and carries the hopes of the clubs’ Asian support. Ed Pollock and Aaron Thomason burst onto the scene during T20. Andrew Umeed showed signs of gritty promise. A day-night 113 off 392 balls demonstrated he has the application to open the batting in 4-day cricket. England U19 International trio George Panayi, Liam Banks and Henry Brookes have broken into the first team and the average age of the playing squad has been reduced further with the signings of Dominic Sibley (22) Adam Hose (25) Will Rhodes (23) from Surrey, Somerset and Yorkshire respectively. Although this may bring with it less experience, it is hoped the level of athleticism in the field and application on and off the pitch will be enhanced. The club has high hopes for middle-order batsman Matt Lamb in 4-day cricket, having semi-established himself for 7 games at number 5 during 2017 he will, however, need to improve his shot selection in order to improve his current average of 23. It is also another huge season in 4-day cricket for Sam Hain. One of the best one-day openers in the country averaging 61 with 5 hundreds and 7 fifties from 26 games in 50 over cricket and 829 runs in 29 games in T20, it is a mystery to all at Edgbaston as to why he cannot transform this form into 4-day cricket. He seems to have the technique (a carbon copy for Jonathon Trott) but averages just 31 from 47 matches and without a hundred all last season only contributing a small handful of scores above 30. It is hoped that Oli Stone is fully fit after his serious knee injury which kept him sidelined for nearly all of last season can stay fit and spearhead the pace attack in all forms. If he does, expect International recognition with the youngster sure to be on the England Lions radar.
It is also a huge season for a number of senior pros in 4-day cricket. Jeetan Patel the new First-class skipper will have to set the tone for his young talents (and his captaincy heir Dom Sibley). He will have to draw upon all the years of outstanding service his have given Warwickshire to maintain his own level of performance whilst taking responsibility for the team. With the bat, Ian Bell without a hundred last season for the first time in his career surely must fill his boots in the second tier. Jonathon Trott, the same. These two are crucial to stabilising the top 6 in order to allow the younger players like Umeed, Lamb, Banks, Alex Thompson and Pollock to establish themselves. Dom Sibley will open the batting and should score runs and Adam Hose could be a surprise signing at 5 or 6. Tim Ambrose found form towards the end of last season must score more consistent runs. Normally playing 5 bowlers Ambrose needs to take more responsibility at the crease. The Surrey bound Rikki Clarke leaves a large, deep all-rounder hole at 7. Will Rhodes will fill that void and having played within Championship winning squads at Yorkshire, he comes with pedigree and expectation. Amongst the seamers expect the ever-reliable Keith Barker to swing his way to 50+ wickets. In addition as one of only one of 2 players to average more than 30 last season (Trott the other) the all-rounder will again be crucial to Warwickshire’s hopes of promotion. He is in the last year of his contract and needs a big season after slightly disappointing last year with the ball. Ryan Sidebottom was THE shining light after being signed from Birmingham League cricket mid-season and took 24 wickets @ 25 last year. It is also big seasons for experienced seamers Chris Wright and Boyd Rankin who will hope to rekindle their performances of recent past.
In T20 cricket expect Warwickshire (Birmingham Bears I think they are called!) to again be in and around the knockout stages. Experienced T20 specialist Grant Elliot will again captain and big hitting Colin De Grandhomme will fly in to hit the ball into the city centre. Ed Pollock will set the tone at the top of the order and has developed a growing reputation as a one-day hitter. Expect pace off the ball with Jeetan Patel and Josh Poysden providing double spin and a battery of medium pace seamers bowling offer cutters and all types of slower balls. Adam Hose will provide the middle order fireworks to complement the classical top order play of Bell, Trott, Sibley and Hain. The lure of another finals day at their home ground seems to inspire the Bears in T20 cricket.
One Day Cup
50 over cricket may become 3rd on the list of priorities this season behind the Championship promotion hunt and the glitz and glamour of T20. A number of young players will be given a run in the team meaning inconsistency may be present in this form of the game. The Bears will be competitive however if they do not start well and look unlikely to challenge for quarterfinals expect players to be rested for Championship and T20.
Like in 2007 county members will be hoping (and expecting) to gain immediate promotion back to Division One. But with a competition second tier this year, it will be a tall order. Middlesex and Sussex will lead the race for the top spots and I expect those two to take the honours. 20 wickets from the likes of Barker, Patel et al, should be achievable but 1st innings runs which had served Warwickshire so well in recent years, but were so desperately lacking last season could prove to be the defining factor.
In T20, Birmingham Bears will hope to make finals day yet again and the Chief Executive will certainly demand it. With a squad now packed full of dynamic one day cricketers, the pressure will be on to go all the way in the Blast. The One Day Cup will be a physical and psychological challenge during May and June. Not losing sight of the clubs apparent Championship priorities during the mid-summer glut of white ball cricket could be key come September.
Where I think they will finish:
County Championship: 3rd
One Day Cup: 5th (North Group)
T20: Semi Final
You can follow our new recruit on Twitter on @Matt_layton5
By Mark Kidger
Where: SSE Swalec, Cardiff
Ins: Shaun Marsh (Australia)
Outs: Jacques Rudolph (Ret), Will Bragg (Ret)
Key man: Nick Selman
2017 season: Championship 7th, RLODC 4th, T20 Blast S/F
2018 Odds: Championship promotion: 20/1, RLODC: 18/1, T20: N/A
Our West-Country correspondent Mark Kidger sees the Welsh side as being highly competitive in white-ball cricket, but likely to be, once again, in the battle of the also-rans in the Championship. He pens his views below.
Despite modest returns in the County Championship, any side that reaches Finals Day in the Blast and misses out on the knock-out stages of the One Day Cup by a single point, can look back on the season with a degree of satisfaction, if not full-blown pride.
It comes as a surprise to many people that Glamorgan have managed to do three times what their local rivals over the Bristol Channel, Gloucestershire and Somerset have never managed in over a century – win the Championship. However, since the split into two divisions in 2000, Glamorgan have only spent one season – 2001 – in the top division. Division Two of the County Championship looks to be brutally competitive once again in 2018, with six teams that will feel that they have real chances of promotion. To match the 2015 result of fourth in Division Two – the highpoint of recent years – would probably be seen as a magnificent over-achievement.
The loss of long-term servant and adopted Welshman, Jacques Rudolph will be felt within the club. Michael Hogan remains Championship captain, while Colin Ingram takes over for the white ball games. Glamorgan have made what looks to be an excellent signing in Shaun Marsh, who will reinforce the middle-order, although with five batsmen averaging 35+ and two 40+, runs were not Glamorgan’s biggest worry in 2017. Young dual Anglo-Australian national Nick Selman led the run-scoring, with 872, including four centuries. At 22, this was his second season with Glamorgan and, after a promising first season, avoided the “second season syndrome” that plagues many young players after a fast start. Currently, he is recording a First Class century every 4 matches, but an average in the low 30s hints at too much inconsistency (his last four innings in 2017 were: 0, 142*, 0, 70 – which tells its own story). If he can add consistency to his ability to make big scores, runs will not be an issue for Glamorgan.
Glamorgan’s issues were more to do with bowling depth. Michael Hogan was magnificent with his 50 wickets at 20.9, but had little back-up save in the small fraction of games when Tim van der Gugten provided potent support. Carey averaged over 30 with the ball, de Lange, almost 40 and Salter, mid-40s. Glamorgan even became one of the three counties to sign Middlesex’s Harry Podmore on loan, although without solving their fundamental problems in the bowling department.
Without reinforcement of the bowling resources it is hard to see Glamorgan doing better than playing their part in what looks likely to be a four-way dog-fight between Derbyshire, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire & Leicestershire for the title of “best of the Division 2 also-rans”. Making competitive totals should not be a problem: converting them into wins will be.
Things look brighter in the white-ball. Glamorgan topped the South Group in the Blast and, despite more games being washed-out than any other side, had the equal best win-loss record with Nottinghamshire – the eventual winners. Having annihilated Leicestershire in the Quarter Final, they were unfortunate to come up against an inspired Warwickshire, who gave them too much to do in the first semi-final. The runout of Jacques Rudolph in the fifteenth over left the tail too much to do, although they went down bravely. The One Day Cup was a case of what might have been. Although no games were rained-off, the lottery of Duckworth-Lewis played a major part in their games: just one more win would have seen Glamorgan through to the knock-out stages.
Without Jacques Rudolph and with no second overseas player yet signed, success is not guaranteed in 2018 in white-ball cricket, but Glamorgan will be disappointed if they cannot make the knock-out stages in at least one and, preferably, both of the competitions.
Championship – 8th
RLODC – Q/F
T20 – Q/F
You can follow Mark on Twitter @MarkfromMadrid or at http://spanishturn.blogspot.com.es/ and, talking about space, at https://openspacescience.blog/
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