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)
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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