Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Middle Stump Guide to Division 1

The summer is nearly upon us, and although one swallow doesn't make a summer according to Tulisa, this year's Liverpool Victoria County Championship promises much more. Division One is tighter than a gnat's chuff and here we run through who will do what, who will do little and our predictions for the league.

Scenes like these again for the Bears in 2013?

DERBYSHIRE

Predicted to come bottom of Div Two last year they surprised everyone by winning it easily. Well led by Wayne Madsen along with the up and coming coach Karl Krikken calling the shots, they have replaced two toed Martin Guptill and the Australian Usman Khawaja with Shivnarine Chanderpaul, a man who will no doubt do well in this competition. With Tony Palladino and Jonathan Clare adding the bits and pieces, they may well surprise everyone again, although personally I think they have as much chance of staying up as my cock after twelve pints. Prediction: 9th

DURHAM

The most northerly county are skint! Martine McCutcheon/Kerry Katona skint at that. With Liam Plunkett moving to Yorkshire and Ian Blackwell retiring, I can see this being a season of struggle in the North East. Ben Stokes will score a few, and much depends on Graham Onions making the England side. Led by Paul Collingwood, they will no doubt scrap but with issues off the field, all will depend whether these transcend to when they cross the boundary. I can't see it personally. Prediction: 8th


Stokes...top of off stump please Ben

MIDDLESEX

The addition of James Harris will strengthen what was one of the best seam attacks in the country last year. Tim Murtagh, Gareth Berg, Toby Roland-Jones and Corey Collymore, not forgetting Steven Finn were a force to be reckoned with and much will depend on how Ollie Rayner or Ravi Patel do with their tweakers. As for the batting, Rogers always scores heavily, should he not be called up by Australia and Joe Denly and Sam Robson complement a decent top three. An outside bet for the title should things go their way. Prediction: 4th

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE

Could win it if they play their cards right, although we think Mansfield Town will be the only side celebrating a trophy from this county this year! Ajmal Shahzad will be a big plus to those at Trent Bridge as they have relied on Andre Adams for years. The batting seems to be unaffected by England call ups and Alex Hales and James Taylor will make hay. Ed Cowan will start the year for them and they bat deep with Chris Read always scoring a few. Whilst the chaps from Robin Hood's county may rob the one day competitions, I feel it could well be mid table mediocrity in the longer format. Prediction: 5th

SOMERSET

Drink up thee zider as we think the LVCC title must come to Taunton this year. The perennial bridesmaids should go one step further this year with the addition of Alviro Petersen. Likely to be without last year's run reaper Nick Compton, Abdur Rehman will spin them to the title. The seam will rely on Middle Stump interviewees Peter Trego and Steve Kirby. Trescothick and their host of excellent youngsters such as Jos Buttler or Lewis Gregory will all chip in and no doubt they will be celebrating come September.  One thing to watch is how badly they get hit by international call ups during the Champions Trophy but they have strength in depth. Prediction: 1st

Trego...Somerset Talisman

SURREY

Graeme Smith coming in to lead from the front has been the biggest coup since Palace had Malcolm Allison as manager in this part of the world. Last year was one of tragedy for this proud club, but Smith and Ponting should rejuvenate things in Kennington. Saying that, with these guys along with Vikram Solanki and Gary Keedy we are wondering if Surrey should be sponsored by Saga Holidays given their youth policy? Close but no cigar for the South London boys. Prediction: 3rd

SUSSEX

Led by the excellent Ed Joyce, they have acquired both Rory Hamilton-Brown and Chris Jordan who have both gone down the A23 from Sarf London. Without Murray Goodwin who has gone to Glamorgan this year, Chris Nash will no doubt score his usual amount of runs but I worry about their attack. The key lies with whether Graeme Swann is available for England, and whether Monty Panesar turns out. More suited to a one day team after being semi finalists in both one day competitions last year, I can see this being a season of struggle on the south coast. Prediction: 7th

WARWICKSHIRE

No stars but a great team spirit and a sense of togetherness brought the title to Edgbaston last year. Varun Chopra will score a shedload again, and marshalled well by Jim Troughton the Bears will be there or thereabouts this year. A lot depends on whether Chris Wright has as good a year as last, Rikki Clarke continues his great form, and if Chris Woakes gets picked by England. Having lost coach Ashley Giles, Dougie Brown steps into the fold and they have added Oliver Hannon-Dalby to their attack, the man with the equal poshest name in cricket with a certain Mr Hamilton-Brown at Sussex. Prediction: 2nd


Poshest name in cricket?

YORKSHIRE

Led by one of the best coaches in world cricket in Jason Gillespie, the Tykes will miss the bonhomie of Anthony McGrath. They have some fantastic youngsters in Joe Root, Alex Lees and Moin Ashraf. With Andrew Gale leading from the front and an attack buoyed by Jack Brooks and Liam Plunkett, the White Rose will push sides all the way this year. I have a feeling a young side may start well, then tail away. This team can only get better though and although this may be a year too early, they could be starting something special up in Leeds. Prediction: 6th

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