Monday, 8 April 2013

The Middle Stump Guide to Division 2

At The Middle Stump we love County Cricket. It has been much maligned by some serious scribes in the press in the last few days but it is what I have been brought up on, and trawling through the scorecards whilst having a cup of coffee and your morning dump, is one of life's luxuries. Here we look at Division Two and the movers and shakers.

Derbyshire...surprise winners of Div 2 last year

ESSEX

A young side, their pace attack will be a force to be reckoned with having added Sajid Mahmood to their ranks. Tymal Mills and Reece Topley are both promising youngsters, and Mills is seriously rapid. Well led by James Foster, in my mind the best gloveman in the country, the addition of Aussie Rob Quiney to their batting should mean they have a reasonable season without disturbing the front runners. Like a Ford made in Dagenham, they will be a good runner, won't let anyone down but probably not sexy enough to get a white stiletto'd lady of out of the Southend nightclub and back to your place, if you get my drift? Prediction: 4th

GLAMORGAN

Last year's tip to go up, I can see a transitional season for the chaps from the other side of Offa's Dyke. The retirement of Robert Croft, along with losing James Harris to Middlesex will be a big blow, although the spin pairing of Dean Cosker and Andrew Salter should do well. Look out for Aussie opening bowler Michael Hogan if he stays fit, and Murray Goodwin even at the age of 40 should bolster the batting. Gareth Rees, Will Bragg and Ben Wright also need to have decent seasons to avoid the struggles of 2012, whilst Mark Wallace in his benefit year will no doubt chip in with his usual fair share of runs. Prediction: 6th


Wallace...will chip in with vital runs in his benefit year

GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Having finished in the wooden spoon position last year, sport in Bristol is struggling at present with the football teams in the lower reaches of their divisions, and Bristol RFC spending their umpteenth season in the second tier. One of the largest cities in the UK deserve better, and Glos are rebuilding on and off the pitch with developments going on all around Nevil Road. The Australian Michael Klinger comes in as skipper, along with Daniel Christian as an all rounder. Benny Howell needs to have a good year if they are to do anything as does Chris Dent, another of their leading bats. They are bringing through young talent but another season of woe in the West I'm afraid. Prediction: 9th

HAMPSHIRE

I personally feel this lot would do ok in Div One, so I am picking them to win Div Two on the basis they will have less wash outs than Lancashire! A fine pair of young keepers in Michael Bates and the recently acquired Adam Wheater, along with George Bailey. Chuck in the doosra of Saeed Ajmal (like he does!), the batting is strong with Jimmy Adams, Carberry, and a stroke maker I love to watch in James Vince who has all the shots, and this lot will win the league. Should be decent in the shorter format too! They'll be partying to Craig David songs in Southampton come September. Prediction: 1st


Vince...stylish

KENT

The Portsmouth FC of cricket, this lot should be up there with their fanbase but they are seriously skint. A great and knowledgeable following will have to settle for another year before their youngsters bear fruit. Matt Coles, Daniel Bell-Drummond and the two Sam's - Northeast and Billings will form the backbone of the team, along with the experience of Darren Stevens, and Rob Key. With James Tredwell potentially missing during the Champions Trophy, coach Jimmy Adams will have his work cut out if they want to go up. No champagne in Canterbury, but no doubt the odd Spitfire may well be drunk! Prediction: 3rd

LANCASHIRE

This lot won the Division One title eighteen months ago and what they are doing in Division Two is beyond most people's comprehension. There have been more comings and goings over the winter on the playing front, than there has been building work at this famous venue. Led by the evergreen Glen Chapple, along with Peter Moores as coach they have brought in Simon Katich to strengthen the batting. With Kabir Ali and Chapple leading the attack, youngsters like Kyle Hogg and Karl Brown should have too much class, especially with the addition of Wayne White from Leicestershire. They'll bounce straight back up, should they not lose too much cricket to the Manchester rain. Prediction: 2nd

LEICESTERSHIRE

Most peoples favourite to finish bottom, I personally think they will have a better year this year. The batting will be led by skipper Ramnaresh Sarwan, and in Josh Cobb and Shiv Thakor they have two very fine players. Niall O'Brien will add a bit of experience missing since Paul Nixon retired, and Matthew Hoggard is still a decent bowler. Big Claude Henderson is also still going strong believe it or not! The capture of Middlesex pair Anthony Ireland and Robbie Williams mean there should be no regrets at Grace Road this year. Prediction: 7th

Hoggy...still decent

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

No county had less people through their gates last season than the turnstiles at Wantage Road, and this year could be another one of struggle. Having lost Niall O'Brien, Chaminda Vaas and Jack Brooks, they have more holes to fill than your average swimming gala at Michael Barrymore's house. Matthew Spriegel from Surrey and Steve Crook have come in, but they have a lot of players the wrong side of thirty. Hall, Middlebrook, Sales and skipper Peters need to prove the doubters wrong. If they have a poor start, it may be time to blood some of the youngsters such as Rob Keogh or Ollie Stone, a fine player. Prediction: 8th

WORCESTERSHIRE

As unpredictable as a pre menstrual lady, the Pears could shock a few teams this season. The attack is led by the evergreen Alan Richardson, and along with the hilarious recent Middle Stump interviewee Jack Shantry they should form a formidable partnership. Moeen Ali should score the runs that his talent dictates, and Kervezee and Daryl Mitchell are good for a few too. With some fine youngsters coming through this lot are another county rebuilding both on and off the pitch, but this may be a year too soon for them. An outside chance though. Prediction: 5th

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