Thursday, 6 April 2017

County Champo Div 1 Preview

It's nearly here. Like a kid at Christmas, the eve of the County Championship is an exciting time for us cricket badgers. I personally love this competition. For me, it is one of the best in sport. With 25% of the sides getting relegated this year, it promises to be tighter than a Yorkshireman at the bar. Here are the predictions for this year. As usual, I hold no responsibility should this go tits up and you have gambled away your nest egg. Here are the runners and riders for Division One...

TRJ clinches the title for Middlesex in 2016
Essex - if you'd asked me a month ago if they can stay up, I'd have said that the chances of a discussion of the merits of Tchaikovsky were higher on a Saturday night in Basildon but something inside thinks these guys may well do it. Cook will play a few more games than I thought, Westley is a top player and I've always rated Varun Chopra. Throw in Mohammed Amir coming over for part of the season and to say they will beat relegation, as the bookies predict, isn't over stepping the mark. Prediction 6th

Hampshire - more Port Elizabeth than Portsmouth the influx of Saffas here gives them a chance to atone for last season. The southern county stayed in Division One due to Durham's demise but it could be a season of struggle. Vince, along with the welcome return from illness of Carberry should strengthen the batting and it will be interesting to see how George Bailey copes. Kyle Abbott is a decent, if controversial signing and will lead the attack. Rilee Roussow joins him on the south coast. Prediction 8th


Carbs....great to see him back

Lancashire - some excellent youngsters are coming through here such as Haseeb Hammed and Rob Jones but at times last year the batting looked thinner than a Lowry character. Shiv Chanderpaul and Dane Vilas have come in on Kolpak deals but I'm really interested to see the progress of Liam Livingstone. Had a great winter and a very talented cricketer. Might not be enough to save the Red Rose from the drop though. Prediction 7th

Middlesex - the champions last year will be there or thereabouts. Gubbins, Robson, Compton, Malan and Voges are a strong top five and John Simpson is an excellent performer with bat and gloves. Roland-Jones, Finn, Rayner and Murtagh can take 20 wickets on most surfaces and they have depth with youngsters like Helm and Patel as back up. It is a strong squad with depth and unbelievably won't get hammered by England call ups. England's loss is Middlesex's gain. Times are great in NW8. Prediction 1st


Dawid Malan...part of a strong top order

Somerset - Somerset got a bad press last year for their pitches but a county who are formed of most players from a 50 mile radius of Taunton should be applauded. They have a top coach in Matt Maynard and if wickets turn in the West, then Jack Leach will have a good year. Dean Elgar will open at the start, although there are doubts he can play spin. It wouldn't surprise me to see spinners open at times at Ciderabad. Steve Davies will add experience to Tom Abell's captaincy. They will be there this year. Prediction 3rd

Surrey - whisper this quietly but they could win it this year. Stoneman and Borthwick have swapped Lumley Castle for the Elephant and Castle and will bolster the batting. Footit returning is a massive boost as he is genuinely sharp. Throw in the Currans getting a year older and Sangakkara and Finch and their squad looks strong. If, and this is an if, they can take 20 wickets in a match regularly, they will push Middlesex. Prediction 2nd

Warwickshire - had a poor finish to last season and whilst the dissenting voices weren't as loud as at Villa Park, there were one or two murmurs. Keith Barker is a great player and Jeetan Patel will be amongst the wickets but they could find themselves in a relegation fight. Ian Bell will score runs in his pleasing style but only Olly Stone has come in for the Brummies. Lack of squad strengthening could be their downfall. Prediction 5th


Barker...competitor

Yorkshire - if you had an album called "Now that's what I call a County Champion", Ryan Sidebottom would be Disc 1, Track 1. In his last season a lot relies on him and Jack Brooks. Behind them Patto and Bres will keep it tight but they need wickets. More importantly they need runs at the top of the order. A county in debt, no Dizzy and a new skipper in Gary Ballance. The jury is out but Yorkshire will always fight hard. They will still have too much class to get in trouble. Prediction 4th

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