A gradual but inevitable descent into cricket-based loathing and bile.

County Cricket 2012: Division One

Posted on March 31, 2012 by in 40/50-over, First Class, Opinion


Is it that time of year already? Lambs in the field, blossom on the trees, extra ice cubes in our G&Ts and the sound of cricketers everywhere retreiving their kitbags from the attic and smacking their foreheads in annoyance when they realise they left half a sandwich underneath their pads all winter.

In a twist on the usual mode of starting with the dregs and finishing with the best, we turn first to the County Championship Division One and give our thoughts on each team’s prospects for the season. For any pedants out there, we’re mainly talking Pro40 and the First-Class season, we’ll cover the T20s in much more detail when they come around later in the year.



2011: CC1 – 3rd; P40  – SF; T20 – 6th in South Group

New Faces: Mark Wood, Herschelle Gibbs (T20), David Millar (T20)

Goodbye / Good riddance: Kyle Coetzer, Ben Harmison, Mark Davies

Although yet to strengthen their squad (Wood comes from their youth set-up), on paper Durham look like a strong outfit, particularly bowling-wise. None of Graham Onions, Ben Stokes or Scott Borthwick will be expecting to feature regularly for England and so should be available to take plenty of wickets. If the elder statesmen such as Michael di Venuto, Ian Blackwell, Paul Collingwood and Dale Benkenstein can contribute sufficient runs, there is no reason for Durham not to at least be challenging for the Championship as Autumn approaches. Expect them to be an outside bet for a limited overs trophy as well, particularly as Herschelle Gibbs has been confirmed to play in the T20s. Look out, women of Chester-le-Street!


2011: CC1 – Winners; P40 – 4th in Group C; T20 – SF

New Faces: Jordan Clark, Ashwell Prince, Naqaash Tahir

Goodbye / Good riddance: Mark Chilton, Steven Cheetham

Last season was of course an incredible one for Lancashire, who won their first Championship for a very long time. The question for 2012 will be whether their blend of youth and experience can remain gelled together under the leadership of Peter Moores and Glen Chapple. The pre-season response is well why shouldn’t they? (Although having said that, 51allout’s southern correspondent has boldly predicted their relegation). Ashwell Prince should strengthen the batting and their bowling attack is varied (although Chapple and Gary Keedy are approaching, if not actually in, the twilight of their career). Perhaps a return to Old Trafford for some of their fixtures may hinder, but the Red Rose should be towards the top end of the division throughout the season; an improvement in the Pro40 will also be expected given their resources.

An ugly red addition to a declining Manchester institution...


2011: CC2 – Winners; P40 – 2nd in Group A; T20 – 9th in South Group

New Faces: Joe Denly, Ollie Rayner, Gurjit Sandhu, Ollie Wilkin

Goodbye / Good riddance: Ben Scott, Dan Housego, Jamie Dalrymple, Scott Newman

Following a long-awaited promotion last season, Middlesex appear to have strengthened over the winter. In his last season at Kent Joe Denly generally looked a shadow of his former self (remember it wasn’t long ago he was the next train out of the station for England), but a new county may rejuvenate him. Ollie Rayner meanwhile is a handyyoung cricketer who will complement the Middlesex attack. Talking of the bowling, they had four regular pacemen (plus Steven Finn) last season who all averaged under 30.00 (Murtagh, Berg, Roland-Jones, Colleymore); if they can repeat this form against the better batsman with the different ball, then Middlesex may well be a dark horse to challenge for silverware.


2011: CC1 – 6th; P40 – 2nd in Group C; T20 – QF

New Faces: James Taylor, Harry Gurney, Michael Lumb, Karl Turner, Sam Kelsall, Sam Wood, Brett Hutton

Goodbye / Good riddance: Akhil Patel, Ali Brown, Charlie Shreck, Mark Wagh

After a disappointing 2011 in which they failed to score enough runs regularly, coach Mike Newell seems to have made positive strides to rectify the situation; James Taylor is undoubtedly one of the finest talents on the county scene and Michael Lumb brings explosive batting alongside his World T20 medal. To some extent Nottinghamshire’s chances this season may depend on the availability of their England galacticos; they can assume Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann will be absent but if Samit Patel and Alex Hales are on county duty more often than not, then expect to see Nottinghamshire eyes focussed on the battle for the Championship rather than the dogfight to avoid relegation – and record sales for Bounty bars in the club shop. Similarly, the new faces and retained squad members should help them challenge in the Pro40 and/or the T20.

This is the only time this season that we'll make this joke, honest.


2011: CC1 – 4th; P40 –  Finalists; T20 – Finalists

New Faces: Vernon Philander, Albie Morkel (T20), Chris Gayle (T20)

Goodbye / Good riddance: Murali Kartik, Charl Willoughby

Perennial runners-up Somerset have regularly been one of the best sides in the country without ever being the best. There’s no doubting the quality of their batting on paper – the likes of Trescothick, Kieswetter and Hildreth should all make some serious runs this year, while Jos Buttler’s continued growth will be keenly followed by the England selectors. In terms of bowling the surprise move for Vernon Philander has raised several eyebrows – is it really to England’s benefit to give him two months to adjust to local conditions before the Test series? – but it strengthens the weakest area of Somerset’s side. While they remain outsiders for the County Championship title, their limited overs side could potentially blow anyone away, with both Chris Gayle and Albie Morkel joining for the T20. Parking your car in Taunton might prove to be a risky business this summer.

Somerset will inevitably come 17th last in every conceivable competition this year.


2011: CC2 – 2nd; P40 – Winners; T20 – 5th in South Group

New Faces: Jon Lewis, George Edwards, Freddie van den Bergh

Goodbye / Good riddance: Michael Brown, Chris Schofield, Simon King

There is plenty of confidence across South London / the North Downs / Camberley going into this new season after last year’s triumphs. The likes of Steven Davies, Tom Maynard and Stuart Meaker are expected to continue to develop under the captaincy of Rory Hamilton-Brown. Jon Lewis should augment the already strong pace attack, though Chris Tremlett will probably spend more time on the treatment table than in the middle. Given the strength of Division One this season, the title in their first season back is probably too ambitious, but expect another decent run in the P40 at the very least. However we’re not sure whether the Surrey faithful will miss Simon King’s departure to rejoin the Hairy Bikers.

Jon Lewis is a new kid on the Surrey block.


2011: CC1 – 5th; P40 – SF; T20 – QF

New Faces: Matt Machan, Scott Styris (T20)

Goodbye / Good riddance: Lou Vincent, Ollie Rayner

Last season was ultimately slightly disappointing for Sussex, despite reaching the knockout stages of both limited over tournaments. Unfortunately whereas several other counties in this division have strengthened, Sussex appear to have stood still on paper. They relied heavily on Ed Joyce, Murray Goodwin and Monty Panesar last year and we predict more of the same for 2012. Still, at least the local residents have the chance to see JLS live from “the PROBIZ County Ground” in August; rumours that Luke Wright and Amjad Khan will appear as their support act have yet to be denied.

Sussex Sharks' new T20 kit won't be too popular with the Hove Members.


2011: CC1 – 2nd; P40 – 5th in Group B ; T20 – 8th in North Group

New Faces: Chris Wright, Recordo Gordon, Jeetan Patel

Goodbye / Good riddance: Maurice Holmes, Ant Botha, Naqaash Tahir

No-one expected 2011 to be a success for Warwickshire, even less for the county to be favourites for the title with a couple of days to go. Expectations are equally pessimistic this season. This might be a kind of reverse psychology, maybe because 51allout’s Bears fan has had a winter of watching Wolverhampton Wanderers, but is probably because their squad still doesn’t look very strong. Chris Woakes is undoubtedly the key to their prospects: if (and it’s an if the size of Birmingham, because he’s already injured) he can stay fit for the majority of the season he should take a bucketful of cheap wickets and score plenty of runs; if he doesn’t, then Warwickshire may be looking at a long season of struggle.

If Woakes had played in the 1990s, he'd have already been selected, dropped, recalled, injured, picked and dropped again for the England Test team.


2011: CC1 – 7th; P40 – 7th in Group A; T20 – 5th in North Group

New Faces: Ben Scott, David Lucas, Brett D’Oliveira, Nick Harrison, Michael Klinger, Phil Hughes

Goodbye / Good riddance: Matt Mason, Chris Whelan, David Wheeldon

New Road is home to few stars, and after a fairly mediocre 2011 in which they survived by just four points the pressure is on some of the lesser known names on the county circuit to keep Worcestershire clear of relegation this year as well. Last year the elder statesmen of the side – Vikram Solanki and Alan Richardson – led the way with over 1,000 runs and 70 wickets respectively. If they are to remain in what looks a very strong top division in 2012 they will have to shoulder much of the responsibility again, particularly as Phil Hughes’ arrival has been delayed until May. With the side they have it’s difficult to see too much success in the one-day arena, but Alexei Kervezee has spoken of his desire to break into the England set up. He will have to improve significantly on last year’s average of a little over 26 if those dreams are to come to fruition.


Worcestershire's Australian signing, Michael Klinger: unusually normal looking.

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