County Championship: What to look out for in 2018
|Specsavers County Championship|
|Dates: 13 April – 27 September|
|Protection: Reside ball-by-ball radio and textual content commentary of all rounds on the BBC Sport web site, plus desktop, tablets, mobiles and app.|
“This time final yr, a variety of pundits had been saying we might go down.”
What do pundits know? Quick ahead to September 2017 and Essex had received the County Championship title by 72 factors. They had been unbeaten, and a rustic mile forward of their rivals.
However after a winter of change off the sector, what’s in retailer for the county champions this season? There are undoubtedly no certainties. Middlesex, title winners in 2016, had been relegated a yr later.
With the 2018 County Championship marketing campaign set to begin on Friday, BBC Sport takes a take a look at what to anticipate over the following six months.
Essex ‘have all of it to do’
That small dig on the ‘pundits’ comes from Essex’s new head coach Anthony McGrath.
The previous England and Yorkshire batsman has a troublesome job to comply with within the footsteps of Chris Silverwood, who led Essex to their first title since 1992 final yr, however is now England’s fast-bowling coach.
“Pleasure is the overriding feeling,” McGrath, 42, informed BBC Essex.
“As defending champions we have got all of it to do. This time final yr a variety of pundits had been saying we would go down, this time they’re saying we’re favourites to win it.
“If we play our greatest cricket, we’re a match for anybody on this division.”
By his aspect can be ex-Hampshire and England all-rounder Dimitri Mascarenhas, appointed in February.
“A very powerful factor in appointing Dimi was his character,” McGrath added. “He is fitted in very well as I knew he would. He is an excellent addition to our squad.”
Alastair Cook dinner will miss their first two video games in opposition to Yorkshire at Headingley and at dwelling to Lancashire, however England’s main Check run-scorer is on the market for the following three fixtures, earlier than the Check sequence in opposition to Pakistan begins in late Might.
The county have additionally strengthened their tempo bowling unit by bringing in Australia international Peter Siddle and Matt Coles from Kent.
Can Notts or Worcestershire ‘do an Essex’?
What made Essex’s feats all of the extra exceptional final season was the very fact they’d solely been promoted from Division Two the earlier marketing campaign.
So can historical past repeat itself?
Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire, who got here as much as Division One, each enter new eras in 2018.
Worcestershire had been rocked by the departure of head coach Steve Rhodes in December following an inner investigation into his conduct, whereas Notts start life with out long-serving captain Chris Learn.
New Pears coach Kevin Sharp can name upon an array of thrilling kids, together with England Lions pair Joe Clarke and Josh Tongue. They’ve additionally added skilled seamer Steve Magoffin and Australia batsman Travis Head to their squad.
Nottinghamshire are underneath the stewardship of latest captain Steven Mullaney following Learn’s retirement on the finish of final season.
Notts have big expertise all through the aspect, and a formidable tempo assault together with Stuart Broad, Jake Ball, Luke Fletcher, Mark Footitt and Harry Gurney.
Their batting line-up has been weakened by the departure of Brendan Taylor to Zimbabwe, Learn’s retirement and Alex Hales’ choice to solely play white-ball cricket.
Nevertheless, new signing Chris Nash from Sussex and New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor convey greater than 330 first-class video games between them.
Nottinghamshire head coach Peter Moores believes there may be not a lot to separate the eight counties within the prime tier.
“All of the groups in Division One are very robust,” the previous England head coach informed BBC Radio Nottingham.
“Solely eight [sides] within the first division signifies that, even when you’re enjoying effectively, it is arduous to get ready of security proper till the top.
“You are concentrating on to be within the prime three or 4 going into the second half of the season, so you’ll be able to have an actual push at attempting to win it. To do this, I feel the primary 5 video games are massive, it is vital to get some wins in that and we’re going to should play some good cricket.”
Surrey trying robust – the remainder of Division One
One of many pretenders to Essex’s crown is Surrey.
Below new skipper Rory Burns, the south London aspect are on the lookout for their first County Championship title since 2002.
They made an announcement of intent on Tuesday, signing former South Africa quick bowler Morne Morkel on a Kolpak deal.
There are additionally robust rumours that India captain Virat Kohli will join on a short-term contract earlier than India’s Check sequence in opposition to England later this summer season.
Nevertheless, the lack of Kumar Sangakkara – who scored 1,491 runs in 16 innings in 2017 earlier than retiring – may go away them quick on batting depth, particularly if opener Mark Stoneman cements his England place.
Yorkshire don’t look like the formidable power they had been once they received back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015, and can be depleted by England call-ups all through the marketing campaign.
They’ve misplaced bowlers Liam Plunkett and David Willey to the Indian Premier League for the primary a part of the summer season, whereas leg-spinner Adil Rashid’s choice to ditch red-ball cricket can be a blow, however they’ve loads of expertise all through the squad.
A lot may relaxation on abroad duo, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara.
Hampshire may shock a couple of this yr. They’ve recruited fantastically, signing world-class South Africa pair Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn, together with confirmed county cricketer Sam Northeast from Kent – though paceman Steyn might solely be available for a couple of games.
Lancashire have additionally made assertion signings, with opener Keaton Jennings and seamer Graham Onions each becoming a member of from Durham. Haseeb Hameed, 43-year-old Shivnarine Chanderpaul, new captain Liam Livingstone and Jos Buttler type a part of a really robust batting card.
Somerset scraped survival within the closing spherical of fixtures final season on the expense of Middlesex. In Jack Leach, they arguably have one of the best spinner in England – though it stays to be seen how a lot time the 26-year-old can be on nationwide obligation.
Gillespie needs Sussex to have enjoyable
Arguably the signing of the close-season has been on the south coast.
Sussex appointed highly-prized Jason Gillespie as head coach in November.
The previous Australia bowler is thought to be one of many best coaches within the recreation, having led Yorkshire to successive County Championship titles in 2014 and 2015.
And the 42-year-old has promised to convey his personal model of cricket to Hove.
“It is an excellent membership, obtained some advantageous gamers, some advantageous coaches and I am trying ahead to working with everybody, we’re all on the identical web page,” he informed BBC Sussex.
“We wish to play some good cricket and have a little bit of enjoyable alongside the way in which.
“There is a advantageous group of younger gamers coming by way of, some good skilled heads, all that mixed makes for an thrilling combine. However I simply love county cricket, I’ve all the time loved it, it is good enjoyable.
“The place we will we’ll be seeking to give alternatives to younger guys. Each participant begins as a younger participant, everybody simply wants a chance.”
Who’s knocking on England’s door?
With England’s Check aspect unsettled after a troublesome few months in Australia and New Zealand, the selectors could also be dipping into the county cricket pool this summer season.
However who’re the uncapped gamers on the fringes?
Essex seamer Jamie Porter was the main wicket-taker within the County Championship final season. The 24-year-old’s 75 wickets got here at simply 16.82, together with career-best match figures of 12-95 in opposition to Somerset.
“It is one thing I’ve dreamt about for a very long time, it is arduous not to consider it,” Porter informed BBC Essex on his England aspirations.
“Nevertheless it’s out of my management. The one factor I can management is what I do for Essex. I will attempt to care for that after which hopefully the remaining will type itself out.”
With Broad, James Anderson, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes cemented as England’s tempo bowling unit, Porter might have to attend his flip for a Check cap.
The identical can’t be mentioned concerning the batting line-up. Stoneman, James Vince, Moeen Ali and Dawid Malan are all underneath strain to carry out in opposition to Pakistan within the early summer season. Questions have even been requested about Cook dinner after an inconsistent 12 months.
However is there anybody else actually knocking on the door?
In case you are runs scored by Englishmen in Division One final season, Stoneman (1,156) topped the listing, adopted by Surrey team-mate Burns (1,041).
No different Englishman made greater than 1,00zero runs, though Essex pair Nick Browne and Dan Lawrence and Lancashire’s new captain Livingstone all averaged within the mid-to-high 40s with the bat.
Northeast, who joined Hampshire from Kent through the winter, has made greater than 1,00zero runs over the previous three seasons, whereas Worcestershire’s Clarke is seen as one of many nation’s excellent younger batsmen. His true take a look at can be in opposition to Division One bowlers in 2018.
Luke Wells shone for Sussex in Division Two in 2017 with 1,292 runs at a median of just about 65, however he averages lower than 38 with the bat in first-class cricket.
Purple playing cards in cricket?
Not fairly. However umpires will have the ability to ‘ship gamers off’ both quickly or completely in the event that they misbehave.
It’s one among a number of rule modifications coming in for 2018.
Concussion replacements are additionally obtainable, that means groups will have the ability to swap a participant who has concussion or a suspected concussion.
The substitute can be eligible to bat and bowl within the recreation, however the brand new participant have to be deemed a “like for like” alternative by match officers.
Different additions made to the legal guidelines of cricket by the Marylebone Cricket Membership in October embody limitation on bat measurement and a banning of “mock fielding”.
In an try to stability the competition between bat and ball, bats at the moment are restricted to a thickness of 40mm, and a depth of 67mm.
In the meantime, a “deliberate try by a fielder to deceive the batsman” will even incur a five-run penalty.
|Fixtures beginning on Friday, 13 April (11:00 BST)|
|Hampshire v Worcestershire – Ageas Bowl|
|Lancashire v Nottinghamshire – Outdated Trafford|
|Yorkshire v Essex – Headingley|
|Kent v Gloucestershire – Canterbury|
|Middlesex v Northants – Lord’s|
|Warwickshire v Sussex – Edgbaston|