This post looks ahead to the county championship matches that get underway tomorrow. The competition is organized in an unusual way this year: the counties have been arranged in three groups of six, and will play an opening league stage of 10 rounds, after which there will be a split into three divisions, featuring the top two from each group, the middle two from each group and the bottom two from each group. For the teams who were in the same groups half points will be carried forward into this final stage, which will comprise four further matches. The leading side in the first division at the end of all this will become County Champions, and they and second place will play off for the Bob Willis Trophy.
Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire: The ‘Brian Clough Way’ Derby. The main road linking these two east midland cities is now named in honour of Brian Clough who had his greatest successes as a football manager in the two cities concerned. Neither side are going particularly well this year, and Nottinghamshire are without a first class victory since 2018. Many eyes will be on Haseeb Hameed of Nottinghamshire to see if he can kick on from scoring twin centuries last time out, but someone else who definitely merits some attention is Derbyshire’s leg spinning all rounder Matt Critchley.
Worcestershire v Essex: Essex will be looking to rebound from their loss to Warwickshire, and Simon Harmer will have been stung by going wicketless on a fourth day pitch in that game. Dan Lawrence will be looking to score some big runs for Essex.
Durham v Warwickshire: Warwickshire will be looking to build on their success against Essex last time out. Robert Yates will want to prove that his unbeaten ton in that match was not a one off, and Sam Hain is also one to watch.
Gloucestershire v Leicestershire: Gloucestershire won their first two games and held out for a draw against Hampshire in the third and most recent. That game saw the last pair defy Hampshire for over an hour to secure the draw. Hassan Azad will be looking for runs for Leicestershire to further bolster his England credentials. With an all rounder needed for England Gloucestershire’s Ryan Higgins will be looking to to continue his fine start to the season.
Somerset v Middlesex: The Lee family clash (Harry Lee was a Middlesex opener of long ago, and his brothers Frank, later a test umpire, and Jack both played for Somerset, and there was one occasion one the scorebook feature all three brothers on one line – Harry was caught by Jack off the bowling of Frank). The reverse of this game was played in round one and Somerset won, a result they will keen to duplicate on their own patch. Tom Lammonby will be looking to continue the rehabilitation from a poor run that his unbeaten 70 in the last match started. Several Somerset bowlers have fared well this season. Ethan Bamber has been impressive with the ball for Middlesex, and Luke Hollman, a leg spin bowling all rounder who is just starting out could well be worth watching.
Surrey v Hampshire: The Phil Mead clash (the dour left hander failed to make the grade at Surrey but moved to Hampshire and set records for the most runs (48,809) and most centuries (138) made by anyone for a single first class side). Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes have both made runs to start this season and will be looking to continue that trend, while Amar Virdi will want to put down a marker given the successes other spinners have been having early this season.
Glamorgan v Kent: Indifferent starts for both of these sides. Zak Crawley will be looking to get among the runs for Kent. Kiran Carlson has had one fabulous match for Glamorgan this season.
Yorkshire v Northamptonshire: David Willey, who played for Northamptonshire earlier in his career may feature for Yorkshire. Dom Bess who took six wickets in the final innings of Yorkshire’s last game, in which they beat Sussex, will be looking to continue his revival. For Northamptonshire the obvious one to watch is Ricardo Vasconcelos, with two 150+ scores to his name already this season.
Lancashire v Sussex: First against third in the group. Matt Parkinson will be looking to continue his massively impressive start to the season. For Sussex Oliver Edward Robinson will be looking to underline his England credentials by producing something at a test match venue, and left arm pacer George Garton could well be part of England’s plans, especially if he plays well.
FOLLOWING THE ACTION
It will not be possible for fans to watch these games at the grounds, although it is my understanding that we are only a few weeks away from that happening. Commentaries on all games will be available via www.bbc.co.uk/cricket – click the ‘live county cricket’ button and scroll across to select your commentary, livestreams are available via the county websites and youtube, and for extra detail you can keep a cricinfo.com tab open with your chosen game selected.
I have lots of photographs to end this post…