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County Championship 2024: team-by-team guide to the new season

<span>Daniel Bell-Drummond, Scott Boland and Alec Stewart.</span><span>Composite: Guardian Picture Desk</span>


<span>Daniel Bell-Drummond, Scott Boland and Alec Stewart.</span><span>Composite: Guardian Picture Desk</span>

Daniel Bell-Drummond, Scott Boland and Alec Stewart.Composite: Guardian Picture Desk

DIVISION ONE

Durham

Captain Scott Borthwick Coach Ryan Campbell Last season 1st Div Two

After last year’s astonishing charge to the Division Two title, Durham bubble with enthusiasm. At the media day Matty Potts was his typical bullish self, but so too were Alex Lees and Ryan Campbell – they are aiming for the crown, just as Essex did after being promoted in 2016. The 2023 side have been boosted by the signings of England’s Melbourne destroyer Scott Boland, Colin Ackermann, and Callum Parkinson, who replaces brother Matt. Much depends, as Lees admitted, on how they cope when they hit a rough patch, or if Potts and Brydon Carse are called away on England duty.
Prediction 2nd

Essex

Captain Tom Westley Coach Anthony McGrath Last season 2nd

Always in the reckoning, but this year Essex are shorn of two familiar faces – Sir Alastair Cook has retired to the commentary box while Dan Lawrence danced across to bright lights of the Oval. Their replacements are intriguing – Dean Elgar signed a three-year deal to join his fellow South African Simon Harmer, while Jordan Cox looks to make good on his youthful promise, four years since that astonishing 238 for Kent against Sussex aged just 19. He’s aiming, he says, to “do a Harry Brook”. As ever, much will depend on Essex’s formidable opening bowlers, Sam Cook and Jamie Porter, while Harmer licks his lips for the spoils.
Prediction 3rd

Hampshire

Captain James Vince Coach Adi Birrell Last season 3rd

Last year felt like Hampshire’s big chance, and they won the same number of games as Surrey, but a fragile top order made life difficult despite a thousand runs from the captain, James Vince, and good returns for Nick Gubbins and Liam Dawson (the PCA men’s player of the year). The talented Ali Orr has been tempted over from Sussex in an attempt to fix the problem. The question is whether the formidable three-prong attack of Keith Barker, Mohammad Abbas and Kyle Abbott can hold back the encroaching years, though John Turner, owner of an England development contract, waits in the wings.
Prediction 5th

Kent

Captain Daniel Bell-Drummond Coach Matt Walker Last season 8th

Lucky to survive the 2023 dogfight at the bottom of the table, Kent breathe again, with a new captain, Daniel Bell-Drummond, buoyed by his triple-century against Northants last June and hoping that with responsibility comes consistency. Sam Billings, who dropped himself last year, has stepped away from red-ball cricket, and with the departure of Jordan Cox, Harry Finch keeps the gloves. The Australians Wes Agar and Xavier Bartlett boost the injury-prone pace bowling for the first half of the season, while Matt Parkinson’s arrival was the scoop of the season. The prospect of him bowling in tandem with Hamid Qadri is almost enough to make Kent supporters optimistic.
Prediction 9th

Lancashire

Captain Keaton Jennings Coach Dale Benkenstein Last season 5th

A season of change at Old Trafford, where Dale Benkenstein has replaced Glenn Chapple as head coach after seven years. A smaller playing squad brings hope that younger players like George Bell will flourish. Nathan Lyon’s season-long deal has been stymied by Cricket Australia, and he will play seven of the first nine CC matches (in April and May, lucky boy), which at least leaves space for Tom Hartley to build on his winter. Saqib Mahmood, fit again but still building up his overs, is expected back in late April, Jimmy Anderson not till the Tests approach. Tom Bruce is a like-for-like swap for the retired Dane Vilas.
Prediction 4th

Nottinghamshire

Captain Haseeb Hameed Coach Peter Moores Last season 6th

For those who watched Haseeb Hameed’s miserable final year at Lancashire, his flourishing at Trent Bridge has been wonderful to see. This year he takes on the captaincy at a time of change at Trent Bridge after Steven Mullaney slipped into coach mode, Stuart Broad retired and Jake Ball and Samit Patel moved on, while the promising batter Jack Haynes and the bowlers Josh Tongue and Dillon Pennington all defected from put-upon Worcestershire. Will Young plumps up the batting order, Dane Paterson is Mr Reliable, while in the background Rehan Ahmed’s off-spinning younger brother Farhan, of England Under-19s, throws the ball from hand to hand.
Prediction 7th

Somerset

Captain Lewis Gregory Coach Jason Kerr Last season 7th

Hopelessly slow starters over the last couple of years (they won just one match in their first seven games in 2023), Somerset also need to mend their ability to collapse like a popped balloon from as little as an offhand glance. The bad news first, the Australian all-rounder Will Sutherland has been ruled out because of a back injury – but Matt Renshaw will stay for the first seven championship matches. Lewis Gregory takes over the captaincy from Tom Abell, Craig Overton the vice-captaincy, and Jake Ball boosts the bowling resources. The most intriguing questions: whether Shoaib Bashir will get a bowl and whether James Rew can build on last year’s outstanding season.
Prediction 6th

Surrey

Captain Rory Burns Coach Gareth Batty Last season 1st

It is hard to bet against Surrey making it three in a row, especially now that Alec Stewart has announced 2024 his final season as head of cricket. There could be no better motivation than “doing it for the gaffer” at a club that, for all their riches, still value the championship above all. The current vogue for international stroke makers leaves Dom Sibley and Rory Burns (who had an unusually tepid season with the bat in 2023) safely in situ, their dogged runs a base for a dazzling array of stroke-makers boosted further by Dan Lawrence. The bowling, too, leaves Burns with an abundance of riches to play with.
Prediction 1st

Warwickshire

Captain Alex Davies Coach Mark Robinson Last season 4th

Alex Davies is the new captain who must guide the Bears through the thickets of the First Division after Will Rhodes stepped down. Like Derbyshire, Warwickshire may fall foul of Pakistan’s change of personnel at the top, anxiously waiting to hear whether Hasan Ali, who they had hoped to have for the first nine CC matches, will arrive for the start of the season. Better news on last-gasp 2022 hero Liam Norwell, who is fit and raring to go, and the young prospect Jacob Bethell, who has recovered from his stress fracture. Sam Hain will need solid back-up from the rest of the batters for the team to flourish.
Prediction 8th

Worcestershire

Captain Brett D’Oliveira Coach Alan Richardson Last season 2nd Div Two

Defied the odds to gain promotion but lost a good chunk of their best players to Nottinghamshire’s insatiable appetite for shopping. Chief executive Ashley Giles managed to secure the marquee signing of Jason Holder for the first five Championship games, while New Zealand allrounder Nathan Smith will be with the club for the season. The popular Rob Jones has boosted the batting, while Tom Taylor (Northants) and Yadvinder Singh (South Asian Cricket Academy) shore up the bowling. Worcestershire also have to manage the flooding that, with the changing climate, increasingly hits New Road and had Giles mulling over a possible move in the future. Will do well to stay up.
Prediction 10th

DIVISION TWO

Derbyshire

Captain David Lloyd Coach Mickey Arthur Last season 6th

2023 proved a tricky year for Derbyshire, without a win in the Championship and announcing the loss of the captain and compiler of 1,000 runs, Leus du Plooy, to Middlesex. But Mickey Arthur, released from his contract with Pakistan after a group-stage exit in the World Cup, did some interesting winter shopping, including David Lloyd and Aneurin Donald, both who have the capacity to attack with gusto. Pat Brown’s transfer from Worcestershire will bolster the pace bowling if he can rediscover his verve, as does the arrival of the 90mph New Zealander Blair Tickner, though Mohammad Amir’s decison to reverse his international retirement is a blow. The young Lancashire slow left-armer Jack Morley joins the club on loan.
Prediction 8th

Glamorgan

Captain Sam Northeast Coach Grant Bradburn Last season 5th

New captain Sam Northeast, who replaces David Lloyd, and new coach Grant Bradburn, replacing Matthew Maynard, bring a fresh start at Sophia Gardens after a nearly but not quite season in 2023. They’ll have to wait for Marnus Labuschagne to arrive in early May, though the form of Kiran Carlson and Billy Root had fans purring in the stands last year. Last year’s difficulties in polishing off the opposition won’t be helped by Michael Neser’s departure to Hampshire, but the arrival of the Pakistan left-arm seamer Mir Hamza and the leg-spinner Mason Crane, signed on a season’s loan from the Rose Bowl, perk things up.
Prediction 5th

Gloucestershire

Captain Graeme van Buuren Coach Mark Alleyne Last season 8th

A miserable year in 2023, not helped by incessant rain in the south-west, left Gloucestershire bottom of the class, without a win, and below even points-deducted Yorkshire. But hope springs eternal and Mark Alleyne, who replaces Dale Benkenstein as coach, and the returning Australian Cameron Bancroft have put a spring in the step of local supporters. The squad includes a clutch of promising young players, including the Price brothers, Ollie, who went on the Lions trip to India, and Tom, whose magical hundred and hat-trick on the same day against Worcestershire last April looked as if it might springboard the season. Perhaps this year.
Prediction 7th

Leicestershire

Captain Lewis Hill Coach Alfonso Thomas Last season 4th

Last season’s surprise Division Two package, finishing fourth after years propping up the basement despite the departure of coach Paul Nixon half way through the season. A lot will depend on whether Rishi Patel can continue in the style of his breakthrough summer, which included four sparkling centuries, and Peter Handscomb his rich return. Marcus Harris will play the first five games, filling the shoes of the concussion-hit Will Pucovski. The departures of eight players, particularly Colin Ackermann, leave holes but the club hope that the arrivals of Liam Trevaskis and Ben Mike and the development of young players such as Tom Scriven, Rehan Ahmed and the 6ft 7in left-armer Josh Hull keep them in with a shout of promotion.
Prediction 4th

Middlesex

Captain Toby Roland-Jones Coach Richard Johnson Last season 9th Division One

Middlesex were reeling at 4-4 within the first 15 minutes of their first innings of 2023, and things didn’t improve much – they collected just five batting points in the entire summer. That said, they weren’t actually relegated till the last day of the season, and Division Two might give them a chance to breathe, especially as their difficult financial situation mean they haven’t engaged an overseas player. Leus du Plooy’s signing boosts the batting while the arrival from Edgbaston of Henry Brookes, the young fast bowler whose light has dimmed over the last few years, adds potential to an already sparky bowling line up. Hopes are high for another impressive season for Josh de Caires.
Prediction 3rd

Northamptonshire

Captain Luke Procter Coach John Sadler Last season 10th Division One

Five innings defeats left Northants the party poopers of Division One, sent back down with only 96 points to their name. A dismal season with the bat can only improve, boosted by the return of Karun Nair, who gave Surrey a scare with his stylish 150 last season, and then Prithvi Shaw. Taunton exile George Bartlett wants to press his claim, while Emilio Gay, Saif Zaib and Ricardo Vasconcelos all have a point to prove. Rob Keogh, in his 15th and testimonial year, will rattle through plenty of overs, Chris Tremain, fresh from the Sheffield Shield (first four games), and, hopefully, George Scrimshaw provide firepower.
Prediction 6th

Sussex

Captain John Simpson Coach Paul Farbrace Last season 3rd

The winter transfer of John Simpson from Middlesex gives the youngest team in the championship wisdom at the top after a mostly positive – if occasionally ill-disciplined – season in 2023 (the team were docked 17 crucial points for a combination of slow over rates and bad behaviour). Cheteshwar Pujara returns for the first seven games, though may miss the first with a knee injury, and hopes are high that James Coles and allrounder Fynn Hudson-Prentice will continue to flourish. Jofra Archer is only expected to play white ball but Ollie Robinson has a few doubters, including the England MD, Rob Key, to blip on the nose. A promotion prospect, with a fair wind.
Prediction 2nd

Yorkshire

Captain Shan Masood Coach Ottis Gibson Last season 7th

Yorkshire seemed to have turned a corner towards the end of last season but another tumultuous winter brought the second/third coming of Colin Graves and the departure of Darren Gough, an enthusiastic presence over the last two years. On the field, smoother waters with both Harry Brook and Joe Root available for five of the first seven championship games. Shan Masood expects to be at Headingley for most of the summer, and when you throw in Adam Lyth and the young blades Finlay Bean and George Hill, it’s a handy looking top six. Dan Moriarty boosts the bowling attack – and if the seamers stay fit, a return to Division One looks a realistic hope.
Prediction 1st



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