Trying to work out who’ll win the county championship is a thankless task at the best of times. Not least as the vagaries of form and fitness for just a few key personnel can have a huge affect on virtually every club on the circuit.
What you can say about this season is that the return of Sussex, some sensible recruiting during the winter by a number of clubs and the improbability of Durham suffering the same catalogue of injuries for a second successive summer should combine to make division one stronger and more competitive this year.
Of the nine teams only Worcestershire looks obviously out of their depth, with the batting frailties of Lancashire and Warwickshire making them the most likely candidates to get caught in a relegation fight.
After coming within an inch of last year’s title and having strengthened since, Somerset are the team to beat, with Nottinghamshire and Durham (assuming their first choice bowling attack is fit again) fighting it out with them.
I’d fancy Yorkshire and Sussex for middle table but with either of them capable of mounting a challenge, or slipping further back dependant on form and fitness.
It’s Hampshire I’m finding hardest to place. They’ve recruited well during the off-season and look a strong team on paper. Where they finish in the table will depend on how well Dominic Cork can gel his team together. But I’ve a sneaky feeling about them this year, and have them marked down as my outside bet for the title.
Should fair weather bring a spinners summer I’d expect Hampshire, Lancashire, Somerset and Yorkshire to be the beneficiaries. A big unknown factor this year is the exact make-up of England’s one-day side following a poor series of results during the winter. Will established faces remain or new blood be brought in? With the final three rounds of championship games clashing with the ODI series against India, players used by England will be unavailable to their counties at the most critical time of the summer, meaning the national selectors could have a significant, and unwanted, input into the destination of this year’s title.