Yes I know I said that Sussex would win Division 1, and Middlesex and Essex would go up last season, but I did predict the demise of Surrey and Kent as well as Gloucestershire finishing rock bottom. Therefore, I’m going to have another go this season. Division 1 will follow, with the predictions in reverse order.
Bottom last year and I can’t see any reason that they will improve on matters. James Franklin for Marcus North as the overseas player seems like a backwards step. Alex Gidman has taken over the captaincy and while Steve Kirby should be a threat with the ball, the county doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.
The loss of Jason Brown will be compensated by Monty Panesar being around more this season. However, given his county form since he played for England, this may not be a huge advantage. Still too reliant on aging South Africans and David Sales, the season could be a struggle.
More close season changes in Wales see Jamie Dalrymple take over the captaincy. The county has young local talent in abundance with James Harris, Tom Maynard, Huw Waters and Adam Shantry forming a nucleus that should serve the county well for the next decade. Seventh, but there doesn’t look a lot between 4th and 7th this year.
The release of Nayan Doshi along with the loss of Rikki Clarke mid season shows that last winters plans have been ditched. Mark Lawson could be a good signing and he will benefit from regular cricket. Stuart Law may be more of a risk as he reaches his 41st birthday. Another season of rebuilding is likely, but with the promising Dan Redfern out of school and looking to play a full season, the future is looking brighter.
Something radical is needed at the Oval. Mark Ramprakash could score more runs than the rest of the team combined although Michael Brown should provide good support. However even at this level, Surrey will struggle to take 20 wickets in a match. Chris Jordan needs to show more than promise, the returning Alex Tudor needs to stay fit and Kolpakker Andre Nel needs to stay focussed.
Having turned round last season from Kolpakshire to a haven of young English cricketers, I’m not sure how much this prediction is based on hope rather than expectation. HD Ackerman will be a steadying influence on the youngsters like Josh Cobb and they could surprise a few teams this season. Not good enough to go up yet, but certainly moving in the right direction.
To be honest I’m fed up of tipping them for the title only to see them blow up spectacularly. The 20:Twenty excitement proves all too much last season and with Andrew Strauss with England for the summer and the loss of Ed Joyce, it may be a time to rebuild. The attack looks lightweight, even with the continued promise of Steve Finn.
Talking of teams that I’m continually tipping for great things. Matt Walker could prove to be a great signing, Alex Tudor won’t be a great loss. Ravi Bopara will want to keep up the pressure on the England selectors, as will James Foster as the selectors seem to have finally remembered who he is. Danish Kaneria is the best bowler in Division 2 by a country mile and this must be the year they go up, surely?
And so there goes the last ever present team in Division 1. Despite 3 players in the PCA MVP race top 10, including the winner – Martin van Jaarsveld, Kent’s proud record went last season. With Rob Key, Joe Denly and Amjad Khan looking to impress the England selectors, they are the worthy favourites to bounce straight back to Division 1 as Champions.