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Get set for intriguing county season

Andy Lloyd
I’M no weather forecaster but if traditions are anything to go by then you can expect rain on Friday for the start of the County Championship. After the coldest of winters the domestic season is back up and running and with Ashes places up for grabs this year, we’re in for an intriguing summer. Here’s my guide to the season and the up and coming players to keep an eye on.


COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP 1
In football you have the top four, but in the County Championship right now, it’s a top one. Durham are streets ahead of the rest and the back-to-back champions are as complete a side as I’ve seen for several years. and have the squad to compete in all forms.

Sussex’s shock relegation from division one, after winning three titles in five years, proves just how close it is between the remaining eight teams in the top flight. Consistency is key but sometimes you need luck with the weather and the fixture list.

I’m looking forward to seeing Marcus Trescothick and Somerset back in the division this year, while the likes of Nottinghamshire, my county Warwickshire and Hampshire also have big game players. But I can’t really see anyone else having a say.


COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP 2
Naturally, the relegated sides, Sussex and Worcestershire, will start as favourites to bounce straight back, although division two is full of counties with bags of tradition.

Surrey are one of those with ambitions to return to the top flight, while Leicestershire and Gloucestershire will also fancy their chances of sneaking into the top two.


PLAYERS TO WATCH
Having already had a taste of playing for England, young Yorkshire fast bowler Ajmal Shahzad will be desperate to impress ahead of the Ashes winter tour. Despite this being only his second full season, it’s a big year for Ajmal, who needs wickets to complement his undoubted talent.

Leading the Surrey charge in division two is Rory Hamilton-Brown – a very talented cricketer who I’ve known for a long time and who will relish his new role as captain down at The Oval. He could well prove the difference for Chris Adams’ side.