THE arrival of South Africa captain Graeme Smith is just what Surrey needed and his presence makes them a genuine contender to win the County Championship, which begins today.
Their fortunes in recent years haven’t been what they wanted and the upheaval surrounding the death of Tom Maynard will have really affected the lads. Smith will be a strong leader, which they need to build consistency – that is the key to winning titles.
At Warwickshire last year Ashley Giles said he wanted to cut down the number of bad days, because that’s what a good team is judged on. They went on to be champions.
Durham are a well organised club and have good all-rounders. If we have a pleasant summer I can see them being a contender too. If the weather is bad, though, they might have a problem, as it turned out to be in a big way last year.
You can only control the controllable, but there is nothing worse than sitting in the dressing room watching the rain fall while your title rivals are taking wickets somewhere else in the country.
At the other end of the table the promoted sides will struggle.
Yorkshire might feel the effects of international call-ups more than most with Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan likely to be involved with England over the summer. And I cannot see Derbyshire coping either.
In Division Two, Essex will be promotion contenders; I certainly think they will do better than Kent.
If spinner Graeme Swann doesn’t make the Ashes Tests, either Monty Panesar or Kent’s captain James Tredwell will replace him and that will be a distraction for Tredwell. England will be on his mind, no doubt about it.
Essex come up with a young player every year, while I think Ravi Bopara will have a good season. I don’t think he will be involved with England but he is a fine cricketer and if you wanted to have a bet on the top run scorer in Division Two I doubt you’d go far wrong with Ravi.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who has also been captain and chairman of Warwickshire.
Last year: Third in Division One
Captain: Chris Rogers
New signing: James Harris
Last year: Seventh in Division One
Captain: Graeme Smith
New signings: Graeme Smith, Vikram Solanki, Gary Keedy
Last year: Fifth in Division Two
Captain: James Foster
New signing: Sajid Mahmood
Last year: Third in Division Two
Captain: James Tredwell
New signing: Calum Haggett