Division One


Captain Ryan ten Doeschate

Coach Chris Silverwood

Essex are not simply hoping last summer’s promotion form translates at a higher level and have bolstered their ranks. While Graham Napier and David Masters have retired, the established internationals Neil Wagner and Mohammad Amir come in for half a season each as overseas players. Simon Harmer, a Kolpak, gives Ryan ten Doeschate a spin option and, batting-wise, proven performers Adam Wheater and Varun Chopra return to the county after spells away. With Alastair Cook freed from the England captaincy and down to play plenty of Championship matches - albeit he misses the opener with a hip injury - they look a decent bet to consolidate their top-flight status despite being favourites with the bookies for the drop.

Last season

County Championship 1st Division Two

One-day Cup Quarter-finals

T20 Blast Quarter-finals

Prediction 5th


Captain George Bailey (CC), James Vince (limited overs)

Coach Craig White

Saved by Durham’s enforced relegation last year, Hampshire have reacted by bringing in the South African internationals Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw on Kolpak deals, and George Bailey as their overseas player and four-day captain following a strong Sheffield Shield campaign. James Vince, who still leads in white-ball cricket, has a point to prove after a tough Test baptism last summer and Michael Carberry’s return from cancer is one of the stories of the season already. With two going down from eight, they need to gel quickly.

Last season

County Championship 8th Division One (stayed up due to Durham’s relegation)

One-day Cup 5th South Group

T20 Blast 8th South Group

Prediction 7th

Kyle Abbott
Kyle Abbott’s arrival on a Kolpak deal should help keep Hampshire safe after last season’s escape. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images


Captain Steven Croft

Coach Glen Chapple

Early season wins were enough to secure top-flight status last year but the manner in which Lancashire’s season fizzled out – seven defeats from eight – makes it hard to predict anything but another struggle. If Glen Chapple’s appointment as head coach was a popular one and young thrusters such as Haseeb Hameed and Rob Jones are exciting, then the arrivals of the 42-year-old Shiv Chanderpaul and the South African keeper Dane Vilas, both on Kolpak deals, prompted a collective groan. The former is still churning out domestic runs, however, and the squad needed experience. Liam Livingstone returns from a bumper winter with the Lions. Jimmy Anderson will likely be wrapped in cotton wool by England.

Last season

County Championship 7th Division One

One-day Cup 9th North Group

T20 Blast 5th North Group

Prediction 8th


Captain James Franklin

Coach Richard Scott, Daniel Vettori (T20 Blast)

The champions are such a well-oiled machine that winter business has been minimal, with the Australian veteran Adam Voges returning for the entire campaign and an interesting coaching split with Daniel Vettori (Royal Challengers Bangalore and Brisbane Heat) taking over for the Twenty20 campaign for which Brendon McCullum also arrives as their second overseas player. Only a raft of injuries, or England call-ups for Nick Gubbins/Steven Finn/Toby Roland-Jones/Dawid Malan look capable of preventing a strong title defence.

Last season

County Championship 1st Division One

One-day Cup 6th South Group

T20 Blast Quarter-finals

Prediction 2nd


Captain Tom Abell (CC), Jim Allenby (limited overs)

Coach Matthew Maynard

Last season’s runners-up have been forced into one major change with Chris Rogers retiring (he will mentor the batsmen for a spell) and handing over the captaincy to the 23-year-old opener Tom Abell. Steven Davies, signed from Surrey, and Dean Elgar, in as an overseas player before the South Africa Tests, will surely bring runs while the Overtwins are a season stronger and wiser. Fears for Jack Leach’s remodelled action, having enjoyed Taunton’s conversion to Ciderabad last year, are offset by the emergence of the off-spinner Dom Bess at the back end of the campaign.

Last season

County Championship 2nd Division One

One-day Cup Semi-finals

T20 Blast 9th South Group

Prediction 3rd

Jack Leach
Jack Leach, right, was a key performer for Somerset in 2016 but how will his remodelled action fare? Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images


Captain Gareth Batty

Coach Michael Di Venuto

Adding Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick, two proven run-scorers, to their line-up could help last season’s consolidation turn into a title challenge this time but key to this will be the bowling, with Surrey hoping Tom and Sam Curran are wiser from their first taste of Division One and Mark Footitt can stay fit after claiming 34 wickets at 26 from his eight games. Kumar Sangakkara and Aaron Finch share overseas duties, while Kevin Pietersen returns for Twenty20 cricket.

Last season

County Championship 5th Division One

One-day Cup Runners-up

T20 Blast 5th South Group

Prediction 1st


Captain Ian Bell

Coach Jim Troughton

With Ashley Giles in as sporting director and Jim Troughton stepping up to first-team coach, it is hoped the new regime will unburden the captain, Ian Bell, and help the runs flow accordingly. They are needed too, with two years of under-performance from the batting unit in first-class cricket masked by the quality of Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel with the ball. Depth beyond the first-choice attack is a concern, with Olly Stone their one winter signing and a way off from returning after a long-term knee injury. Royal London champions they may be but there is a nagging sense of red ball stagnation.

Last season

County Championship 6th Division One

One-day Cup Winners

T20 Blast 6th North Group

Prediction 6th


Captain Gary Ballance

Coach Andrew Gale

That Yorkshire were in the title race going into the final day of last summer was credit to their collective attitude but another challenge will require greater output from a batting unit that found itself bailed out by Tim Bresnan too often. Andrew Gale, among those to struggle, has since called time and stepped into the head coach berth vacated by Jason Gillespie, with Gary Ballance to captain in all three formats. Peter Handscomb looks a handy overseas signing given the stellar start to his Test career with Australia while Ryan Sidebottom straps on the bowling boots for one last campaign. An early season injury to Jack Brooks is a blow.

Last season

County Championship 3rd Division One

One-day Cup Semi-finals

T20 Blast Semi-finals

Prediction 4th

Tim Bresnan
Tim Bresnan’s batting down the order continues to be a vital asset for Yorkshire. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Division Two


Captain Billy Godleman

Coach Kim Barnett (director of cricket), John Wright (T20 Blast)

Last season was a catastrophe and Kim Barnett, installed as director of cricket in response, has been busy bolstering the squad and drafted in the former India, New Zealand and Indian Premier League coach John Wright to manage the T20 side. The fast bowler Hardus Viljoen, a Kolpak signing, should blast out Division Two line-ups, as he did in a brief spell with Kent last year, while the leggies Jeevan Mendis and Imran Tahir will share overseas duties. The Irish wicketkeeper Gary Wilson, signed from Surrey, could be their shrewdest piece of business.

Last season

County Championship 9th Division Two

One-day Cup 7th North Group

T20 Blast 7th North Group

Prediction 8th


Captain Paul Collingwood

Coach John Lewis

Starting on minus 48 points in the Championship and having seen two bankers for 1,000-plus runs depart in Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick, it will take a monumental effort to get themselves in the promotion mix. Recruitment has been light but Keaton Jennings will be around for nine of the 14 matches while Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth should make hay with the new ball. South Africa’s Stephen Cook offers top-order experience for the first half of the season, with the New Zealander Tom Latham his replacement thereafter.

Last season

County Championship 4th Division One (relegated for financial reasons)

One-day Cup 5th North Group

T20 Blast Runners-up

Prediction 5th


Captain Jacques Rudolph

Coach Robert Croft

Only a Twenty20 campaign that fired in the group stage (but then imploded in the quarter-final) prevented last season being a total write-off with their eight Championship defeats the most in either division and a disappointment given signs of progress in 2015. They have nevertheless kept faith with Jacques Rudolph as captain despite his poor form and, after reporting an operating loss for the year, just one addition to the squad in South African seamer Marchant de Lange. In David Lloyd, Aneurin Donald and Owen Morgan there is clearly talent coming through.

Last season

County Championship 8th Division Two

One-day Cup 7th South Group

T20 Blast Quarter-finals

Prediction 10th

David Lloyd
Glamorgan will hope David Lloyd builds on his breakthrough season last year. Photograph: Huw Evans/Rex/Shutterstock


Captain Gareth Roderick (CC), Michael Klinger (limited overs)

Coach Richard Dawson

Richard Dawson, after spurning interest from Yorkshire for their head coach position, has lost two key batsmen in first-class cricket with Michael Klinger playing white-ball cricket only and Hamish Marshall now retired. Chris Dent delivered 1,243 runs last season and Phil Mustard, who came in on loan from Durham last year and averaged 55 in six matches, has joined permanently. The overseas batsman Cameron Bancroft struggled for impact last year but returns after an encouraging Sheffield Shield campaign.

Last season

County Championship 6th Division Two

One-day Cup 8th South Group

T20 Blast Quarter-finals

Prediction 6th


Captain Sam Northeast

Coach Matt Walker

With Jimmy Adams moving back to the Caribbean, the club favourite Matt Walker has taken over as head coach and will be assisted first by Jason Gillespie on a short-term deal and later by his intended deputy, Allan Donald, once visa issues are overcome. Will Gidman arrives from Notts after last year’s loan spell, with the talented young batsman Joe Weatherley borrowed from Hampshire for the summer and James Harris arriving from Middlesex for the early part of the season. Sam Northeast, who made 1,337 runs at 83 last summer, leads a side packed with runs. They should be in the shake-up again.

Last season

County Championship 2nd Division Two

One-day Cup Quarter-finals

T20 Blast 7th South Group

Prediction 3rd

Will Gidman
Will Gidman, left, is among Kent’s arrivals as they look to improve on last season’s third place. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA


Captain Mark Cosgrove (CC), Clint McKay (limited overs)

Coach Pierre de Bruyn

Last year’s seventh-placed finish may not sound fancy but coming via four wins, double that of their three previous wooden spoon campaigns, it was a huge improvement, with the captain Mark Cosgrove’s 1,279 runs central. Pierre de Bruyn steps up as head coach after Andrew McDonald returned to Australia and among six signings his best business looks to be the South African batsman Colin Ackermann, who arrives on a Dutch passport and after top-scoring in his country’s most recent first-class season.

Last season

County Championship 7th Division Two

One-day Cup 8th North Group

T20 Blast 9th North Group

Prediction 9th


Captain Alex Wakely

Coach David Ripley

The smallest squad in the country (insert waistline-related gag here) delivered a memorable victory in the NatWest T20 Blast last summer and ended their Division Two campaign with four wins from six. Two signings have been made over the winter, with the seamer Nathan Buck – an unfulfilled talent at Leicestershire and Lancashire – fitting their Moneyball approach and the batsman Max Holden arriving for half a season on loan from Middlesex after captaining England Under-19s in February.

Last season

County Championship 5th Division Two

One-day Cup Quarter-finals

T20 Blast Winners

Prediction 7th


Captain Chris Read

Coach Peter Moores

Peter Moores has now taken over as head coach but decided against an overhaul during the winter, instead putting faith in a squad that underperformed last year but should be threatening the top spots this time. The lopsided international schedule means Stuart Broad will be around early in the summer, while the Australian (very) quick James Pattinson, signed for the first half of the season, should enjoy Division Two. Alex Hales, when not with England’s limited-overs side, will bat in the middle order.

Last season

County Championship 9th Division One

One-day Cup 6th North Group

T20 Blast Semi-finals

Prediction 2nd

Stuart Broad
Stuart Broad should be available to bolster Nottinghamshire’s attack throughout the early stages of the season. Photograph: Robert Rathbone/Rex/Shutterstock


Captain Luke Wright

Coach Mark Davis

Sussex have bolstered a squad that lost only twice last season but drew 10, with the South Africa internationals Stiaan van Zyl and David Weise arriving on Kolpak deals, their fellow countryman Vernon Philander in for the first half of the season as overseas player and the batsman Laurie Evans signed from Warwickshire. Delray Rawlins, a Bermuda-born left-hander, scored a bucketload of runs for the England Under-19s over the winter and Jofra Archer is a promising quick. A promotion charge is hoped for, while better white-ball campaigns are a must.

Last season

County Championship 4th Division Two

One-day Cup 9th South Group

T20 Blast 6th South Group

Prediction 1st


Captain Joe Leach

Coach Steve Rhodes

Worcestershire won as many games as the Division Two champions Essex last summer but have since stood down Daryl Mitchell as captain and handed over the reins of a young squad to the seamer Joe Leach, the leading wicket-taker in the second tier. John Hastings is their one winter signing but knee surgery in December may yet delay the Australian all-rounder’s start to the campaign. In Joe Clarke, a 20-year-old right-handed batsman, they posses one of the brightest talents in either division.

Last season

County Championship 3rd Division Two

One-day Cup 8th North Group

T20 Blast Quarter-finals

Prediction 4th


Ali Martin

The GuardianTramp

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