Division One

Essex

Captain Ryan ten Doeschate
Coach Anthony McGrath

Eyes will be on Alastair Cook’s return to full-time county duty – does the fire still burn after signing off from the Test arena? - but otherwise all seems relatively settled for a side that followed the 2017 title with a strong third place. Peter Siddle returns as overseas player after claiming 37 wickets in seven Championship matches last summer, while the progress of fellow seamer Sam Cook (aka Little Chef) will be worth keeping tabs on. Andre Nel, the former South Africa fast bowler, has arrived as assistant coach.

Last season:
County Championship
3rd
Royal London Cup Play-off stage
T20 Blast 7th South Group
Championship prediction 4th

Alastair Cook on his way to 150 not out against Cambridge University.
Alastair Cook on his way to 150 not out against Cambridge University. Photograph: Nick Wood/Getty Images

Hampshire

Captain James Vince
Coach Adrian Birrell

The Ageas Bowl has witnessed some ins and outs over the winter, with Adi Birrell arriving as head coach and Nye Donald, Keith Barker and James Fuller the new playing recruits. The retirements of Jimmy Adams and Sean Ervine make captain James Vince, Rilee Rossouw and Sam Northeast the senior core of batsmen – the latter desperate to make up for an injury-plagued debut season averaging just 25 in the Championship. Vince moves up to open, desperate to catch England’s eye, while the South African batsman Aiden Markram has signed until the World Cup.

Last season:
County Championship
5th
Royal London Cup Winners
T20 Blast 8th South Group
Prediction 7th

Kent

Captain Sam Billings
Coach Matt Walker

The Division Two title may have eluded Kent but no team tasted more than their 10 wins last season, a feat that owed much to Matt Henry’s incredible 75 wickets. The New Zealander is not currently slated to return, however, with the Australian opener Matt Renshaw the early summer overseas player. The glut of 50-over cricket at the start of the season softens the blow of losing Sam Billings and Joe Denly to the Indian Premier League but it looks a battle to avoid the one relegation spot. Zak Crawley is a young batsman to watch.

Last season:
County Championship
2nd Division Two
Royal London Cup Runners-up
T20 Blast Quarter-final
Prediction 8th

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Nottinghamshire

Captain Steven Mullaney
Coach Peter Moores

Nottinghamshire’s recruitment policy may not be to everyone’s taste but they look a strong bet to challenge, not least if the brutish Australian quick James Pattinson, signed for seven Championship matches, stays fit and Stuart Broad has good availability. Indeed the bowling depth is scarcely affected by Harry Gurney’s white-ball specialism, not least with the promising Zak Chappell newly arrived from Leicestershire. Batting-wise, big things are expected of Ben Slater at opener, so too newcomers Ben Duckett and Joe Clarke.

Last season:
County Championship
6th
Royal London Cup Play-off stage
T20 Blast Quarter-finals
Prediction 3rd

Nottinghamshire’s Stuart Broad bowls for the MCC against Surrey.
Nottinghamshire’s Stuart Broad bowls for the MCC against Surrey. Photograph: Tom Dulat/Getty Images

Somerset

Captain Tom Abell, Lewis Gregory (T20)
Coach Jason Kerr

The rock-solid Azhar Ali returns as a rare overseas player who will play the entire 2019 season while Jack Brooks, freshly arrived from Yorkshire, should augment the seam attack nicely. More mid-summer Championship matches may well aid the spin of Jack Leach and Dom Bess at Ciderabad too, while the sense is that Tom Abell is really growing into the captaincy, having followed a tricky first season in the job in 2017 with runs and wickets last summer. Can they catch Surrey this time?

Last season:
County Championship
2nd
Royal London Cup 4th South Group
T20 Blast Semi-finals
Prediction 1st

Surrey

Captain Rory Burns, Jade Dernbach (T20)
Coach Michael Di Venuto

The champions boast enviable depth once more, not least having re-signed the South African opener Dean Elgar from the end of April – he will be available for 13 of 14 Championship matches – and tempted all-rounder Jordan Clark from Lancashire. Ben Foakes should be clear to play the entire summer after England reverted back to Jonny Bairstow as Test wicketkeeper but Sam Curran is at the Indian Premier League. Morne Morkel, 59 wickets at 14 last summer, has extended his contract. Will Jacks is a young batsman to watch, but then so too is the capped Ollie Pope.

Last season:
County Championship
Winners
Royal London Cup 5th South Group
T20 Blast 5th South Group
Prediction 2nd

Ben Foakes
Ben Foakes should be clear to play the entire summer for Surrey. Photograph: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Warwickshire

Captain Jeetan Patel
Coach Jim Troughton

Paul Farbrace has arrived as team director of the newly-promoted Bears, who must adjust to life after Jonathan Trott and have lost Ian Bell until June with a foot injury. Responsibility now falls on the openers Dom Sibley and Will Rhodes to transfer last season’s runs to Division One and Sam Hain to marshall the middle order. Bowling-wise, Liam Norwell and Craig Miles look shrewd signings from Gloucestershire – both boast circa 250 first-class wickets at 26 – but it remains to be seen when the more express Olly Stone and Henry Brookes return from back stress injuries.

Last season:
County Championship
Winners Division Two
Royal London Cup 4th North Group
T20 Blast 6th North Group
Prediction 6th

Yorkshire

Captain Steve Patterson
Coach Andrew Gale

The winter signing of Duanne Olivier on a Kolpak deal, fresh from a breakthrough Test summer in South Africa, has not exactly thrilled the wider world but the club, doubtless driven by years of losing players to England and the IPL, will care little if a cascade of wickets results. Batting-wise, Gary Ballance needs greater support than last year although Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s strong finish to that middling campaign augurs well. To that end, Paul Grayson has been hired as a batting coach.

Last season:
County Championship
4th
Royal London Cup Semi-finals
T20 Blast 5th North Division
Prediction 5th

South Africa’s Duanne Olivier has turned his back on international cricket to play for Yorkshire.
South Africa’s Duanne Olivier has turned his back on international cricket to play for Yorkshire. Photograph: Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images

Division Two

Derbyshire

Captain Billy Godleman
Coach Dave Houghton (Head of cricket), Dominic Cork (T20)

There was only incremental improvement last summer but the additions have chiefly come off the field, with Dave Houghton now in charge and club favourite Dominic Cork heading up the T20 side. Batsman Tom Lace, on a season-long deal from Middlesex, is the one signing in a winter where Hardus Viljoen and Gary Wilson follow Ben Slater out the door. Wayne Madsen, now seemingly a banker for 1,000 runs, and leg-spinning all-rounder Matt Critchley remain as the two leading lights.

Last season:
County Championship
7th
Royal London Cup 5th North Group
T20 Blast 7th North Group
Prediction 9th

Durham

Captain Cameron Bancroft (CC and RL Cup)
Coach James Franklin

There has been an antipodean overhaul at Durham over the winter, with Marcus North taking over as director of cricket and James Franklin in as head coach, as well as a rebrand of club badges and identities (the Jets are no more in T20). Cameron Bancroft arrives for overseas duties and, notably, to captain following his suspension from Australia, while the former England Under-19s batsman Jack Burnham is another looking to repay faith following a 12-month ban for recreational drugs. Life will be strange at the Riverside without Paul Collingwood.

Last season:
County Championship
8th
Royal London Cup 9th North Group
T20 Blast Quarter-finals
Prediction 5th

Cameron Bancroft
Cameron Bancroft of Western Australia, centre, will captain Durham in the County Championship and Royal London Cup. Photograph: Matt King/Getty Images

Glamorgan

Captain Chris Cooke, Colin Ingram (T20)
Coach Matt Maynard (interim)

The only way is up for Glamorgan after 2018’s wooden spoon. Robert Croft was removed as head coach and two club favourites, Mark Wallace and Matt Maynard, have been hired as director of cricket and interim head coach respectively. Australian Marnus Labuschagne replaces Shaun Marsh as overseas and there are two further winter signings with the bat in Billy Root from Notts and Doncaster-born Charlie Hemphrey, who returns to the UK after playing all of his first-class cricket to date at Queensland. Losing local product Nye Donald to Hampshire was a blow.

Last season:
County Championship
10th
Royal London Cup 9th South Group
T20 Blast 6th South Group
Prediction 10th

Gloucestershire

Captain Chris Dent, Michael Klinger (T20)
Coach Richard Dawson

Gloucestershire held their own last year without threatening promotion but things appear tougher having lost two established seamers to Warwickshire. In come replacements Stuart Whittingham, who found his path blocked at Sussex, and Dan Worrall, the Australian who saw last year ruined by a fractured foot. Chris Dent leads well and in James Bracey they have a young batsman who places a high price on his wicket. Michael Klinger returns for T20 and what may well be their strongest suit again.

Last season:
County Championship
5th
Royal London Cup 7th South Group
T20 Blast Quarter-finals
Prediction 8th

Gloucestershire taking on Leicestershire last season at The College Ground in Cheltenham.
Gloucestershire taking on Leicestershire last season at The College Ground in Cheltenham. Photograph: Harry Trump/Getty Images

Lancashire

Captain Dane Vilas
Coach Glen Chapple

Relegation made an utter mug of this particular observer last summer but surely a top three finish – and promotion – will follow. A collapsible batting line-up was chiefly to blame and so in come Australian pair Joe Burns and Glenn Maxwell to share overseas duties – the former for the bulk of the Championship. It is a huge season for Haseeb Hameed, who after two flatlining campaigns enters the final year of his contract. Dane Vilas captains after Liam Livingstone (at the IPL for seven weeks) stood down in November. Tom Bailey leads the attack after a fine 2018 that led to a Lions call-up and is joined by Richard Gleeson.

Last season:
County Championship
7th Division One
Royal London Cup 6th North Group
T20 Blast Semi-finals
Prediction 1st

Leicestershire

Captain Paul Horton
Coach Paul Nixon

Five Championship wins made last summer their best since 2010 but further upward momentum will require new additions Chris Wright and Arron Lilley, signed from Warwickshire and Lancashire, to overcome the losses of Ben Raine to Durham and Zak Chappell to Notts. The return of Mohammad Abbas, the Pakistan seamer who is almost designed for English conditions, is a huge boost but a batting line-up that produced two first-class centuries last year – both from Colin Ackermann – must do better.

Last season:
County Championship
6th
Royal London Cup 8th North Group
T20 Blast 8th North Group
Prediction 7th

Middlesex

Captain Dawid Malan
Coach Stuart Law

Fresh impetus comes through the arrival of Stuart Law as head coach and with Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones returning from injury-wrecked seasons, a promotion challenge could materialise. The batsmen must step up – Stevie Eskinazi led the way with 740 runs last year – and here much could depend on the surfaces at Lord’s, now being prepared by the former Ageas Bowl groundsman Karl McDermott following Mick Hunt’s retirement. AB de Villiers and Afghan mystery spinner Mujeeb Zadran make for two eye-catching signings in their weakest format, T20.

Last season:
County Championship
4th Division Two
Royal London Cup 6th South Group
T20 Blast 9th South Group
Prediction 2nd

AB de Villiers batting
AB de Villiers is an eye-catching signing for Middlesex in the T20 Blast.
Photograph: Aijaz Rahi/AP

Northamptonshire

Captain Alex Wakely

Coach David Ripley

Last summer was a bit of a shocker, not least in the white-ball formats that Northants have made their bread and butter in recent times. The club has opted against wholesale change, albeit must continue life without the departed Ben Duckett and Richard Gleeson. Jason Holder has been signed as overseas player in April – the West Indies captain may play more as a batsman due to restrictions on his workload - before being replaced by South Africa’s Temba Bavuma for eight Championship matches. Blessing Muzarabani, a 6ft 6in Zimbabwean fast bowler, has also arrived on a three-year Kolpak deal. Ricardo Vasconcelos looks a good bet for runs.

Last season:
County Championship
9th
Royal London Cup 7th North Group
T20 Blast 9th North Group
Prediction 6th

Sussex

Captain Ben Brown, Luke Wright (T20)
Coach Jason Gillespie

Last season’s near misses in Division Two and the T20 Blast have seen recruitment eschewed in favour of continuity, with Mir Hamza, a Pakistani left-armer, the one winter signing as overseas player. Stiaan van Zyl returns after a knee injury that scuppered 2018, offering some ballast to a batting line-up that relied too heavily on the captain Ben Brown. Will Jofra Archer be beamed up to planet England for the entire summer? If so then Ollie Robinson, the leading English wicket-taker last year, will require support from elsewhere.

Last season:
County Championship
3rd
Royal London Cup 8th South Group
T20 Blast Runners-up
Prediction 3rd

Jofra Archer could be missing for Sussex if he is called up by England.
Jofra Archer could be missing for Sussex if he is called up by England. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Worcestershire

Captain Joe Leach

Coach Alex Gidman

Last season’s fairytale T20 Blast win offset the relegation that became almost inevitable after losing four of their first five matches. But six promotions since the split to two divisions means the yo-yoing Pears are well-versed in bouncing back. The Australian batsman Callum Ferguson returns for overseas duties, Riki Wessels arrives from Nottinghamshire and Wayne Parnell is now a permanent recruit on a Kolpak deal. Captain Joe Leach is back after last year’s stress fracture. Kevin Sharp has moved into a new director role, with Alex Gidman promoted to head coach alongside the incumbent assistant and club legend Alan Richardson.

Last season:
County Championship
8th Division One
Royal London Cup Semi-finals
T20 Blast Winners
Prediction 4th

Contributor

Ali Martin

The GuardianTramp

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