County Championship 2018 Lowdown
- April 11th, 2018
- Tom Bean
With the 'Beast from the East' now a distant thought, the beginning of the 2018 County Championship is a welcome sign that summer is just around the corner. Having had the spotlight firmly fixed on the red-ball game over an eventful winter period, we look ahead to what explosive drama we can expect from the four-day domestic game.
Much has been said about the longer game over the past few months as it struggles to readjust to the changing landscape of the game. Domestic cricket has undergone a reshuffle in the past year or so and this season will again see a 14-game format throughout the County Championship before making way for the blocks of one-day and T20 competitions. With the County Championship seemingly taking a back seat in order to raise the profile of the shorter-versions, it once again took a hit last month with high profile names signing 'white-ball only' contracts with their clubs as well as others being lured to India by the glitz and glamour of the IPL. It is certainly not the best prep for the counties and perhaps isn't quite what the four-day game needs at this time, however there is still plenty to look forward to and we at Sportplan, along with many other cricket fans are excited for what's sure to be another breathtaking season of first-class cricket.
Who to keep an eye on in Div 1?
Last year Essex took the overall title and have been working hard in the off-season to reinforce their squad in the hope of recreating their flawless 2017 campaign. With some big 'in's', including the coveted Aussie bowler, Peter Siddle, and useful all-rounder, Matt Coles, to compliment their all firing top-order, they again look a force to be reckoned with and will be many peoples tip for the Division 1 title again.
With Peter Moores immediately having an impact at Trent Bridge last year, leading them to the Div 2 promotion, the former England Head Coach will be looking to recreate the success he had with Sussex and Lancashire in 2003 and 2011 respectively. Despite losing Alex Hales to a white-ball only contract and the IPL, they have picked up Black Caps batsman Ross Taylor who will look to make a big impact. If the Notts bowlers can continue their hot form from last season, they will be a team not to be overlooked this time round.
A player of Kumar Sangakarra's stature is always going to leave a big hole to fill, however Surrey's strength is in their depth and they no doubt have the players coming through to fill the Sri Lankan's immeasurable void. Surrey's problem last year was getting the game over the line and they found themselves left wanting numerous times, racking up 10 draws. However, the struggling bowling attack has been revitalised this season with Rikki Clarke returning to the Oval and Mitchell Marsh making the move to Blighty from Down Under.
Yorkshire will be up there or thereabouts, however like Nottingham, will be losing an influential player in Adil Rashid who's decided to focus on the shorter formats. However after shining against England, Kane Williamson will be expected to excite on the domestic stage. Hampshire have bought in some exceptionally exciting players in Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla; no doubt the Ageas Bowl faithful will be looking forward to seeing how far they can go alongside Vince, Crane and new recruit Sam Northeast. Div 1 new boys Worcestershire have had a more than rocky winter and will have their backs up against it from the start in their attempt to stem their yoyoing cycle.
What's the lowdown for Division 2?
Middlesex will be expected to bounce back up this season with Eoin Morgan coming back to the red-ball, as well as Roland-Jones and Finn spearheading a strong bowling attack. They may struggle with losing their captain, Dawid Malan, after impressing over the winter. Sussex managed to pull off the signing of the off-season, getting in Jason Gillespie to take the helm at the County Ground. With some more consistency in the top of the order, and Gillespie's influence of the bowling attack, there will be high hopes on the South Coast this season. Despite a turbulent few years, calm seems to be prevailing at Durham with old head Paul Collingwood leading a promising group of individuals on the field. The prospect of Tom Latham being available for parts of the season will only delight those up at Chester-le-Street; expect good things up north. Also keep an eye on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, pushing at the top in Div 2. At the other end, expect a battle between Leicestershire and Derbyshire for 9th spot.
Jason Gillespie making the move to Hove was one of the biggest moves of the off-season and is a coup for Sussex as England along with other major international test teams reportedly seemed to be sniffing around the bowling-turned-head coach. Gillespie recently explained how his move to Sussex is "a fantastic opportunity" and "a no brainer". On the topic of what he wants to achieve with the team, he said; "we all just want to learn off each other and improve and to help the players achieve their goals and dreams. The team perhaps hasn't quite achieved what it wanted to achieve in recent years". (Juice, Brighton)
We look forward to seeing what Gillespie can do in his new role as head coach and are excited to see what coaching techniques he will introduce to get the best out of the group of players he has.
Take a look at our cricket training plans and drills to inspire your team to your own Championship triumph.