The LV County Championship season gets underway on Thursday when 16 of the 18 counties take to the field to open up their campaign on a year which feels extremely significant for English cricket as a whole not just those on show.
We have four matches in each division to enjoy and while it is the Indian Premier League which gets the televised treatment, all eight matches will be live streamed via the county streaming services so you don’t need to miss anything of the match you have a bet on.
Warwickshire begin the defence of their County Championship title in the opening week of the season when they play host to a star studded Surrey side in what might well be the pick of the matches at Edgbaston this week. Essex are the favourites to regain the title and so there will be plenty of eyes on them to see how they go when they welcome local rivals Kent to Chelmsford. The visitors in that match will be eyeing up a winning return to Division 1.
Two other sides who will be returning to Division 1 will be on show in what you sense is a match neither Northamptonshire nor Gloucestershire can afford to lose at Wantage Road. Both teams are expected to be battling relegation so whoever comes out on top there will already have a leg up. The other match comes from the Ageas Bowl where Hampshire go in search of that elusive Championship title on a day where they honour the great Shane Warne. Somerset are the visitors to Southampton.
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It is expected to be all about Nottinghamshire in Division 2 this season and they get the chance to showcase their title credentials straight away on Thursday when the entire division open up their campaign. Nottinghamshire make the trip to Hove to take on a Sussex side who will be looking for a huge improvement on what they have delivered in recent seasons. The pick of the matches in this division could come at Cardiff where Glamorgan take on Durham with both sides having an eye on promotion this term.
Middlesex are the other team who will be expected to be in the promotion hunt this season. They start their campaign at home to a Derbyshire side who have plenty of intrigue about them this term with Mickey Arthur a high profile coaching appointment. The other match comes from Grace Road where Leicestershire and their relatively young side host a Worcestershire team who look like they are in transition but have an early chance to show that isn’t actually the case.
I’ll ease my way into the season but I’m happy to take one bet which comes in the form of Hampshire to get the better of Somerset. It would appear as though Hampshire are getting Somerset at a good time this week because for some reason England haven’t released Jack Leach or Craig Overton while Matt Renshaw hasn’t arrived in England yet as he is on Australia duty. Tom Banton, Lewis Gregory and Josh Davey are all either ill or injured too.
Hampshire don’t have any problems. Now that Mohammad Abbas has joined up with the squad the home side have a fully fit squad to choose from. There is pressure on Hampshire after going so close last season and having made some big signings in the winter but they look to have plenty of experience with the bat and in Abbas, Kyle Abbott and Keith Barker they have a wonderful three-prong seam attack. Somerset will improve as personnel become available but Hampshire look the ones to be with here.
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