County Championship Season Preview – Group 3

By Ronan Alexander

GLAMORGAN

Overseas players: Marnus Labuschagne (Australia), Colin Ingram (South Africa), Michael Neser (Australia), Andrew Balbirnie (Ireland, County Championship)

In: None

Out: Kieran Bull, Connor Brown, Graham Wagg (released), Owen Morgan (Worcestershire), Marchant de Lange (Somerset)

Matthew Maynard’s side have been put in an extremely tough group and could be up against it in Group Three. Last season, Glamorgan ended bottom of the Central Group and in 2019 they just missed out on promotion to Division One, 15 points behind Gloucestershire. Have a decent batting unit including the likes of Marnus Labuschagne, Chris Cooke, Billy Root and keep an eye on 22-year-old Callum Taylor. However, like most sport clubs, they’ve been affected by budget cuts and now have a squad of 17 first-team players. So, any injuries or loss of form could be detrimental by not having a great deal of depth.

Key Player: Dan Douthwaite (24)

Highly rated at Sophia Gardens, all-rounder Douthwaite who impressed last season may know have an even bigger role to play. He was third top run scorer and highest wicket taker for Glamorgan in the 2020 campaign. Following the departures of Marchant de Lange and Graham Wagg, this will increase the output that the Welsh side need from him. However, they’ve shown faith in Douthwaite by recently getting him to sign a new contract keeping him at Glamorgan until 2024.

One to watch: Prem Sisodiya (22)

The slow left armer has impressed in white ball cricket and is looking to transition this form into the four day format and become Glamorgan’s premier spinner across all three formats. Currently has a record of 15 wickets at 24.6 in his short career of four first-class matches. Currently out with a shoulder injury so hasn’t featured in pre-season, therefore, Matthew Maynard will be hoping it doesn’t take him long to get up to full match sharpness once he returns.

Prediction: 6th

KENT

Overseas: Miguel Cummins (West Indies)

In: Nathan Gilchrist (Somerset), Tawanda Muyeye

Out: Calum Haggett (retired), Ivan Thomas (released)

Boast a very well-rounded squad with a solid top seven and reliable bowling attack, but are in a tough group. Have performed well in this format in recent years, fourth in Division One in 2019 and second in last year’s South group and were statistically again the fourth best county overall. Seem to have struck the perfect balance in their squad and are in a good position to have another positive season.

Key Player: Jordan Cox (20)

Well known for his record breaking 238* in a 423-run partnership with Jack Leaning last season against Sussex. Has been promoted to open the batting during pre-season. Hasn’t quite hit his best form, his top score being 36 but with the likes of Zak Crawley and Sam Billings being away on England duty, could present him with an extended position in his new role and continue to kick on at Canterbury.

One to watch: Tawanda Muyeye (20)

Signed a three-year deal last week after being named the Wisden Young Cricketer of the Year. An award previously won by Johnny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, James Taylor and Daniel Bell-Drummond. An attacking batsman who bowls useful off-spin, Muyeye was born in Zimbabwe and a product of Eastbourne College where he was influenced by Kent links through coaches Rob Ferley and James Tredwell. His school record boasts 1,112 runs and two double tons. May need to be patient to wait for his chance but has a bright future ahead of him.

Prediction: 2nd

LANCASHIRE

Overseas: Dane Vilas (South Africa), Jackson Bird (Australia)

In: Jack Blatherwick (Nottinghamshire), Luke Wells (Sussex)

Out: Brooke Guest (Derbyshire), Toby Lester (released), Stephen Parry (released)

Lancashire’s seam attack immediately stands out as one of the best in the competition. Able to rotate with the likes of James Anderson, Jackson Bird, Saqib Mahmood, Tom Bailey, Luke Wood, Liam Hurt, Richard Gleeson and Jack Blatherwick. Ended last year third in the North Group and in 2019 were unbeaten champions of Division Two. Will be in the mix to make it into Division One.

Key Player: Matt Parkinson (24)

Has been well documented that he’s had a tough winter after not featuring in any England matches despite their new rotation policy. Will have a lot of punters willing him on to do well and prove a point to the England selectors. Has a good first-class record, with an average of 25.22 and a career best 6/23. Has an important summer ahead of him.

One to watch: Jack Morley (19)

A slow left armer who will of course be behind Parkinson and Tom Hartley in the pecking order, but Lancs are well known for giving youngsters a go.As proven last year, when Morley made his debut in the Bob Willis Trophy against Derbyshire, taking 1/9 and 4/62, with an economy rate of 1.77. Was given an opportunity in pre-season against Essex, again bowling economically, ending with figures of 1/17 from 13 overs.

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Prediction: 3rd

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

Overseas: Wayne Parnell (South Africa)

In: Tom Taylor (Leicestershire)

Out: Brett Hutton (Nottinghamshire), Blessing Muzarabani, Rob Newton, Tom Sole (released)

A county often underestimated, it would not be surprising to see them play a part in deciding who wins this group, with Northants being a potential banana skin for the sides tipped to make Division One. Were promoted in 2019 after finishing second in Division Two and ended last year fourth in the Central Group. Interesting to see who leads their spin attack, with youngster Saif Zaib (22), competing with Rob Keogh and Simon Kerrigan for the role.

Key Player: Ricardo Vasconcelos (23)

Born in South Africa but holds a Portuguese passport, the wicketkeeper batsman has been one of Northants best performers in the last couple of years. Has already played 38 first-class games by the age of 23. During their promotion season in 2019, he was their second top run scorer with 750 runs at 46.87, including two centuries. Only fellow keeper batsman Adam Rossington had more runs for Northants. Has been in excellent form in pre-season, retiring unbeaten in both innings, making 30 and 71.

One to watch: Emilio Gay (20)

A man made for the longer format according to his former Bedford School Director of Cricket Gary Steer. Predominantly an opening batsman and scored 77* in his final innings of 2020 against Glamorgan. Has batted number five and three in pre-season so is clearly versatile. Known for batting with maturity and composure whilst building long innings.

Prediction: 4th

SUSSEX

Overseas: Travis Head (Australia), Stiaan van Zyl (South Africa)

In: Jamie Atkins (youth), Henry Crocombe (youth), Jack Carson (youth), Sean Hunt

Out: Harry Finch (released), Luke Wells (Lancashire), Danny Briggs (Warwickshire), Will Sheffield (released)

Haven’t been at their best in recent years, finishing last season bottom of the South Group on 12 points. Even without their points deduction, they’d still have the lowest total out of all counties. In 2019 they were mid-table in Division Two and have lost a couple key team members in Danny Briggs and Luke Wells who was surprisingly not offered a new deal. In a bit of a transitional period and have lost coach Jason Gillespie. A lot required from Travis Head and skipper Ben Brown to hold the young batting unit together.

Key Player: Tom Haines (22)

A young opener in fine form during pre-season. 106 against Surrey and 72 versus Hampshire, Haines is in great nick ahead of the new season. Finished last season with 117 at the Kia Oval as well. Only averaging 24.47 at the moment but expect this to be the season where he makes a name for himself and increases that number. Will be tested against some tough attacks in this group.

One to watch: Jack Carson (20)

Has been with the Sussex Academy since the age of 12, and following the departure of Danny Briggs, the 20-year-old can now become Sussex’ first choice spinner. Will also be able to learn from Rashid Khan when he joins up for the T20. Last season he made his debut and collected 15 wickets in his four Bob Willis Trophy matches. Has featured in both pre-season games, grabbing 3/34 against Surrey and 1/47 vs Hampshire.

Prediction: 5th

YORKSHIRE

Overseas: Duanne Olivier (South Africa)

In: Dom Bess (Somerset), Ben Birkhead, George Hill, Dominic Leech, Tom Loten, Josh Sullivan, James Wharton, Matthew Revis, Josh Sullivan, Harry Duke (all youth)

Out: Jared Warner (Gloucestershire), James Logan (released), Ed Barnes (Leicestershire)

The 32-time winners will be aiming to make it into Division One and are boosted by the availability of Joe Root in the opening matches which could be the springboard to their success. They come into the tournament after a good track record in red-ball cricket lately, winning the North Group of the Bob Willis Trophy last year and ending 2019 in fifth place in Division One.

Key Player: Dom Bess (23)

Has formed a good partnership with Jack Leach in an England jersey, but despite taking 17 wickets during the winter, has came under criticism mainly for the number off full tosses he bowled. Has just made the switch from Somerset so this also gives him a fresh start to kick on and prove his doubters wrong. Still only 23 years old which many people could forget. Part of a strong crop of spinners at Headingley, with Jack Shutt and Josh Poysden also in their ranks.

One to watch: Tom Loten (22)

A young opening batsmen competing with Adam Lyth and Tom Kohler Cadmore for a place in the side. Scored 58 on debut in 2019 against Warwickshire, but only has three first class matchs to his name so will be looking to add to that tally this summer. Has had a solid pre-season, making 84 against Leeds/Bradford MCCU, 32* versus Derbyshire as well as 23 against Middlesex, where he batted at number five, meaning he could slot in further down the order if required.

Prediction: 1st

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