The opening rounds of the Specsavers County Championship will not be short of star quality with all the England players set to return to red-ball action – and in many cases to battle for their place in the first Investec Test of the 2016 summer.
England’s Test captain Alastair Cook will lead the way, having been made available to play in the first four fixtures of the season for Essex – starting with their home match against Gloucestershire next Sunday.
The opening round of fixtures will also feature Mark Wood’s return to action in Durham’s Division One match against Somerset at the renamed Emirates Riverside. Wood is set to be joined in the Durham team by Ben Stokes for their subsequent fixtures against Middlesex and Surrey.
James Vince and Liam Dawson, two members of England’s squad for the ICC World T20, have been cleared to play in Hampshire’s intriguing season opener at the Ageas Bowl against a Warwickshire team led by Ian Bell and also including Chris Woakes.
No final decision has yet been made on the availability of Reece Topley, who joined Hampshire from Essex at the end of last season. If he does not face the Bears, Topley will make his debut in Hampshire’s second fixture on Sunday week at Headingley – against a Yorkshire team for whom Adil Rashid, another of England’s T20 stars, will be available, as well as Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance. Liam Plunkett and David Willey are also available to play whenever Yorkshire decide they are ready.
Joe Root will take a break after another demanding winter in all forms of the game, but the England management have made him available for Yorkshire’s fixtures against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge starting on May 1, and at home to Surrey the following week.
Root will inevitably go head to head with England team-mates in both of those games. Jason Roy has been made available to play for Surrey from the start of the season, as has Mark Footitt, their winter signing from Derbyshire.
James Taylor and Samit Patel are also available to start the season for Nottinghamshire against Surrey at Trent Bridge on Sunday. Stuart Broad’s first appearance will be delayed until an intriguing match against newly-promoted Lancashire at Emirates Old Trafford the following week – in which he is set to go head to head with Jimmy Anderson, his England new-ball partner who has been made available for Lancashire’s first three fixtures back in Division One against Notts, Somerset and Hampshire.
Alex Hales is to take a slightly longer break after a hard winter, but like Root he will be available for the Nottinghamshire-Yorkshire game.
Steven Finn and Nick Compton are available to start the season with Middlesex, who face Warwickshire at Lord’s from April 17, and Moeen Ali has been cleared to make three Division Two appearances for Worcestershire after missing their opening fixture against Kent.
Chris Jordan will delay his return for Sussex until May 1 to have treatment on his right elbow.
It’s Been awesome to experience a World Cup. Something I will never forget. Huge season ahead for @hantscricket can’t wait to get back.
— liam dawson (@daws128) April 4, 2016
England player availability for the start of the domestic season:
Moeen Ali – available for Worcestershire’s second, third and fourth Specsavers County Championship fixtures.
James Anderson – available for Lancashire’s first three fixtures.
Jonny Bairstow – available for Yorkshire from the start of the season.
Gary Ballance – available for Yorkshire from the start of the season.
Stuart Broad – available for Nottinghamshire’s second Specsavers County Championship match against Lancashire.
Nick Compton – available for Middlesex from the start of the season.
Alastair Cook – available for Essex’s first four matches.
Liam Dawson – available for Hampshire from the start of the season.
Steven Finn – available for Middlesex from the start of the season.
Mark Footitt – available for Surrey from the start of the season.
Alex Hales – available for Nottinghamshire’s Specsavers County Championship match against Yorkshire.
Chris Jordan – available for Sussex from the start of May.
Samit Patel – available for Nottinghamshire from the start of the season.
Liam Plunkett – available for Yorkshire from the start of the season.
Adil Rashid – available for Yorkshire from the start of the season.
Joe Root – available for Yorkshire’s Specsavers County Championship matches against Nottinghamshire and Surrey.
Jason Roy – available for Surrey from the start of the season.
Ben Stokes – available for Durham’s Specsavers County Championship matches against Middlesex and Surrey.
James Taylor – available for Nottinghamsshire form the start of the season.
Reece Topley – may be available for Hampshire’s opener against Warwickshire. Available for second Specsavers County Championship match at Yorkshire.
David Willey – available for Yorkshire from the start of the season.
Chris Woakes – available for Warwickshire from the start of the season.
Mark Wood – available for Durham from the start of the season.
James Vince – available for Hampshire from the start of the season.