County Championship round-one previews

The first round of Specsavers County Championship fixtures start on Sunday, with three matches in Division One and three in Division Two. Here, takes a look at the team news.   

Division One

Durham v Somerset

Chris Rogers will make his debut for his fifth English county at the renamed Emirates Riverside, as captain, having been appointed to replace Marcus Trescothick during the winter. However Trescothick is batting on for a 24th season, after turning 40 last December.

“These are exciting times for Somerset,” said Matthew Maynard, ahead of his second season as director of cricket. “Chris Rogers has been with us for a few weeks now and is already making his presence felt.”

Rogers could be joined by three other debutants as Roelof van der Merwe, a spinning all-rounder who has represented both Netherlands and his native South Africa, has also been included in the squad with two England Under-19 internationals – Ben Green, a seam bowling all-rounder from Devon, and former Kent wicketkeeper Ryan Davies.

Both the Overton twins are missing – Craig completing a suspension imposed late last season, and Jamie after suffering a minor calf injury in training.

Durham will be without both of their England stars as Ben Stokes is taking a post-World T20 break and Mark Wood has had to delay his comeback after ankle surgery. Wood now hopes to play in a three-day match against Scotland next week to prove his fitness for Durham’s next Championship match against Middlesex, when Stokes is also due to return.

They are also set to include an England Under-19 star in Jack Burnham, who made a major impact in the World Cup in Bangladesh earlier this year, and Paul Collingwood has returned from his England coaching duties to resume the captaincy.

Former Australia international Chris Rogers will skipper Somerset in the Specsavers County Championship


Hampshire v Warwickshire

After being appointed club captain during the winter, Ian Bell will lead a strong Bears team also including Jonathan Trott and Chris Woakes. Bell will have a first chance to press his claims for an England recall in direct opposition to another of the candidates for a batting place in the Investec Tests against Sri Lanka and Pakistan later this summer, James Vince, who will be starting his first full season as Hampshire’s club captain after replacing Jimmy Adams midway through last summer.

Vince and Liam Dawson are keen to get back into action after making only one appearance between them in England’s World T20 campaign but Reece Topley, Hampshire’s third member of that squad after his close-season move from Essex, may delay his debut until next week’s trip to Yorkshire.

Nottinghamshire v Surrey

Jason Roy is set to go straight into red-ball action after his starring white-ball role in England’s T20 campaign as Surrey return to Division One at Trent Bridge after a two-year absence. He is joined in an intriguing Surrey squad by Kumar Sangakkara, starting his second season as their overseas player, and both of the Curran brothers – with Sam, still only 17, available to play alongside 21-year-old Tom for one match only as it is the Easter holidays before he returns to Wellington College to complete his A-levels.

Zafar Ansari, Stuart Meaker and Jade Dernbach are all unavailable because of injuries but Mark Footitt, their winter signing from Derbyshire who toured South Africa with England in the winter, is also set to make his debut against his first county.

Notts are set to hand a debut to Jackson Bird, the Australian seamer who was signed to replace the injured Peter Siddle, but will be without Stuart Broad, James Taylor and Alex Hales. Broad is set to play against Lancashire next week and Hales will take a break until their third game of the season against Yorkshire starting on May 1. 


Division Two

Essex v Gloucestershire

Alastair Cook has been made available for the first four matches of the season, a major boost for Essex as they aim to end a long stay in the second tier – although the promotion battle promises to be tougher than ever this season with only one county going up.

There have been huge changes at Chelmsford over the winter with Chris Silverwood taking over as coach, and James Foster replaced as captain by Ryan ten Doeschate in four-day cricket, with Ravi Bopara taking charge in the two limited-overs competitions and Tom Westley vice-captain in all forms.

Gloucestershire had an encouraging season in 2015 following the appointment of Richard Dawson as head coach, winning the Royal London One-Day Cup with a memorable victory over Surrey in September. They also had an excellent win at Chelmsford, their first in the Championship since 1930, with Liam Norwell taking 10 wickets in the match.

Their Aussie run machine Michael Klinger does not return until mid-May and left-arm seamer David Payne is doubtful because of a gashed finger. But Gloucestershire have three new signings available in seamers Josh Shaw, on a season-long loan from Yorkshire, and former Sussex left-armer Chris Liddle, plus Cameron Bancroft, an Australian recommended to them by Klinger.

England Test skipper Alastair Cook is available to play Essex's first four Specsavers County Championship fixtures 

Northamptonshire v Sussex

Sussex have a new captain in Luke Wright, and former spinner Mark Davis has taken over as head coach, as they aim to bounce straight back to Division One after defeat in their last match of 2015 at Yorkshire condemned them to relegation. They are set to hand debuts to New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor and Danny Briggs, the left-arm spinner who has joined them from Hampshire, although Chris Jordan will not play until May after returning from the World T20 with a slight elbow problem.

Northants have made off-season headlines by offering Monty Panesar an opportunity to rebuild his career at the club where it started, but he was never in contention for this opening fixture having only recently recovered from a shoulder operation. Steven Crook, Rob Newton and Rob Keogh are also ruled out by injury, but the South African pair of Rory Kleinveldt and Richard Levi have arrived for a second season.

Ex-England spinner Monty Panesar has returned to county cricket with first club Northamptonshire


Worcestershire v Kent

Matt Henry is set to make his debut for Worcestershire as they aim to bounce back from last season’s relegation, but his New Zealand team-mate Tom Latham has not yet arrived to join Kent – whose eyecatching South African signing Kagiso Rabada is not due until late June.

They will hand a Championship debut to Adam Rouse, a 23-year-old wicketkeeper who is set for a long run in the team with Sam Billings playing in the Indian Premier League.

Worcestershire will also be missing an England man, with Moeen Ali’s county return delayed until their second fixture at Gloucestershire.

Source: ECB

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