County Championship round-three previews

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

Division One

Durham v Middlesex

Ben Stokes is available for Durham’s next two matches (also at Surrey next week). They had also been hoping to have Mark Wood available, but it has been confirmed today that he’s had another ankle operation and will be out until later in the summer.

Both teams have drawn their opening fixture – Durham at home to Somerset, when Keaton Jennings became the third player to score a century in each innings for the county, and Middlesex against Warwickshire at Lord’s, when Sam Robson became the first man ever to score a double-hundred and century in the same match for them.

Early season in the north east will be a stiff test for him, Nick Compton and Durham’s Scott Borthwick, another who has been mentioned as a contender for England batting places. Steven Finn and the Middlesex seamers will hope for more assistance than they found at Lord’s.

Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes is set for a return to action for the first time since England's ICC World Twenty20 final loss


Surrey v Somerset

Zafar Ansari is set to make his first appearance since suffering a horrendous thumb injury – actually three separate injuries – in a Division Two fixture at Lancashire last September, hours after his inclusion in the England squad for Pakistan Tests had been confirmed.

That means Surrey are set to make at least two changes from the team beaten at Notts in their first game back in Division One, as they will also have to replace Sam Curran who is now back at Wellington College finishing his A-levels.

Somerset have added the Overton twins to the team who drew their opening game at Durham the week before last – Craig is available again after serving a two-match suspension, and Jamie has recovered from a calf injury. They have an unbeaten seven-match Championship run against Surrey stretching back to 2006, when Alistair Brown’s second-innings century steered the visitors to a four-wicket victory at Bath.

Zafar Ansari is finally ready to return to playing for Surrey following his nasty thumb injury


Warwickshire v Yorkshire

The Bears could have Chris Woakes and Boyd Rankin back for a heavyweight early-season showdown after both missed their second consecutive draw, against Middlesex at Lord’s – Woakes with a knee injury, and Rankin a side strain.

Yorkshire name the same 13-man squad as for their opener against Hampshire, also a draw, which means no confirmation yet of whether David Willey will make his debut.

Ryan Sidebottom, their other left-arm seam option who completed 1,000 wickets in his county career during the Hampshire match, took 11 wickets in the equivalent match last summer, when the Bears were skittled for 69 in their first innings.

Tim Bresnan will be out for a while longer with his calf injury, and Joe Root is not available until next week’s televised match against Notts at Trent Bridge.

Warwickshire have not won a home game against Yorkshire since 2006 – when Jonathan Trott scored an unbeaten 177 – and have managed a single win in their last 15 meetings, at Headingley in 2011.

Chris Woakes could return to contention for Warwickshire's heavyweight clash with Yorkshire at Edgbaston 

Division Two

Derbyshire v Glamorgan

Hamish Rutherford, the New Zealander whose maiden Championship century frustrated Glamorgan in a drawn match at Chesterfield last summer, will continue as Derbyshire’s captain in place of the injured Billy Godleman in the first match of the season at the 3aaa County Ground in Derby.

Glamorgan will again be missing Colin Ingram, the South African who was absent from their opening defeat by Leicestershire with a knee injury. Harry Podmore, a seamer on loan from Middlesex, and homegrown off-spinner Andrew Salter could come into their squad. 

Essex v Northamptonshire

Essex are the early pacesetters, and have Alastair Cook aiming to make it three centuries in three consecutive Championship matches. The England Test captain has an excellent record against Northants, having scored four previous tons against them.

Northants have not won at Chelmsford since 1998, when their wickets were shared between Graeme Swann, Paul Taylor and Devon Malcolm. They made a promising start in their opening fixture against Sussex the week before last only to be frustrated by rain. Former England Under-19s wicketkeeper batsman Ben Duckett was left marooned on an unbeaten 282 – the highest score by a Northamptonshire player since a triple century by Chris Rogers in 2006.

Northants are still missing the four players who were ruled out then by injury – Rob Keogh, Steven Crook, Olly Stone and Rob Newton – and Monty Panesar is in the early stages of his return following shoulder surgery, so won’t be considered to face his former county.

The teams drew at Chelmsford in September in Chris Silverwood’s first game after taking temporary charge of Essex following the departure of Paul Grayson, a position that was made permanent over the winter. 

Gloucestershire v Worcestershire

Moeen Ali joins the Worcestershire squad for the first time this season, after missing their opening washout against Kent at New Road. He replaces Alexei Kervezee in an otherwise unchanged 12, with New Zealand bowler Matt Henry set to make a belated debut.

Gloucestershire could give a debut to Graeme van Buuren, a South African all-rounder who qualifies as a non-overseas signing through his British wife. Craig Miles and Will Tavare are still out, and Benny Howell and captain Gareth Roderick will have fitness tests on a stiff back and a finger injury respectively. 

Leicestershire v Kent

Leicestershire, wooden spoonists in each of the last three seasons, are buzzing after winning their first game of the season at Glamorgan, and have made the first day of the match at the renamed Fischer County Ground an Open Day, with free admission. Ned Eckersley is still missing with a finger injury.

Kent have yet to get started, after their opening match at Worcester was completely washed out, and they sat out the second round of fixtures. Joe Denly will have a fitness test on a side strain but New Zealand opener Tom Latham does not arrive until Monday – he is set to make his debut in their first home game against Glamorgan on Sunday week.

They won comfortably at Grace Road last year, when Matt Coles took a total of 10 wickets and Darren Stevens scored the only half-century of a low-scoring match.  

Source: ECB

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