Specsavers County Championship Preview May 11: Division One and Two

Cricket
James Anderson modelling his new hairstyle
James Anderson modelling his new hairstyle

Richard Mann previews the latest round of action from the Specsavers County Championship which gets under way on Friday May 11.

Division One

Nottinghamshire v Lancashire

Nottinghamshire have made a terrific start to their return to the top tier of county cricket, three wins and a draw from their opening four games helping them to the top of the table. Having lost a number of senior players over the winter, there were understandable question marks about how Nottinghamshire would plug those gaps but a strong seam attack - led by Jake Ball - has been in full working order and continues to be one of the most potent in English cricket. Lancashire have struggled to get going, losing three times already, but they enjoyed the better of a draw against Somerset last week and James Anderson is expected to turn out again as he builds up his preparations for the upcoming Test Series against Pakistan. Sky Bet odds: Nottinghamshire 4/6 v Lancashire 6/5

Somerset v Hampshire

Somerset endured a few anxious moments when battling to a draw against Lancashire last week but have started the season well, recording victories over Worcestershire and Yorkshire. They will be without the services of the injured Marcus Trescothick for some time now but will be hopeful of resuming winning ways against a Hampshire side that have yet to really click so far this year. Hampshire began well by thrashing Worcestershire but were defeated by Surrey in the next round and were then readily outplayed by Nottinghamshire recently. As ever, James Vince has looked in good nick, but he has yet to produce a really big score and will know the likes of himself, Hashim Amla and Sam Northeast need to make hay this week on generally glorious Taunton batting pitch. Sky Bet odds: Somerset 8/11 v Hampshire 11/10

James Vince in action for Hampshire
James Vince in action for Hampshire

Surrey v Yorkshire

Surrey have made a solid start to their campaign, a couple of draws and a convincing victory over Hampshire helping them sit in a mid-table position after three matches. New skipper Rory Burns appears to be settling into the captaincy well while Scott Borthwick and Ollie Pope have been amongst the runs. Yorkshire remain a side in transition following the retirement of Andrew Gale and Ryan Sidebottom but after a disappointing loss to Somerset, the White Rose pulled off a remarkable victory against Essex having been bowled out for only 50 on day one. Ben Coad is developing into a terrific opening bowler while Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow will again bolster a strong batting line up that includes Gary Ballance and Cheteshwar Pujara. Sky Bet odds: Surrey 1/1 v Yorkshire 4/5

Worcestershire v Essex

Worcestershire enjoyed a fairytale 2017 season, culminating in them winning the Division Two title in the final round of matches. Division One has proved a much tougher school, however, and three defeats from four games leaves them rooted to the bottom of the table. The exciting Joe Clarke has started brightly but no batsman is averaging over 40 and they need to make bigger runs if they are to compete. Current Division One champions Essex will still be reeling from last week's defeat by Yorkshire but their classy bowling attack should see them through this week. Sky Bet odds: Worcestershire 13/8 v Essex 1/2

Alastair Cook has been made available for Essex
Alastair Cook has been made available for Essex

Division Two

Derbyshire v Durham

Durham bounced back from an early loss when pulling off a remarkable victory against Leicestershire last week having trailed badly after the first innings. That win summed up the remarkable resilience of a club that has had it tougher than most in recent years but news that England paceman Mark Wood will be available for this game will give Durham a further boost. Derbyshire will be no pushovers, though, and although losing at Warwickshire most recently, they earned a terrific win over Middlesex earlier in the season and can boast a batting line up containing plenty of in-form performers. Sky Bet odds: Derbyshire 4/5 v Durham 1/1

Kent v Sussex

Jason Gillespie would appear to have made an immediate impact at Sussex and they sit in second spot in the table having picked up three draws and a win so far. Their strong batting would suggest they are going to be hard to beat all season and a recent three-wicket defeat of Middlesex saw them chase down a tricky 232. Ollie Robinson and David Wiese have started well with the ball and Kent, who have won two of their three games so far, will have to work very hard if they are to continue their strong start to the campaign. New Zealand quick Matt Henry has been the star performer for them so far, picking up 27 wickets, and this one could be a cracker. Sky Bet odds: Kent 1/1 v Sussex 4/5

Leicestershire v Glamorgan

Leicestershire are one of only two teams in the division yet to register a win this season. That looked set to change when dominating the early stages of their match with Durham last week but they endeavoured to lose that game and will need to bounce back quickly. Glamorgan, on the other hand, beat Gloucestershire in their opening game and fought hard against Kent last week having been up against it when bowled out for 94 on day one. Sky Bet odds: Leicestershire 10/11 v Glamorgan 10/11

Middlesex v Gloucestershire

Middlesex were expected to make a swift return to Division One having been relegated last summer, only a year after being crowned county champions. They made their early intentions clear with a thumping defeat of Northamptonshire but defeats to Derbyshire and Sussex subsequently, as well as the loss of Toby Roland-Jones through injury, has dented their promotion hopes. Gloucestershire also opened their campaign with victory, this time over Kent, but they have found the going tougher since and their batting remains very light on runs. Sky Bet odds: Middlesex 8/15 v Gloucestershire 6/4

Warwickshire v Northamptonshire

Any team housing the likes of Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Jeetan Patel is always one to fear and it was a major surprise to see Warwickshire relegated last year. However, they have started life in Division Two very well and two wins from three games hints that a quick return to Division One could be on the cards. In Northamptonshire, they face a side lacking confidence and results and two losses from their opening three games suggests the trip to Birmingham could be a tough one. Sky Bet odds: Warwickshire 1/2 v Northamptonshire 13/8

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