We asked cricket supporters across the country what their hopes are ahead of the new season
In recent years we have relied too much on local young lads, who have been chucked in at the deep end without adequate support from some of the senior pros. But after a terrible 2016 it’s been a winter of change with Kim Barnett returning as Director of Cricket. The overseas signings of Imran Tahir and Jeevan Mendis are exciting and the squad has also been boosted by Hardus Viljoen, Daryn Smit and Gary Wilson of Ireland. There is hope that a few of the youngsters like Harvey Hosein, Will Davies and Matt Critchley will really push on. There is real hope for a big turn around in fortunes at the County Ground.
I hope we can challenge the big boys for promotion to Division One in the County Championship. In the shorter formats anything will be an improvement on recent years. We are still one of only two counties that haven’t been able to reach a T20 finals day. That has to happen sooner or later...hasn’t it? James Keyworth
To gain promotion from Division Two for Durham is conceivable (Lancashire were promoted with a 54 point margin in2015) but difficult to imagine. The unfair penalty of starting on -48 points is huge. Realistically a third or fourth place is imaginable. I’ve been impressed with the two overseas signings of Stephen Cook and Tom Latham, however our batting still looks creaky. Losing both Scott Borthwick and Mark Stoneman to Surrey is a big blow. Michael Richardson looks out of knick, captain Collingwood is ageing, and Keaton Jennings will be pulled away for England come July. There’s no better time for young Jack Burnham to shine.
Our bowling is impressive on paper but Chris Rushworth was overbowled last season and that can’t happen again. Mark Wood is as good a bowler as any in Division Two, but again England might come knocking in the summer. We are a couple of signings away from a complete squad really. Sean Kennedy
With Essex back in Division One for the first time since 2010, survival this season is the main priority. We have two good overseas signing in Mohammad Amir and Neil Wagner, but the retirement of David Masters will be a real loss. He was a guaranteed wicket taker. Much of the bowling attack is youthful and needs to learn quickly to cope with the increased demands of the top division. But it’s great to be back among the best after too many years away. Maybe Alistair Cook will make a few appearances too! Stewart Goshawk
Glammy being Glammy, we’re perpetually between cycles. When we had a decent set of senior players, the youngsters were awful. Now we’ve got some really exciting youngsters... well, you can guess the rest. That said, the bowling attack looks stronger than it has done for some years, with some sensible investments. The batting does place quite a lot of pressure on “Young Nye” Aneurin Donald though, which is probably unfair on him at this stage of his development.
Promotion to Division One feels a bit ambitious, but even at our lowest points we’ve always competed well in limited overs competitions, and I’d expect us to once again be dreaming of T20 finals day late into the summer before falling just short (again). This is all a bit bleak isn’t it? To even it out I’ll predict that Aneurin Donald will end the season as the country’s top run scorer. Ian Truman
Our best chance of silverware will be in white ball cricket. Having big bash winners Michael Klinger and Andrew Tye in for the T20 blast gives us a real chance for finals day. There’s also potential for a run in the one day cup, if our bowlers can be consistent enough. We may struggle in the County Championship though. Hamish Marshall has returned to New Zealand after ten years, and he’ll be a big loss in the middle order. Others don’t seem to score enough runs. In terms of bowlers in red ball cricket we have a group that has developed for a number of years so hopefully this year could be their breakthrough year. Oliver Lathrope
If it wasn’t for the Durham-in-crisis shaped reprieve, Hampshire’s 2016 would have been a complete write-off. Yet we remain in Division One and, with a core of promising youngsters that last year initiated, there’s real hope that we can stay in the top division on merit this time. The poster-boy of leg-spin Mason Crane has had a good winter, and the likes of Tom Alsop and Brad Wheal will continue to progress. Add in the international experience of overseas captain George Bailey and controversial kolpak duo Rilee Roussouw and Kyle Abbott to compliment the youth, the squad looks promising this year. There’s not a Tino Best in sight!
Reece Topley getting and remaining fit will be key. His partnership with Abbott could be one of the most feared red ball partnerships in county cricket. Michael Carberry’s victory over cancer has provided a feel-good factor over the county and James Vince will be glad to have his white ball destroyer-in-chief back. If the squad can stay together and create some positive momentum, they could surprise one or two. Survival in Division One coupled with a run deep into one of the List A competitions would signal a productive and progressive year for new coach Craig White’s side. Greg Kitchin
Another tilt at promotion is surely the minimum our largely young but talented squad should be capable of. The new coaching set up is interesting with Matt Walker stepping up from being Jimmy Adams’s assistant. The assistant coaching role is now staggered with Jason Gillespie filling in until Allan Donald overcomes some bureaucratic barriers. On the playing side Darren Stevens is still enjoying a prolonged Indian summer. Daniel Bell-Drummond, Matt Coles, Alex Blake and Sam Billings are a solid core of talented players in all forms of the game. Captain Sam Northeast is also maturing nicely in to the role. Both Bell-Drummond and Northeast are surely knocking on the international door - especially if any of England’s top six struggle on the big stage this summer. David Tait
With head coach Ashley Giles leaving for Warwickshire, I would happily take survival in the Division One this season. After a strong start last year we struggled badly but hopefully Glen Chapple will steady the ship as head coach and there is a good group of young players to be excited about. Followers of the Lions will already know of the attacking talents of Liam Livingstone and the pace of Saqib Mahmood, but this year Lancashire will be hoping that wicketkeeper Alex Davies replaces Jos Buttler after a season out with injury. If Rob Jones can cement his place opening the batting, and Daniel Lamb and Matt Parkinson break through in the bowling ranks, Lancashire will be well placed to handle the loss of Haseeb Hameed when he resumes his England Test career. A run in the One Day Cup would also be ideal for building confidence where the team has failed miserably in recent years. Aaran Eccles
At the time of writing we’re losing to Loughborough MCC University in a pre-season fixture. That tells me a lot about how well we’ll do this season. We’ve become a place for county pro’s to go to see out their careers. While we just about got away with building a team other counties’ veteran discards and youngsters last season, I fear that we’ll be found out this time around. The veterans are another year closer to retirement and the youngsters don’t seem to have progressed much in the past twelve months. Richard O’Hagan
Another season as a title-challenging team may rest largely on not losing too many of the strongest players to the international side. Sam Robson, Nick Compton, Eoin Morgan, Steven Finn, Toby Roland Jones and Dawid Malan all need to be available and in form. In New Zealander James Franklin we have found a first-rate captain and Tim Murtagh is surely the most miserly bowler in the Championship. I hope for further consistency from both. Also the further integration of the younger players into the first team would be nice; Stephen Eskinazi and Ollie Rayner are both outstanding talents. DT
I am quietly optimistic that Northants can come away with a shiny pot in 2017. Outsiders will no doubt point to our recent T20 successes, and rightly so especially as all but one of the squad from last term has been retained. Had it not been for Sangakkara holding his nerve in the One Day Cup, the Steelbacks would have been on course for a Lords final and surely the men in pink will put together another solid campaign.
It’s the red ball game that I’m most excited about. Rob Keogh is becoming a solid batsman, Ben Duckett will no doubt score runs for fun, but now the county appear to have the ability to take 20 wickets. That hasn’t always been the case! Richard Gleeson and Ben Sanderson are both excellent finds who will no be backed up by the acquisition of Nathan Buck, while Graeme White is an excellent spin bowler who is finally gaining recognition. I truly believe that the Rose of the Shires can fight on all three fronts. Peter Short
Promotion straight back up to the County Championship top flight is a must. We’re a big club with arguably the best ground in the country and it’s where we should be. Another run to T20 finals day would be welcome too. More specifically it would be great to see the further development of talented young players like Luke Wood, Matt Carter and Ben Kitt. Developing our own local talent is something we’ve not been great at in recent years and we’ve fallen behind other counties in that respect. It would be very pleasing to give club legend Chris Read a fitting send off in his 20th and final season for the club. He is surely our best ever wicketkeeper-batsman and the finest in England during his career. Will Lockwood
Our aim has to be to go one better in Division One and finally bring the champions pendant to Taunton. Beyond that it will be good to continue our progress in 50 over cricket and perform far better in T20. The addition of Steve Davies should help this cause hugely. I’m also looking forward to seeing our talented crop of youngsters continue their development. This will be a huge year for Jack Leach in particular. Batsmen will be more wary of him and his action will come under real scrutiny. I also hope Marcus Trescothick has another vintage year. The time when his name will be missing from the top of the Somerset batting order is somewhere on the horizon, so let’s enjoy every single one of those footwork free cover drives while we can. Nic Fisher
With great signings for both white and red ball cricket, I have high hopes for at least one trophy this season. We surely have he best T20 batting unit in the country. Aaron Finch, Jason Roy, Kevin Pietersen and Kumar Sangakarra gives us plenty of firepower in the shorter formats of the game. The arrivals of Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick from Durham will seriously improve what was sometimes a fragile top order last season in red ball cricket.
Hopefully the young English core of players, particularly the Curran brothers and Ben Foakes, can stake claims for test cricket. With captain Gareth Batty’s relatively unsuccessful Test recall this Winter, one wonders too whether his appetite for captaining the county will be galvanised or whether this could be the beginning of the end for a club legend. Sam
Our main priority this season has to be promotion back to Division One. With the signings made over the winter this should be a realistic expectation. I only hope that the strengthening of the bowling department does not reduce opportunities for our promising young seamers Jofra Archer, Stu Whittingham and George Garton. Sussex should also hope to improve on performances in the shorter formats, especially the T20. Given the proposed changes to the structure of the domestic competition, it’s important for Sussex to prove their value and make a strong case for being involved in any Southern based franchise/regional team. David
Ideally I’d like to think we can push on at the right end of the Division One table this year having flirted dangerously with relegation last year. However an average squad, with no real recruitment doesn’t bode well before the season gets underway. The batting looks weak bar Batting looks weak bar Sam Hain, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott. We can’t rely on the off-spin of Jeetan Patel and all-rounder Keith Barker to bail us out every week. This could potentially be a long season for our ageing squad. Tom Cooper
With two promotion places available again in Division Two, I’d like to think Worcestershire will claim one of them. We can expect good seasons from Joe Clarke and Ben Cox, both part of the MCC team beaten by Middlesex in pre-season. I’m looking forward to seeing how the team fares under new captain Joe Leach. Above all though, I’m hoping for a first appearance at T20 Finals Day. It has to happen eventually! Huw Mabe
Any Yorkshire cricket fan worth their salt will tell you that anything short of a treble, huge commercial success and general global domination is the only thing befitting the Greatest Cricket Club On’t Planet (TM). Those with a little more pragmatism will quite rightly see this year may be one of quiet transition for the White Rose. Jason Gillespie’s mark on the place is indelible, and the mutual debuts of Dizzy’s replacement Andrew Gale and skipper Gary Ballance will clearly be important. Ballance seems to wilt in the pressure cooker of international cricket. Let’s hope the pressure of county captaincy doesn’t get the better of him.
We’re all looking forward to having a close look at Australian batsman Peter Handscomb. His signing has a feel of something special about it. It would also be nice if we could have a special season for Ryan Sidebottom, sending him into retirement after two decades of unbridled quality. A title challenge should still be well within reach in the County Championship, as should continued improvements with the white ball. Alex Miller