2009 County Championship Division One preview
Next week sees the start of the 2009 English Domestic cricket season, as a prelude to a big summer for English cricket our cricket trader Rob Dixon looks at the County Championship Division One teams to see who could be challenging for domestic honours come September time.
It was a rags to riches story in Division One last year with Durham who in only their 16th First class county season won their first championship and they start this year as 4/1 favourites to reclaim their crown.
The north east county relied heavily on the enigmatic Steve Harmison who weighed in with 61 wickets last year and his performances earned him an England recall for the final Test last year. However after a winter of frustration, Harmison finds himself back with something to prove and that could spell trouble for Durham's rivals as he hopes to recapture form before the Ashes. The main core of their side have remained at the club and Durham will look for runs from Michael Di Venuto, Dale Benkenstein and new captain Will Smith.
Durham's closest rivals are likely to be Nottinghamshire (9/2), they were the hard luck story of last year, after going into the final day of the season as leaders only to be pipped to the title after a defeat against Hampshire coupled with Durham's win at Kent. Again they have kept the majority of the side, though they might fall short if England come calling with bowlers Sidebottom, Broad and Patel all expected to gain international recognition during the summer
Somerset (6/1) ended last season strongly and Justin Langer's decision to play all year at Taunton and not take up another year in the Indian Premier League can only help the Cidermen. Losing Ian Blackwell to Durham will be a big loss however they do have a good set of young players learning from the evergreen Andy Caddick and the future looks bright.
Ex-England coach Peter Moores returns to county cricket in 2009 with Lancashire (7/1). With a new coach and new captain at the helm, it is expected that it might take the red rose a bit of time to hit the ground running, I expect them to challenge in one-day cricket this year, however the county championship might be one step too far.
Across the Pennines and all eyes at Headingley will be on Michael Vaughan as he attempts an regain an England place for this summer's Ashes. A lot will depend on the talent of Adil Rashid as well as the new ball partnership of Matthew Hoggard and Rana Naved-ul Hasan. Yorkshire (8/1) will also need more regular contributions from youngsters like Joe Sayers and Richard Pyrah.
The expected loss of Imran Tahir who single handedly transformed Hampshire's season last year will be felt strongly down at the Rose Bowl, but Dominic Cork has joined the club from Lancashire with a point to prove. However, I can't see anything better than mid-table at best for them this year.
Sussex (8/1) begin a season without ex-captain Chris Adams and talisman Mushtaq Ahmed. They have recruited well with the signing from Middlesex of Ed Joyce but new captain Michael Yardy will have to perform well with the bat to stop the club being involved in a relegation scrap.
The two promoted clubs will also have their work cut out to stay in the top flight, both Worcestershire (10/1) and Warwickshire (8/1). The former will start a season without Graeme Hick for the first time in 24 years. Overseas signing Ashley Noffke will be a handful in English conditions if he can stay injury free.
Warwickshire will be hoping to stay up after their promotion last season. Player to watch out for here is seamer Chris Woakes who recently was called up to the England squad for the Twenty20 World Cup. As with Michael Vaughan eyes will surely be on Ian Bell as he attempts to gain his England place back.
William Hill are also offering prices on Top Batsman and Top Bowler for each division this year, Marcus Trescothick is a worthy 11/4 favourite but my vote goes to Stephen Moore who scored over 1400 runs last year and is worth a punt at 12/1.
Durham - County Championship Division One - 4/1
Stephen Moore - Top Division One Batsman - 12/1