Kent set to kick off new season
Kent set to kick off new season

The cricket season is once again upon us this week as Kent look to kick off their new campaign in style with victory at Northamptonshire.

As the weather turns more wintery and the players having endured three warm-up games (literally), Kent know they will be in for a stern test once again, starting their campaign once again behind closed doors.

The revised format for this season sees Kent in Group 3 and we look at the teams in detail.

GROUP 3

GLAMORGAN

Coach: Matthew Maynard

Captain: Chris Cooke

2020 Leading Runscorer: Chris Cooke (294, 32.66)

2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Dan Douthwaite (14, 33.78)

Overseas Players: Andy Balbirne (Ireland – April); Marnus Labuschagne (Australia – May until end of season), Michael Neser (Australia – May until end of season).

Key man: Marnus Labuschagne – The Australian brings his unorthodox style back to Glamorgan where his ascent to one of the world’s most prolific batsman gathered pace two summers ago.

Flies under the radar: Dan Douthwaite – The 24-year-old was Glamorgan’s leading wicket-taker in the Bob Willis Trophy and with veteran all-rounder Graham Wagg leaving the club he has the opportunity and potential to make another step forward in his career.

Best Play Under 24: Callum Taylor – Confirmed his promise with a debut first-class century against Northants last summer. Born in Newport, although he grew up in Queensland, he bowls handy off-spin to mark him as a talent to watch.

The Season Ahead: The group-stage format has ensured Glamorgan start the summer with the opportunity to win the County Championship title for the first time in 15 years.

They have, however, been handed a tough group in which every other county, aside from Sussex, would have been in Division One but for the pandemic.

The delayed arrival Marnus Labuschagne and Michael Neser is not ideal, but when they do arrive Glamorgan have a strong argument for the best international signings in the County Championship.

The cornerstone of their ambition will be in the likes of David Lloyd, who returns to the top of the order after an injury-riddled 2020. Lloyd adds stability to a batting order that struggled for first-innings runs last term and will lean on the consistency of Chris Cooke, Billy Root and Nick Selman in addition to the star dust of Labuschagne.

Seamer Michael Hogan will turn 40 this year but has shown in the pre-season he remains a threat in an attack that will be without Marchant de Lange (Somerset) and Graham Wagg (Shropshire).

KENT

Coach: Matthew Walker

Captain: Sam Billings

Last Year’s Performance: Fourth (South Group)

2020 Leading Runscorer: Jordan Cox (324, 53.02)

2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Darren Stevens (29, 15.58)

Overseas players: Heino Kuhn (South Africa – full season), Miguel Cummins (West Indies – 8 April-6 June)

Key man: Daniel Bell-Drummond – Billings’ limited availability means the vice-captain could be in charge for much of the campaign. Scored heavily in pre-season and the extra responsibility may be the making of him.

Flies under the radar: Darren Stevens – When he makes the news it’s invariably for his age, but Stevens, who’ll be 45 on 30 April, has been surprising batsmen since 1997 and carried the attack last year.

Best Player Under 24: Jordan Cox – The Margate-born wicketkeeper-batsman is arguably the pick of an emerging crop, finishing as leading run scorer in red-ball cricket, thanks largely to an unbeaten 238 against Sussex.

The Season Ahead: Walker is buoyant, believing he has a glut of “hungry” young players, all desperate to play for England and equally desperate to win silverware for Kent into the bargain. “This is the best squad we’ve had for a very, very long time,” he said. “I’m very, very excited for this group. The challenge is to go on and win something and they genuinely believe they can do it.”

If there’s a weakness it could be in the bowling department, which relied heavily on Stevens last year, but the squad has depth, particularly at wicketkeeper, a fact perhaps not lost on Director of Cricket Paul Downton, whose own Kent career was stymied by the presence of Alan Knott. The revised LV= Insurance County Championship format could work in their favour.

LANCASHIRE

Coach: Glen Chapple 

Captain: Dane Vilas 

Last year’s performance: Third (North Group)

2020 leading run-scorer: Alex Davies (337, ave 48.14)

2020 leading wicket-taker: Tom Bailey (13, ave 21.69)

Overseas players: Dane Vilas (South Africa – full season), Jackson Bird (Australia – six Championship matches from April 22)

Key man: Saqib Mahmood – Fast bowler with devastating pace and skill, injury has stunted his development. But a full summer of cricket could see him guide Lancashire to silverware and maybe even secure Ashes and T20 World Cup selection.

Flies under the radar: Rob Jones – Home-grown former England Under 19s batsman who has two hundreds in 30 first-class matches. A crucial part of the Red Rose’s middle order, Jones is infectiously enthusiastic. 

Best player under 24: Josh Bohannon – Batting all-rounder, 23, elevated to number three in four-day cricket in late 2019, scoring one career hundred. A touch of class mixed with fierce determination. 

The season ahead: Pre-Coronavirus, Lancashire were confident of mounting a Championship title challenge in 2020 having only just been promoted. Injury and unavailability wrecked those chances, however, when things finally did get underway and they never threatened the Bob Willis Trophy title. But, with cricketing life seemingly more settled now, that confidence has returned. They will start the summer as favourites to qualify out of Group 3 alongside Roses rivals Yorkshire. If the Red Rose batting can click, including new signing Luke Wells from Sussex, they should live up to that tag given the obvious seam bowling strength led by Saqib Mahmood, Jackson Bird, Tom Bailey and Jimmy Anderson at stages as he builds up to England’s opening Test against New Zealand in early June.

NORTHANTS

Coach: David Ripley

Captain: Adam Rossington

Last Year’s Performance: Fourth (Central Group)

2020 Leading Runscorer: Charlie Thurston (357, 44.62)

2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Curtley-Jack White (13, 20.00)

Overseas Player: Wayne Parnell (South Africa – full season)

Key Man: Ben Sanderson – The Sheffield-born paceman remains the spearhead of the Steelbacks’ seam attack. His 244 first-class wickets at less than 20 underline his skills which constantly put opponents under pressure.

Flies under the radar: Curtley-Jack White – White emerged from an injury-plagued 2019 to take 13 wickets in last year’s Bob Willis Trophy, suggesting he might not be under the radar for much longer.

Best Player Under 24: Emilio Gay – The 20-year-old opener endured a tough Bob Willis Trophy campaign last season, but a match-winning 77 not out against Glamorgan signalled the potential of this academy graduate.

The Season Ahead: Thanks to Ben Sanderson and Curtley-Jack White in particular, Northants look well placed to bowl sides out, all the more so now South African international all-rounder Wayne Parnell has been recruited to complement the seam bowling department.

In what looks a tough LV= Insurance County Championship group boasting northern powerhouses Lancashire and Yorkshire the challenge for Adam Rossington’s side will be making sufficient runs. In last season’s Bob Willis Trophy, they only passed 300 once in the first innings in the only game they won against Glamorgan, thanks to the talented Charlie Thurston’s century.

Thurston aside, Northants will need Rossington to regain his red-ball form of 2019 and significant contributions from Ricardo Vasconcelos, Ben Curran, Emilio Gay and others if  they are to seize the initiative in games rather than playing catch up.

SUSSEX

Coach: Ian Salisbury

Captain: Ben Brown

Last Year’s Performance: Sixth (South Group)

2020 Leading Run Scorer: Phil Salt (290, 36.25)

2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Jack Carson (15, 22.66)

Overseas players: Travis Head (Australia from end of April), Stiaan van Zyl.

Key man: Ollie Robinson – One of the most skilful bowlers on the circuit, he has taken 166 wickets at 17.74 since 2018. At 27, he is coming into his prime and a Test debut surely awaits if he maintains his consistency.

Flies under the radar: George Garton – Having overcome injury problems, Garton showed his all-round skills in 2020 as a threatening left-arm quick and accomplished middle-order batsman. If he stays fit he will play a big part this season.

Best Player Under 24: Jack Carson – The 20-year-old Irish off-spinner broke through in 2020 when he was Sussex’s leading wicket-taker. He spins the ball hard on all surfaces, is learning quickly and has a combative attitude.

The Season Ahead: With a new head coach in Ian Salisbury and some highly regarded young players emerging from the academy, there is a fresh feel at Hove. Skipper Ben Brown feels there is a good blend of young talent like Jack Carson and players such as Phil Salt and Ollie Robinson who have become consistent performers. “The young lads are pushing for places on merit which drives standards across the squad,” said Brown. “Ian Salisbury is very clear about the strategy and the exciting thing for me is that we have a lot in common on how we move forward.” It might be too much to expect a county in the throes of rebuilding to challenge for the title, but Sussex could be an outside bet for a top-two finish in Group Three.

YORKSHIRE

Coach: Andrew Gale 

Captain: Steve Patterson 

Last year’s performance: First (North Group)

2020 leading run-scorer: Dawid Malan (332, ave 66.4)

2020 leading wicket-taker: Jordan Thompson (15, ave 16.4) 

Overseas players: Duanne Olivier (South Africa – full season), Mathew Pillans (South Africa – full season)

Key man: Ben Coad – New ball seamer who has a bit of “genius” about him, according to Andrew Gale. If he can stay fit throughout 2021, Yorkshire will have no problems taking 20 wickets. 

Flies under the radar: Jonny Tattersall – Impressive rise from non-keeper to first choice gloveman in three years. Scores important middle order runs, but will be hoping to post his maiden hundred against county opposition this summer.

Best player under 24: Harry Brook – Pips a host of contenders, including new signing Dom Bess. A batsman, aged 22, with all the shots who is starting to string telling performances together. 

The season ahead: Yorkshire are convinced this is their year for silverware, and not just in the LV= Insurance County Championship. Since going close to three successive four-day titles, four years of transition ensued. But their younger plays are starting to show consistency, highlighted by last year’s top-placed finish in the Bob Willis North Group.

Chief executive Mark Arthur recently told the club’s members, at their online AGM, that he believes this is the strongest White Rose squad assembled in his nine years at Emerald Headingley.

In that time, the county won back-to-back Championship titles in 2014 and 2015. They would seem to have all bases covered and are boosted by the return of linchpin batsman Gary Ballance, who missed the whole of 2020 through illness. His availability, alongside that of Joe Root for at least the opening two games, offsets the loss of Dawid Malan to IPL duty.

TAGS:  

 
Seo