|2022 LV= County Championship|
|Dates: 7 April – 29 September|
|Coverage: Ball-by-ball commentary of every County Championship match across BBC local radio, BBC Sport website and app with live text commentary on each day’s play.|
The new County Championship season begins on Thursday, with Warwickshire starting the defence of the title they won back in September.
Once again, local BBC radio will be following all the action by providing ball-by-ball commentary of every game, alongside live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.
After starting last season with a revised structure of three groups of six in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, two divisions return this summer, with the 10 teams in Division One and eight in Division Two that were initially planned for 2020.
Each county will play 14 matches, with two counties relegated from Division One and two promoted from Division Two as the end of the campaign.
Here’s how the commentators think the season will pan out for their sides.
Glenn Speller, BBC Essex
Given their recent successes, a Second Division triumph last year was something of a disappointment for Essex as two early losses ultimately cost them a shot at the County Championship title.
The involvement or not of Simon Harmer could be key to their chances of lifting a ninth title. He could well be included in the South Africa team touring England this summer, which would be a significant setback for Essex.
Alastair Cook has signed on for another two years and the promising starts made by Feroze Khushi, Michael Pepper and Josh Rymell bode well for the batting line-up.
The bowling has been strengthened with the addition of Australian paceman Mark Steketee, who was initially named in the Test squad for the recent series in Pakistan before withdrawing as an injury precaution.
Adam Rossington has also arrived on loan for the season from Northamptonshire to add another top-order batting option as well as a possible choice to keep wicket.
Australia T20 international all-rounder Daniel Sams will be over for the T20 Blast having played in the IPL and three of the past four BBL finals with Sydney Thunder.
Essex’s members will expect them to challenge on all three fronts but Harmer’s potential absence could leave a big hole.
Ed Seabourne, BBC Radio Bristol & BBC Radio Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire have methodically ticked off all the items on their winter to-do list ahead of a return to Division One of the County Championship for the first time since 2005.
Graeme van Buuren is freshly appointed as captain, Dale Benkenstein as head coach and Steve Snell as the club’s newly-created performance director.
Excitement for the arrival of Pakistan’s pace prodigy Naseem Shah can only have been heightened by watching him dispatch Steve Smith in both innings of their final Test against Australia.
Left-arm spinner Zafar Gohar, who claimed 17 wickets in his final three innings of 2021, will take over fully after Naseem’s departure for international duty, but will be available season-long should a pitch appear to his liking. Australia opener Marcus Harris has been snapped up to bolster the top order.
Ambitions go well beyond mere survival in Division One and the confidence of eight victories last season in the competition should serve Gloucestershire well for a vital initial run of matches.
Jack Taylor skippers an established T20 side that will be expecting to reach the knockout stages after the heart-breaking denouement of last season’s Blast campaign.
The One-Day Cup won’t be overlooked either, despite its inherent unpredictability.
Kevan James, BBC Radio Solent
Having come within one wicket of winning last year’s County Championship title, Hampshire quite rightly feel they are in with another chance this summer.
Back again are seamers Kyle Abbott and Mohammad Abbas, who amassed nearly 90 Championship wickets between them (and they didn’t play all the matches) and they will be well backed up again by Keith Barker.
But there has also been one or tweaks in personnel.
Lewis McManus, who has made the wicketkeeping position his own recently, has gone out on a one-month loan to Northamptonshire. The new number one is the former Sussex man Ben Brown, who arrived in the winter.
Brown is vastly experienced and, with a batting average of 40, also bolsters that area of Hampshire’s game which has sometimes been a bit lacking.
The county have also strengthened their backroom staff. The highly-rated Graeme Welch has taken over the bowling coach duties from an unlucky Alfonso Thomas, who has departed and since joined Leicestershire.
T20 prospects look good too after a welcome return to Finals Day last summer for the first time since 2017. Aussie Ben McDermott should add more firepower to the batting in that competition too.
In all, it’s mainly the same group of players and back-up staff, but with a couple of changes that should keep up the momentum built from last season.
Matt Cole, BBC Radio Kent
After winning last year’s T20 Blast and – less triumphantly – becoming the first and probably only winners of County Championship Division Three, there’s reason for optimism at Canterbury this year.
Of all their signings, the return of New Zealand seamer Matt Henry for a spell this summer is the one Kent fans most craved. The Kiwi’s 75 wickets in 2018 were a huge part of Kent’s promotion to the top tier of four-day cricket.
The capture of South Africa international all-rounder George Linde for the whole of 2022 looks like a canny bit of business. Kent have been without a front-line spinner for too long and the 30-year-old is more than capable of adding important middle-order runs as well.
Adding former Australia paceman Jackson Bird early-season to a seam attack that already has proper strength in depth bodes well too.
Matt Milnes has improved into a serious threat, Nathan Gilchrist is a real prospect and Darren Stevens continues to be the Gandalf of English cricket – getting more powerful as his hair turns white.
If a top six containing the likes of England opener Zak Crawley and Jordan Cox gets going as well, Kent should be aiming for a top-three finish in the Championship, and having proved themselves once, how about the Spitfires becoming the first team to retain the Blast trophy?
Scott Read, BBC Radio Lancashire & BBC Radio Manchester
Lancashire will start the season with a bowling attack including James Anderson, who is expected to feature heavily in the opening rounds of the County Championship as he aims to regain his place in the England squad.
Pakistan international bowler Hasan Ali has also signed for the opening six rounds of the Championship.
Led by their talismanic captain Dane Vilas, the Red Rose carry a strong staff who will expect to compete across all three competitions.
Last season they finished as County Championship runners-up, the closest they came to being champions since their last title in 2011.
Regular qualifiers for the T20 Blast knock-out stages, anything less would be a surprise this year while they produced an encouraging 50-over campaign with a young squad.
Josh Bohannon enjoyed a stellar 2021 and will be hoping to build on that, while the exciting addition of Phil Salt strengthens their top-order batting in all formats and offers another option with the gloves following the departure of Alex Davies.
Andrew Radd, BBC Radio Northampton
Just when Northamptonshire supporters were reconciling themselves to the 2019 County Championship promotion counting for nothing, another change of format has given the club a fourth crack at Division One.
Admittedly the portents are not encouraging – in 2001, 2004 and 2014 Northamptonshire dropped back down immediately – but the winter signings of New Zealand batsman Will Young and Australian fast bowler Matt Kelly should make them competitive.
New head coach John Sadler caused a few raised eyebrows by replacing Adam Rossington with Ricardo Vasconcelos as red-ball captain barely a fortnight before the start of the campaign. The subsequent loan signing of Hampshire wicketkeeper-batsman Lewis McManus has been followed by Rossington’s departure to Essex on a season-long loan.
In Ben Sanderson and Simon Kerrigan, the county can still boast two of the most-respected bowlers on the circuit, while 41-year-old Gareth Berg should feature again in the red-ball attack along with England Under-19 all-rounder James Sales.
Under David Ripley, Sadler’s predecessor, Northamptonshire claimed two T20 Blast titles but since 2016 have qualified for the knockout stages just once. Left-arm wrist-spinner Freddie Heldreich, one of the finds of 2021, and New Zealand all-rounder Jimmy Neesham could be key men in the quest to improve that record.
Anthony Gibson, BBC Radio Somerset
Yet again the question on the lips of every Somerset cricket supporter will be ‘is this the year when we finally land the County Championship?’.
The ingredients for that elusive success are still there – a clutch of highly-talented young batters, reinforced by the return of Matthew Renshaw from Australia, a highly-experienced seam attack, led by the indefatigable Craig Overton, England’s best spinner in Jack Leach and a captain in Tom Abell who leads by unquenchably enthusiastic example on the field and with the bat.
The overseas recruits have been well chosen. Renshaw contributed three centuries in his short spell with Somerset in 2018, while Peter Siddle can be almost as much a force for good in the team-room as on the field of play.
But questions remain. Can the likes of Tom Lammonby, Tom Banton, Lewis Goldsworthy and George Bartlett convert abundant talent into match-winning results? How much will Lewis Gregory, with his chronic back condition, be able to contribute with the ball? And how will Somerset cope if they lose Overton and Leach to England for the Championship run-in in September?
In white-ball cricket, Somerset will again have no option but to rely on their youngsters in the One-Day Cup, but must surely again be strong contenders in the T20 Blast.
Ones to watch? I’m hopeful we’ll see Lammonby return to his form of 2020, young James Rew is a huge talent, while in white-ball cricket, big-hitting Will Smeed is surely destined for the very top.
Mark Church, BBC Radio London
A new coaching team and a squad that is hungry for various reasons means this will be a fascinating summer for Surrey.
Gareth Batty is the head coach, which is a shrewd appointment after Vikram Solanki understandably took the director of cricket role with the Gujurat Titans in the IPL.
Not many changes in the playing squad means it’s a settled unit and the additions of West Indies seamer Kemar Roach and Australian paceman Dan Worrall adds to the fast bowling unit.
Individually and team-wise, there are points to prove and there is a real focus at the club on improvement, especially in the red-ball stuff.
As long as the late-March/early-April snow stops, this is a season to look forward to.
Richard Wilford, BBC Radio WM
Warwickshire will be determined to make a strong defence of their County Championship title and skipper Will Rhodes has a talented squad at his disposal.
A rejuvenated Dom Sibley will join Rob Yates at the top of the order, both wanting to push for England spots.
Rhodes and Sam Hain will be in contention for the middle-order spots with the highly-promising Chris Benjamin and Dan Mousley, while new signing Alex Davies and Michael Burgess are vying for the gloves.
The arrival of Australian seamer Nathan McAndrew adds some guile to an attack further bolstered by the return to fitness of home-grown Henry Brookes, while Liam Norwell will look to build on an excellent 2021 campaign that caught the eye of the England selectors.
Teenage spin bowling all-rounder Jacob Bethell could also break into the Championship side following an excellent Under-19 World Cup.
The T20 campaign promises much for the Bears, with the richly-entertaining Carlos Brathwaite taking on the captaincy and new boy Davies being joined by Ireland international Paul Stirling at the top of the order.
With Hain arguably the best white-ball batter currently outside the England set-up and a spin attack featuring the guile of Danny Briggs and the left-arm leggies of Jake Lintott, there is cause for suggesting that a return to Finals Day is a realistic target.
Jonathan Doidge, BBC Radio Leeds
With arguably the most turbulent winter in the club’s history behind it, there will be even closer scrutiny on Yorkshire than ever before in 2022.
The club has been rebuilding off the field for some months, not only in its response to being found guilty of institutional racism, but also in terms of some of its administrators and non-playing cricket staff, as well as coaching staff.
For all of that, the one constant at Headingley has been the playing personnel. How they will cope back on the field together, having been through what they have, will be a major test of their mental resolve as much as any on-field technique.
Yorkshire have to approach 2022 with optimism. They have an entirely new coaching staff, headed up by the experienced Ottis Gibson.
They still have some high-class players among their number. The IPL means they will start the season without the batting firepower of Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan.
Whether Joe Root will be available remains to be seen and so much will again fall on the shoulders of Adam Lyth and Gary Ballance, who will miss the start of the season to focus on his mental health.
There will also now be greater expectation on Harry Brook, who has been in and around England during the winter. Brook had a super season in 2021 and supporters will want to see more of that maturing attitude with which he approached the game.
Matthew Fisher has now had a whiff of England honours himself, making his Test debut in Barbados recently. He’ll want to remain in the England set-up’s thoughts by starting the Championship season well with the new ball.
As ever, Ben Coad will spearhead the attack with him, while all-rounder Jordan Thompson continues to blossom, with the ball in particular in the longer format. Off-spinner Dom Bess worked so hard for the team last season and probably didn’t always get the rewards that his accuracy deserved.
The two players with a bit to prove in 2022 would have to be batter Tom Kohler-Cadmore and fast bowler Duanne Olivier. If they return to something close to their best, then Yorkshire can look forward to a very competitive season.
Dave Fletcher, BBC Radio Derby
The arrival of international coach Mickey Arthur has increased interest and expectation at Derbyshire after a difficult few seasons of underachievement.
Arthur wasn’t slow to dip into his vast contacts book to bring in two experienced overseas players to bolster the ranks.
Pakistan opener Shan Masood will be a more than valuable addition to the batting ranks after Derbyshire struggled to score sufficient runs regularly last year.
And the arrival of Sri Lankan Suranga Lakmal, who has recently retired from Test cricket, on a two-year contract will undoubtedly benefit a young and relatively-inexperienced bowling attack.
The loss of last season’s leading run-scorer Matt Critchley – the only Derbyshire man to reach 1,000 Championship runs – to Essex and leading wicket-taker in all formats Fynn Hudson-Prentice, who has returned to his home county of Sussex, will be tough to cover.
But as Arthur has said in the build-up to the campaign, it offers opportunities to others and it is up to them to take it.
As for silverware, Arthur has signed a three-year contract so it might be too much to expect instant results – but it is almost certain to be fun watching the squad develop.
Martin Emmerson, BBC Radio Newcastle
David Bedingham had a cracking season with the bat in 2021 and should hopefully have another.
He was unlucky not to finish as the leading run-scorer in the country and was just pipped to 1,000 Championship runs having led all summer.
He was on the money from game one. Chris Rushworth became the club’s leading wicket-taker in first-class cricket and just continues to produce the goods year-on-year.
He is like a machine and there aren’t many better players with a new ball in their hand. He looks after himself well and is rarely injured.
Durham had a good start in the T20 Blast, then faded alarmingly. That was probably down to the impact of a Covid-19 outbreak in the second-team squad.
They were excellent in the One-Day Cup and scored a boat load of runs, but unfortunately produced their worst performance in the final against Glamorgan.
The young lads who made their debuts in that competition all did well and with a mixture of youth and seasoned-pros not called up to The Hundred, I would fancy them to do well in the competition again.
As for this season’s Championship, I have a feeling they will be among the sides at the top of Division Two.
They had a decent run in their group last year, only losing to Essex in the first 10 games, before the season petered out in September.
South Africa Test batter Keegan Petersen has signed for the first seven games. He was named ICC Test player of the month in January and I would expect him to open.
Cameron Bancroft left Durham towards the end of last season and the two have now parted ways.
While Bancroft had a great first season, which led to an Ashes call-up, 2021 was not the best and no doubt not helped by the disruption caused by Covid-19.
Nick Webb, BBC Radio Wales
Glamorgan go into the new season on the back of a first trophy in 17 years, but the feel-good factor of winning the One-Day Cup won’t hide the need for major improvements elsewhere.
Their early Championship form in 2021 showed it can be done in the four-day format, but consistency is the key after an alarming collapse in form in September.
Meanwhile, they need to find a T20 Blast formula quickly after several unconvincing seasons, especially with the Welsh Fire teams in The Hundred providing a counter-attraction for the casual supporters’ cash.
Leading them out will be all-rounder David Lloyd, who takes over from Chris Cooke in first-class and T20 cricket.
Meanwhile, young gun Kiran Carlson does the honours again in the 50-over format after an impressive captaincy debut.
Glamorgan should again be relatively unscathed by Hundred calls and should put up a decent title defence.
Much will depend overall on the availability of Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne and Michael Neser, whose time in Wales is likely to be curtailed again by international duties, and on how they are replaced when the calls come.
Supporters will be desperately hoping Colin Ingram can rekindle some of his vintage moments in dispatching the white ball far and wide.
Glamorgan will also hope former Kent and Hampshire stalwart Sam Northeast settles well in Cardiff to play a major part in the top-order batting, with Eddie Byrom another contender after joining from Somerset at the tail end of 2021.
Seam-bowling all-rounder James Harris re-joins from Middlesex on a three-year contract and will hope to take over the mantle of the magnificent Michael Hogan, who will bow out in September aged 41 after a distinguished career leading the Welsh attack.
Richard Rae, BBC Radio Leicester
Leicestershire put up a respectably-competitive showing in the toughest Championship ‘group’ last season, and their Division Two opponents should find the Foxes similarly hard to beat this time round.
Whether they have the cutting edge to convert solid draws into victories, however, remains to be seen.
The batting looks promising. While the influential class and calm of Australia Test star Marcus Harris will be missed, Sam Evans (three), Hassan Azad (two), Lewis Hill (three), skipper Colin Ackermann and wicket-keeper Harry Swindells all registered centuries last season, while head coach Paul Nixon believes Rishi Patel has international potential.
Big-hitting youngster Louis Kimber is another exciting prospect, and South Africa Test all-rounder Wiaan Mulder, signed to replace Harris, has five first-class centuries to his name.
Supporters hope to see Mulder impress with the ball too, where he will support the efforts of last year’s leading wicket-takers, experienced seamer Chris Wright (49) and left-arm spinner Callum Parkinson (50).
Another South African overseas signing, left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks, will add variety, and Nixon will hope fierce competition for the remaining seamer slot between the likes of Will Davis, Ed Barnes, Roman Walker, Ben Mike, Tom Scriven and Abi Sakande will ensure a productive return.
Likewise in white-ball cricket, where the return of Naveen ul-Haq, top wicket-taker in the T20 Blast last season, and the signing of explosive batsman Rahmanullah Gurbaz, also an Afghan, should help make the Foxes dangerous opponents, and a decent bet to reach the knock-out stages.
Kevin Hand, BBC Radio London
It’s all change at Middlesex with a different CEO, managing director and head coach replacing the trio that started last season.
Andrew Cornish, Alan Coleman (in a renamed MD role of head of men’s performance cricket) and Richard Johnson are the incumbents charged with turning around a slump that began with the lifting of the 2016 Championship.
The latter two will support the bowlers while Mark Ramprakash has been recruited over the winter as a batting coach in a consultancy role. Stuart Law and his assistant Nic Pothas both departed at the end of the last campaign, while Angus Fraser was moved sideways from the MD role to focus on other matters at the county away from the first and second eleven.
A sustainable future on and off the field is the aim for the new set-up, with financial issues from both Covid-19 and a pensions bungle restricting the county.
Countering that has been the emergence of an extraordinary group of youngsters who have all come through the ranks – and 11 of them had made their debuts in a 14-month period to the end of last season at the age of 25 or younger.
This is very much the future for Middlesex, with 70% of the first-team squad having come through their academy. Whether on-field success will immediately be achieved remains to be seen and much will hinge on their batting.
Australia’s Peter Handscomb was brought in as captain last year to help, but struggled in English conditions, while Mark Stoneman was a late-season recruit from Surrey.
If the batting can find its mojo once again then the ever-impressive bowling line-up, led by the evergreen Tim Murtagh, should help ensure that promotion from Division Two is well within the county’s grasp.
Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Pakistan fast bowler Shaheen Afridi will, as overseas players, give the squad a huge lift in the T20 Blast in particular – another area where Middlesex have struggled to make a big enough impression for some time.
Dave Bracegirdle, BBC Radio Nottingham
After nearly winning the title last year, Nottinghamshire now find themselves thrust back into the wilderness of second division cricket after the counties decided to yank out the plug and reset the Championship to the 2019 finishing positions.
The harshness of that decision won’t have been lost on the prowling pack of lions that is the Nottinghamshire seam attack. Luke Fletcher and Dane Paterson both topped 50 Championship wickets last year and Brett Hutton would have joined them but for injury.
Bolster that unit with the returning Australian paceman James Pattinson, a fully-fit Jake Ball and maybe, just maybe, a Stuart Broad with a point to prove following his omission from England’s tour of the West Indies, and you can imagine there might be some consternation amongst opposition ranks.
Throw in two young superstars-in-the-making, in all-rounders Lyndon James and Joey Evison, and wicket-taking won’t be a problem. Nor should top-order runs be an issue, although it’s unthinkable that the county won’t lose Ben Duckett and Joe Clarke to the international game this summer. Both are now fully-proven performers, in all formats and all conditions. England take note.
Notts won seven of their 14 matches last summer and should be expected to do at least as well this time around to guarantee an instant return to the top flight.
Adrian Harms, BBC Sussex
After a desperately disappointing County Championship campaign last season, things really can only get better for Sussex.
However refreshing the policy of playing young cricketers, the lack of experience within the side was evident on several occasions last season, and Sussex need to address that imbalance if they are to make progress this summer.
Planning for the new campaign has been disrupted by the decision from Australia batter Travis Head to be released from his contract, although Sussex have subsequently moved quickly to secure the experienced services of India Test batter Cheteshwar Pujara (delayed by visa issues from making his debut in the opening round), Australia wicketkeeper-batter Josh Philippe and Tom Alsop on loan from Hampshire.
Supporters will be hoping that newly-appointed skipper Tom Haines can combine the role of captaincy with that of opening the innings, and build on his wonderful form of last summer. To that end, the experience of another new signing, former England paceman Steven Finn, will be invaluable.
Together with the likes of England seamer Ollie Robinson, there should be plenty of support in the field for the 23-year-old skipper.
The appointment of Grant Flower as batting coach will be warmly welcomed at Hove, the lack of top-order runs has been a frustration for several seasons.
But perhaps the most eye-catching and exciting new signing is Mohammed Rizwan, who subject to international commitments with Pakistan, should be available for a large part of the season in both Championship and T20 formats.
Dave Bradley, BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester
Worcestershire head coach Alex Gidman has admitted he is excited about the 2022 season, and confident of success.
He says there is a “buzz” about New Road, with a new skipper and some new faces, not least Azhar Ali, a proven international star with 19 Test hundreds for Pakistan, and three years in county cricket with Somerset.
Dwayne Bravo and Colin Munro are the two new overseas additions for the T20 Blast.
Ed Pollock, strictly a one-day player at Warwickshire, will get his chance in red-ball cricket and youngsters Taylor Cornell (batter) and Ben Gibbon (bowler) have been given a chance after impressing in second XI games.
Jack Haynes will hope to lose the tag of promising youngster with more runs under his belt, and left-arm spinner Josh Baker will get more chances.
Jake Libby was one of the country’s leading run-scorers again last summer, while the last bunch of promising youngsters at New Road are now the nucleus of the team: Ben Cox, Ed Barnard and new skipper Brett D’Oliveira among them.
Of the bowlers, Joe Leach no longer has the responsibility of being skipper, while Dillon Pennington and Adam Finch are others losing the ‘promising youngster’ tag, and Charlie Morris will bowl all day.
Promotion to Division One and a decent run in the white-ball competitions would be the aim.