Spring may only have just sprung and we’re not quite at Easter yet, but such is the ever-expanding nature of the cricket calendar, the County Championship starts later this week with six games getting underway on Friday morning. Ahead of the start of the new season, we’ve taken a look at one player from each county who you should look out for, whether that be because they could find themselves in international contention, or because, quite simply, they’re great to watch.
Division One - Essex - Tom Westley
Ahead of an Ashes series, England seemingly have no idea who will be batting at places one, two and three. Tom Westley got a crack at international cricket against South Africa and the West Indies but he never quite delivered. However, if he starts the new season well, he could easily earn a recall.
Division One - Hampshire - Kyle Abbott
Bowler Kyle Abbott turned his back on an international career with South Africa to sign a deal to play for Hampshire. He’s certainly an international calibre player and it’ll be great for Hampshire fans to see him steaming in down at the Ageas Bowl.
Division One - Kent - Joe Denly
Aged 33, Joe Denly was given his first taste of Test cricket in the West Indies and he did pretty well without being spectacular. If he starts the season well, there’s a great chance he’s playing Ashes cricket later in the summer. If he starts poorly, he could find himself watching on with the rest of us.
Division One - Nottinghamshire - James Pattinson
Another man with his eyes on an Ashes starting place is James Pattinson of Australia. As it stands, he’s the odd man out as the Aussies have Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc as their first choice bowlers. However, injuries have not been uncommon for those three and a summer playing in England could put Pattinson in great shape to get himself in the side if an opportunity presents itself.
Division One - Somerset - Jack Leach
The opinion of many observers is that Jack Leach is actually England’s best spin bowler, but he’s behind Moeen Ali and probably Adil Rashid in the Test pecking order. Those two have been known to be inconsistent though and if Leach can continue to take wickets down at Taunton, he will definitely be in consideration to be playing Test cricket sooner rather than later.
Division One - Surrey - Jason Roy
There aren’t many more exciting players in the world to watch than an on-form Jason Roy. He’s established himself as a world-class ODI player and that has got people calling for him to be given the nod in Test cricket. If he can do well when playing for Surrey in the County Championship, he has a very, very, very good chance of being included in the Test squad for the Ashes.
Division One - Warwickshire - Henry Brookes
The latest cab off the Warwickshire fast bowling ranks is young Henry Brookes. Aged 19, he’s very much on England’s radar as he consistently bowls around 90mph. We’re unlikely to see him playing for England this summer but if he stays fit, which he couldn’t last season, it’s only a matter of time before the Solihull-born star is wearing the Three Lions.
Division One - Yorkshire - Adam Lyth
Adam Lyth is another player who was given a crack at Test cricket, and another opening partner of Alistair Cook who couldn’t keep his place. He’s an exceptionally talented player and a good county season could easily see him back in the England reckoning.
Division Two - Derbyshire - Harvey Hosein
Wicketkeeper-batsman Harvey Hosein is only 22 but he’s almost a county veteran at this stage, having made his debut as a teenager. England aren’t short of Wicketkeeper-batsmen but time is on Hosein’s side in terms of international recognition.
Division Two - Durham - Cameron Bancroft
Cameron Bancroft, he of ‘Sandpaper-gate’ infamy, will actually captain Durham at the start of the season, a move that has raised more than a few eyebrows. His ban from playing for Australia will be lifted and he could use his time at Durham to play himself into form if the Aussies do come calling for him again.
Division Two - Glamorgan - Shaun Marsh
Another Aussie who will use the start of the season as a way to get used to playing in England and Wales. Glamorgan have signed Shaun Marsh to play down at Cardiff and their fans will be happy to see such a quality player at Sophia Gardens.
Division Two - Gloucestershire - Daniel Worrall
If nothing else, Daniel Worrall’s odd-angled run-up makes him fun to watch. He says he developed it as a child as a tree in his backyard made a direct approach to the crease impossible when he played against family members in his garden! He’s taken 152 first-class wickets at an average of 28.78 and Gloucestershire will need him firing this season.
Division Two - Lancashire - Liam Livingstone
Liam Livingstone has given up the captaincy of Lancashire this season to focus on his batting. He’s also on England’s radar but Lancs will be hoping he can score the runs to fire them back up to Division One.
Division Two - Leicestershire - Mohammad Abbas
Leicestershire have signed Pakistani international Mohammad Abbas for the new season. The 29-year-old likes playing in this country, he took 10 wickets in Pakistan’s two-Test series against England in 2018 and was named the player of the series. He’ll be a huge asset for Leicestershire.
Division Two - Middlesex - Toby Roland-Jones
Toby Roland-Jones took to international cricket like a duck to water, taking 17 wickets in four Test matches, including a five-for on debut against South Africa. However, he’s been severely hampered by injuries for a while and will be hoping to stay fit for Middlesex and get himself back fit for England.
Division Two - Northamptonshire - Jason Holder
Northants have pulled off a blinder by signing West Indies captain Jason Holder as their overseas player. The all-rounder will improve their batting and bowling and fans at the County Ground should be excited to see him in action.
Division Two - Sussex - Jofra Archer
The man whose name is on the lips of every England fan. Jofra Archer has established himself as a star player in domestic T20 tournaments and he’ll be qualified to play for England in time for the Ashes. He can bowl fast, he can smack the ball out of the ground and he’s a dynamite fielder too. He’s very much in Ashes contention if he performs well for Sussex.
Division Two - Worcestershire - Wayne Parnell
In September 2018, quick bowler Wayne Parnell became the latest South African to sign a Kolpak deal with a county team, making him unavailable to play international cricket. Aged 29, there’s still plenty in the tank for the quick bowler and Worcestershire will need him to lead their attack.