IT’S THAT time of year again where I make myself look silly by giving my predictions for the summer ahead. It’s been a winter to forget but I can’t remember the last time there was this much excitement and anticipation for a county season.
Jason Gillespie’s men look the team to beat with the size and quality of their squad. They came close last year playing an exciting brand of attacking cricket only to fall flat in the closing months. I don’t believe the same will happen again.
They are likely to have Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan around more this summer and that will be a huge boost. They barely played a Championship match last term and are proven quality performers. Even without Jonny, Bressy and Joe Root they got close last year so that bodes well.
‘Dizzy’ Gillespie has really taken to coaching in recent years and he will have learned so much from where they went wrong last season. They have an impressive captain in Andrew Gale who is a fine batsman and someone you would want to play for.
The way he has matured leading probably the most demanding club in the land has stood out. Headingley is one of the hardest places to play for the opposition when Yorkshire are going well but one of the easiest when they aren’t, such is the pressure and expectation around the place. They’ve strengthened the batting by bringing in Kane Williamson and Aaron Finch. I can’t wait to see Aaron in the t20 Blast, while their bowling has all the boxes ticked.
They’ve got a great set of seamers with Ryan Sidebottom, Liam Plunkett, Steve Patterson, Moin Ashraf and Jack Brooks in their ranks. Brooks could well push for England honours if he stays fit – he’s an aggressive bowler who attacks and brings energy to a side.
They’ve also got good spin options in Adil Rashid, Azeem Rafiq and Williamson is more than handy. Gale will lead the batting along with the likes of Adam Lyth, Williamson and Gary Ballance and I’ve heard good things about opener Alex Lees. If they click they are my team to beat.
With Chris Rogers back as captain to lead a talented group they will go close. I hope James Harris has an injury free season as well. If he does he will come into the England reckoning.
They are already struggling with injuries to David Willey, Jackson Bird and Alex Wakely and in a small squad that’s not a good start. If Somerset don’t find a way to take 20 wickets they could be in for a long season.
Division Two winners: Surrey
Having Graeme Smith back and fully fit is incredible for their young squad. Throw in Kevin Pietersen’s availability and those two will score so quickly they will give the bowlers time to take 20 wickets. I don’t think they will have things all their own way but if they start well they will be difficult to catch.
Bringing in Dale Benkenstein as coach is a wonderful move. I can’t believe Durham haven’t found a role for Benky, particularly with Geoff Cook not as involved. He’s got a phenomenal cricket brain and will get the best out of a very talented group of players. He’s a very straight down the line bloke and that will fit in well in their squad.
I take no pleasure in that prediction but they’ve not got the strength in depth that others have. I saw new batsman Dan Redfern score a lovely hundred against Northants on Monday and he looks to have his technique in order. The likes of Josh Cobb and Nathan Buck have got to step up with him.
T20 winners and Royal London Cup winners: Notts
It’s about time they won the t20 with the players they have and they could win the double. Biggest hope for the season: James Taylor is given a run for England in all three formats. He’s too good to ignore any longer and has the stats to back it up.