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The counties will be playing one less competition this season but more days of cricket. With such a mixture of four-day, 20-over and 40-over cricket squads will be stretched to the limited. Can anyone stop Durham and who's up for one-day honours?


Championship: Division Two; FP T20: North; Clydesdale Bank 40: Group B
Captain Chris Rogers Coach John Morris Overseas Chris Rogers (Aus), Loots Bosman (SA - T20)
There was precious little for Derbyshire fans to cheer about last season and they will struggle again this year to make a real impact in any of the formats. Yet the strength and depth in batting, led by Chris Rogers, should make them tough to beat in the Championship. Winning games will be more of a problem given the slim bowling resources. Charl Langeveldt has departed but another South African import, Robin Peterson, will bring experience and nous to the attack and they will need another big season from Graham Wagg. SD
Key man Chris Rogers - 1461 runs at 73.05 last season was miles ahead of the rest of his team and the captain will have to score equally big to give his side a sniff.
Keep an eye on Tim Groenewald - A South African-raised allrounder, his bustling medium pace was a revelation last year with 34 wickets in nine first-class games.
Winter surprise The players will have to remember to stand in the right place after the pitch was turned to avoid the setting sun.
Silverware? The bowlers probably lack the quality to secure silverware in any of the formats.


Championship: Division One; FP T20: North; Clydesdale Bank 40: Group C
Captain Will Smith Coach Geoff Cook Overseas Albie Morkel (SA), Ross Taylor (NZ, TBC - T20 only)
Can they do the hat-trick? No county since Yorkshire between 1966-1968 has claimed three Championship titles on the bounce, but it would be a brave person to bet against Durham. They were so far ahead of the pack last season that their nearest challenges are going to have make significant strides to catch them. International calls will mean seeing little of Paul Collingwood and Graham Onions, but the squad has depth to cover their absence. In a sign of confidence they haven't signed an overseas player for the Championship and instead will show faith in the likes of Gordon Muchall and Ben Stokes. Once again, though, it's the pace attack that makes them favourites with Steve Harmison and Liam Plunkett leading the pack. Don't rule out one-day success, either, from a squad that has that winning habit. AM
Key man Steve Harmison - The man himself wants another Ashes chance, but selectors are likely to think differently. However, he remains hungry for domestic success and county line-ups will pay the price.
Keep an eye on Ben Stokes - A young allrounder who impressed with England Under-19s. Gives the ball a hefty thump and bowls useful medium-pace
Winter surprise Have decided not to recruit from overseas for four-day cricket. Will that prove costly?
Silverware? Will take some stopping in the Championship and a one-day trophy for the taking as well if they can stand the pace.


Championship: Division One; FP T20: South; Clydesdale Bank 40: Group B
Captain Mark Pettini Coach Paul Grayson Overseas Danish Kaneria (Pak)
Promoted on the final day of last season after Ryan ten Doeschate slammed a 59-ball 108 against Derbyshire, Essex's first challenge is to ensure they don't become a yo-yo team that goes straight back down. It will be a tough ask for a side that looks a little thin in a few areas - especially the bowling. With Ravi Bopara back in England favour they will also need to cover for his runs, although Alastair Cook will be available while the World Twenty20 is on. They need a big season from Tom Westley and regular contributions from the likes of James Foster, Graham Napier and ten Doeschate. The one-day route appears to be their best chance of success with the clutch of allrounders capable of winning Twenty20 matches.
Key man Matt Walker - Needs to produce a consistent output in a line-up than is missing a big name if Cook and Bopara are absent. AM
Keep an eye on Tom Westley - Time for him to kick on after showing glimpses of his potential
Winter surprise Grant Flower was named Zimbabwe's batting coach, but will play this season before taking up his role.
Silverware? Championship survival will be a success, but don't be surprised to see them compete for 40 and 20-over trophies.


Championship: Division Two; FP T20: South; Clydesdale Bank 40: Group A
Captain Jamie Dalrymple Coach Matthew Maynard Overseas Mark Cosgrove (Aus), Shaun Tait (Aus - T20)
Glamorgan's search for trophy success has them looking again to Australia. Jason Gillespie, their overseas player in 2008, has helped persuade the express Twenty20 specialist Shaun Tait to go to Cardiff, fresh from his pursuits in the IPL. Glamorgan's intentions are clear - they are searching T20 silverware and an opportunity to collect Champions League riches after disappointing in all formats last year. Two wise-heads at the helm in Jamie Dalrymple and Matthew Maynard, alongside the evergreen Robert Croft, who turns 40 in May, means there is plenty of guidance for the younger members of the squad. If Mark Cosgrove can continue his good form from last year a shot at promotion may not be out the question. SD
Key man Michael Powell - They will need plenty of runs from an experienced batsman to help along the younger players.
Keep an eye on James Harris - The 19-year-old played for the England Lions against Australia last year and has the responsibility of leading Glamorgan's pace attack
Winter surprise That Maynard has kept his job after rumours of a behind-the-scenes problems
Silverware? Their best chances lies with Tait and the Twenty20.

Gloucestershire Championship: Division Two; FP T20: South; Clydesdale Bank 40: Group B
Captain Alex Gidman Coach John Bracewell Overseas James Franklin (NZ)
Gloucestershire have nurtured a lively attack led by the ever-fiery Steve Kirby, but to improve on last year's 'almost' season they need some backbone to their batting. Jonathan Batty's arrival from Surrey will add to an impressive think-tank led by former New Zealand coach John Bracewell. James Franklin, a fellow Kiwi, will strengthen both the lower order and the bowling attack but there may still be a touch of class missing from both. They remain a competitive one-day unit, but have lost that unbeatable quality from the beginning of the last decade. SD
Key man Steve Kirby - Surely destined to be a nearly-man for England now, if can stay fit and find some support could lead the push for promotion.
Keep an eye on Vikram Banerjee - A left-arm spinner rated highly enough to be part of the Performance Squad.
Winter surprise Ian Saxelby's dislocated shoulder when appealing during a practice session.
Silverware? Having reached the semi-final of the FP Trophy last year Gloucestershire could push for one-day honours this season.


Championship: Division One; FP T20: South; Clydesdale Bank 40: Group C
Captain Dimitri Mascarenhas Coach Giles White Overseas Ajantha Mendis (SL), Rangana Herath (SL), Shahid Afridi (Pak - T20), Abdur Razzaq (Pak - T20)
For the sake of a competitive Championship race Durham need some close challengers and Hampshire may just provide that. They flirted with relegation last season, but have the core of a strong side especially after the signing of Kabir Ali. If Ajantha Mendis appears for his spell bowling sides out shouldn't be a problem. Runs have often been harder to come by, but with Michael Carberry unlikely to feature regularly for England he can anchor the top order alongside Michael Lumb, while James Vince and Liam Dawson can cover for John Crawley's retirement. Dimitri Mascarenhas will miss the start of the season, but when he returns his one-day skills will also make Hampshire a force in the shorter formats. With their new ties with Rajasthan Royals, Twenty20 success is likely to be high on the agenda. SD
Key man Michael Carberry - If he can churn out the regular runs again it will keep in the selectors' thoughts and also help Hampshire to commanding totals.
Keep an eye on James Vince - Some of his strokeplay in the Pro40 last season took the breath away and he's another of the new generation of fearless, young batsmen.
Winter surprise Becoming part of the world 'global' sporting franchise after linking with Shane Warne's Rajasthan Royals as Twenty20 shows no sign of slowing down.
Silverware? They should compete on all fronts and it may all depend on the club's priorities. Four-day or Twenty20?


Championship: Division One; FP T20: South; Clydesdale Bank 40: Group C
Captain Rob Key Coach Paul Farbrace Overseas Malinga Bandara (SL)
One of most financially strapped counties on the circuit they continue to have a small playing staff which hasn't left Paul Farbrace, back at Kent after his time with Sri Lanka, much room to manoeuvre. Their promotion was a fairly comfortable affair and with a following wind they could mount a challenge in the top division, but there is also the potential for things to unravel quite quickly. At least the batting order led by Rob Key, Joe Denly and Martin van Jaarsveld - not to mention a revitalised Geraint Jones - should mean decent totals and all are destructive one-day players as well. It's easy to forget that Amjad Khan played for England a year ago and he should form a potent new-ball attack with Robbie Joseph. The problems will come if they are injured, but Malinga Bandara will help cover for James Tredwell. AM
Key man Joe Denly - Has failed to establish his England place during the winter and motivation to impress the selectors could benefit Kent.
Keep an eye on Sam Northeast - Earmarked as a rare talent since a schoolboy he started to score consistently last season but may have to wait his chance.
Winter surprise Not so much a surprise, as many saw it coming, but the losses of £800,000 hurt.
Silverware? Injuries will test the bench-strength, but if they hold it together through the middle part of the season another dip at the Twenty20 title is in the offing.


Championship: Division One; FP T20: North; Clydesdale Bank 40: Group A
Captain Glen Chapple Coach Peter Moores Overseas Ashwell Prince (SA), Kumar Sangakkara (SL)
The best news for Lancashire during the off season came in early March when Trafford Council approved their development plans for Old Trafford. Barring any late problems, the club can now start the desperately needed work to secure their Test future. There have been subtle touches to the team itself rather than major work and, by and large, it is a familiar group of players who will try to end Lancashire's trophy drought. Each season begins with the same expectation and Peter Moores' honeymoon period is now over. The loss of Mal Loye and Faf du Plessis will put pressure on import Stephen Moore to find his feet quickly, but Ashwell Price and Kumar Sangakkara (if he remains available) should fill their boots. Wickets are a bigger issue and Gary Keedy will hope for a dry summer. Meanwhile, the wait for Andrew Flintoff's return goes on. AM
Key man Sajid Mahmood - Seemingly been discarded by England again, he needs to lead the attack in all forms. Has the pace to trouble county sides and needs to aim for 60-wicket season.
Keep an eye on Steven Croft - A developing allrounder who pushed for England Lions honours last year. Outstanding in the field.
Winter surprise Daren Powell - The former West Indies quick was a shock acquisition to join the pace attack.
Silverware? If Mahmood and Keedy fire they can push Durham and should challenge on the one-day front. But that's said every year.


Championship: Division Two; FP T20: North; Clydesdale Bank 40: Group C
Captain Matthew Hoggard Coach Tim Boon Overseas Andrew McDonald (Aus), Brad Hodge (Aus - T20)
After enduring a torrid bottom-of-the-table finish last season, their first since 1962, Leicestershire decided on a winter spending spree. In came Matthew Hoggard to captain the side, Will Jefferson to bolster the batting and the Australian duo of Andrew McDonald, for the whole season, and Brad Hodge for the Twenty20. They add experience to a talented young side which, under Hoggard's quirky leadership, could bring a turn-around in fortunes at Grace Road. Hodge was key to the club's previous Twenty20 success and they could surprise a few teams once again. SD
Key man Matthew Hoggard - May have lost his 'nip' but he remains as canny as ever, his wickets and leadership will be crucial.
Keep an eye on James Taylor - As the 'one-to-watch' last year he duly delivered a barnstorming county season, making 1184 runs at 65.77. How he copes with 'second season syndrome' will be critical.
Winter surprise That they saw captaincy material in Hoggard - it will be nothing if not interesting.
Silverware? Silverware could be beyond them but a sneaky charge at promotion is not out of the question.

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