County previews April 9, 2013

Lancs and Hants look strong

ESPNcricinfo's senior correspondent George Dobell looks at the prospects for clubs in Division Two


Last year 5th, CC Div 2; Quarter-finals, FLt20; 5th in Group A, CB40.

2012 in a nutshell Disappointing. Bearing in mind the talent available in the Essex squad, there were realistic hopes that the club would achieve promotion and challenge for a limited-overs trophy in 2012. In the end, they did neither and, to increase their frustration, a seamer they had released - Chris Wright - played a prominent role in helping Warwickshire to the Championship title. They finished below Netherlands in the CB40 and won only three games in Division Two - only Northants did worse. There are some mitigating factors: the club was weakened by IPL absences - Owais Shah and Ryan ten Doeschate both missed several weeks of the season - Ravi Bopara played a peripheral part due to personal issues and England call-ups, and poor weather did little to help gain any momentum. Had they prevailed in a brave run-chase against Hampshire - they fell three short when chasing 360 at Chelmsford in July - their Championship season may have ended differently. Still, there is no escaping the fact that too few of their promising young players have developed as anticipated and too much is required of senior players such as Graham Napier, David Masters, Shah and Bopara. The decision to release Michael Comber and the loss of Adam Wheater to Hampshire underlined the impression that the club continues to struggle to develop their players once they graduate from the academy to the professional game. Chopping and changing the side has not helped.

2013 prospects The squad remains as strong as any in the second division and is seemingly well suited to limited-overs cricket, too. The bowling attack has a nice blend of youth and experience and the batting looks strong, long and explosive. Their new acquisitions are intriguing: Australian Rob Quiney looks a modest overseas signing but, keen to force his way into Ashes contention, has all the motivation required to succeed, while Sajid Mahmood, for all his qualities, has been frustrating his coaches for more than a decade. Quite why a club blessed with so much young bowling talent requires such an addition remains open to debate. Shaun Tait should prove an eye-catching signing in the T20 and, along with the likes of ten Doeschate, Bopara and Napier, gives Essex several potential match-winners. Anything less than qualification to the quarter-finals of the T20 should be considered a failure, while they really should be able to mount a serious promotion challenge.

Key player If Bopara is available for the entire season, he could play a huge role for Essex. He topped their batting averages in the Championship and the CB40 last year and, requiring outstanding performances in order to revive his international career, should be motivated. Quite what frame of mind he may be in remains to be seen but, if Bopara is fit and firing, he could well lead a promotion challenge.

Bright young thing Essex is a club bursting with young talent. Ben Foakes, a wicketkeeper batsman, has already been fast-tracked into the England Lions side and looks set to start the season playing as a specialist batsman. Tymal Mills, a left-arm bowler of unusual pace, is equally exciting. But the real gem may turn out to be another left-arm bowler, Reece Topley. Blessed with great height and an ability to swing the ball, Topley appears to have all the attributes to develop into a high-class performer.

Captain/coach Paul Grayson, the head coach, and James Foster, the captain, have been together for a few years but, despite assembling a strong squad, have yet to gain the success that was anticipated. The fact that Essex have just appointed a new chief executive - Derek Bowden succeeding David East - could herald change if 2013 is another year of underachievement.

ESPNcricinfo verdict On paper, they have the talent to challenge for limited-overs trophies and promotion but if they are to prosper they will have to work out which is their best team and stick with it.


Last year 6th, CC Div 2; Group stage, FLt20; 6th in Group B, CB40.

2012 in a nutshell Glamorgan continued to drift in 2012. They started poorly in the Championship, failing to win a game until mid-July, and had it not been for a final-match success against Kent, they would have finished bottom. Their T20 season was blighted by the weather, losing more games - five - to the rain than any other club, while their CB40 campaign never really got going. They won only one of their first six games, with the rain again doing them few favours. To make matters worse, they were unable to retain James Harris, one of the gems of their youth system; Robert Croft, who topped the bowling averages at the age of 42, retired at the end of the season; and they had to deal with the grief of losing a former team-mate, Tom Maynard, in such tragic circumstances. There was little reason for cheer.

2013 prospects At full strength, Glamorgan have a team that could prove tough opposition in the Championship. The arrival of Michael Hogan should significantly strengthen the bowling and if Jim Allenby and Marcus North replicate their 2012 form, Graham Wagg can remain fit and Murray Goodwin can rediscover his form and combine with the reliable Mark Wallace and Stewart Walters, perhaps they could finish in mid-table. But the failure of locally developed player to contribute significantly continues to undermine the team.

Key player Allenby was the leading wicket-taker in the 2012 Championship season as well as being the second-highest run-scorer and won the Cricket Society's award for the leading allrounder in domestic first-class cricket. He also led the side in T20 cricket and remains a key player in all formats.

Bright young thing Mike Reed, a very tall fast bowler, broke into the side at the end of last year and fared well. There is not huge competition for the category at Glamorgan, though, which is a concern.

Captain/coach Wallace, who has a benefit season, will continue to captain the Championship side, with North taking control of the limited-overs teams. Matthew Mott continues as head of elite performance. After two years at the helm, it is hard to ascertain much progress.

ESPNcricinfo verdict The failure to develop local players means the side appears to be longer on experience than it is on England potential. A long-term plan is hard to make out.


Last year: 6th, CC Div 2; Quarter-finals, FLt20; 3rd in Group A, CB40.

2012 in a nutshell: Finishing bottom of the Second Division of the Championship can never be classified as anything other than a disappointment. No team in Division Two lost more games than Gloucestershire. Two defeats against a strong Yorkshire side might have been accepted - especially as both could have been avoided, arising from manufactured chases - but losses to Leicestershire and Northants were more disappointing. But it was not, perhaps, quite as bad a season as it may look at first glance. Only five points separated Gloucestershire in ninth and Glamorgan in sixth and their limited-overs form was encouraging, culminating in an FLt20 quarterfinal. For a club with a young squad and small playing budget, it was always likely to prove another rebuilding season.

2013 prospects: Within realistic boundaries, there is cause for cautious optimism in Bristol. While a sustained promotion challenge seems unlikely, it is not unreasonable to expect a move up the table with Gloucestershire's season likely to be defined by their success against the rivals with which they share low budgets and young squads: Leicestershire, Worcestershire, Glamorgan and Northants. The seam bowling unit - including Liam Norwell, David Payne, Will Gidman, James Fuller and Ian Saxelby - is as strong as most in the lower division, but the lack of a quality spin bowler remains a concern. The batting has been Gloucestershire's weakness for many seasons and certainly cost them promotion in 2009. They will hope to have talented opener Chris Dent fit for the whole campaign and that Alex Gidman's decision to resign the captaincy to concentrate on his batting pays dividends. Much will also be expected of Gidman's replacement, new overseas player Michael Klinger. With a little fortune, they could reach mid table and enjoy a decent showing in limited-overs cricket. But expectations cannot be great.

Key player: A few years ago, Alex Gidman was a target of Warwickshire and seen as a potential England player. But his career has drifted and he has scored just two first-class centuries in the last three seasons and averaged just 28.36. Now, freed from the burden of captaincy, Gloucestershire require far more consistent returns from him.

Bright young thing: The most encouraging aspect of Gloucestershire cricket is the presence of several talented, young players in the squad. David Payne, a strong left-arm seamer of brisk pace, could develop into a fine player, while Chris Dent is a left-handed top-order batsman of decent potential. Both are former England U19 players, both are 22-years-old and both could, if well managed, play large parts in reviving Gloucestershire cricket over the next decade.

Captain /coach: Michael Klinger, a 32-year-old Australian, is the new captain. Arriving on the back of a modest Australian season - he averaged 19.41 in nine Sheffield Shield games in 2012-13 - he also struggled for Worcestershire last year, averaging 29.30 in six Championship games with a highest score of 69. Gloucestershire need far more from him this year. John Bracewell, the coach, continues to live off the reputation he gained from Gloucestershire's excellent limited-overs form from his first stay at the club. But it would be nice to see a little more progress in his plans.

ESPNcricinfo verdict: Gloucestershire possess some good young players and the redevelopment of Nevil Road will be completed without incurring crippling debt, but it is hard to see the club flourishing on the field in the immediate future.


Last year: 4th, CC Div 2; Winners, FLt20; Winners, CB40.

2012 in a nutshell: Excellent in limited-overs cricket and mediocre in the Championship. Hampshire won the limited-overs double in 2012 and, with three games to play in the Championship season, were in a promotion position. They lost all three (against Leicestershire, Essex and Derbyshire) and slipped into mid-table. They topped their CB40 group with seven wins from 10 completed matches and then defeated Sussex and, in the final, Warwickshire off the last ball to lift the trophy. In the T20 they reached finals day in Cardiff, beating Somerset in a low-scoring semi-final and outwitting Yorkshire in the final. Glenn Maxwell proved an astute signing, with slow bowlers Liam Dawson and Danny Briggs maintaining excellent control and Dimitri Mascarenhas providing a reminder of his excellence as a T20 cricketer.

2013 prospects: Hampshire should continue to challenge in the shorter formats and must be considered one of the promotion favourites. Their top-order batting, containing Jimmy Adams, Michael Carberry, overseas player George Bailey and, from June, Neil McKenzie, is as strong as any in Division Two. Adam Wheater, Sean Ervine and James Vince will add impetus while Liam Dawson will be asked to bat long and slow. The bowling is, at first glance, slightly less impressive but, led by David Balcombe, strong as a bull and determined to make up for lost time in his career, and the left-arm swing of James Tomlinson, it will also be augmented by the spin of Saeed Ajaml for the last few weeks of the season. Having won four limited-overs trophies in the last four years, they clearly have a decent formula and there is little reason why that should change .

Key player: Signing Adam Wheater as a wicketkeeper batsman was somewhat controversial. Not only did Wheater have a year of his contract to run at Essex, but his arrival threatens the position of Michael Bates, a homegrown Hampshire keeper who has made such a fine impression with the gloves. But Wheater, at 23, only eight months older than Bates, is a vastly superior batsman - he averages 20 more an innings - and will add depth to Hampshire's batting line-up.

Bright young thing: Such is James Vince's talent that the England selectors ignored his largely unsuccessful season in Division Two last year - he averaged 24.52 and only passed 50 once - and took him on the Lions' one-day tour to Australia. He struggled there but, at 22, remains a talented and unusually elegant young batsman, capable of scoring freely against decent bowling. His strength, at present, remains in the limited-overs formats - he averaged 55.50 in the CB40 and was Hampshire's leading run-scorer in the FLt20 - but if he can curb his attacking instincts just a little, he can flourish in all formats.

Captain / coach: Jimmy Adams will continue to lead the side in a positive, cheerful manner, leaving Giles White, the head coach, to continue in unobtrusive style. The days when Hampshire could rely upon being bankrolled by Rod Bransgrove are gone - it didn't really work, anyway - leaving the club more reliant on player development. They seem stronger for it.

ESPNcricinfo verdict: Hampshire look capable of winning promotion this year. The batting is unusually strong and the acquisition of Saeed Ajmal on late-season pitches is a major scoop. It won't be easy to follow up a double-winning season, but Hampshire should continue to be a threat in the shorter formats.


Last year: Third, CC Div 2: Group stages, T20; Third in Group C, CB40

2012 in a nutshell: A year of near misses but great improvement. Kent, who finished second from bottom in 2011, narrowly missed out on promotion and a CB40 semi-final in 2012. Unbeaten in the Championship at the end of July, they were then defeated by Derbyshire, Essex and, crucially, Glamorgan in their last game to end their hopes. Just as importantly, Kent were defied by an excellent innings from Jimmy Adams and the rain as they pressed for a win over Hampshire at Southampton at the end of July. Had any of those results gone another way, they could have gone up. It was a similar story in the CB40: they started the final round of games top of their group but lost by nine wickets against Sussex and finished level on points with Warwickshire, who they had beaten easily home and away and over whom they had a better run-rate. But Warwickshire progressed having won more games. There was encouragement, though. Most of their pre-season recruits - intelligent, low-cost additions who had a point to prove - fared well, with Charlie Shreck and Mark Davies claiming 91 Championship wickets between them. The emergence of Sam Northeast - who topped the county's batting averages in the Championship - also boded well for the future.

2013 prospects: Kent is a side, a club even, in something of a transition. A generation of senior players - the likes of Shreck, Stevens, Brendan Nash and Geraint Jones, who are all over 35 - are entering the final phase of their careers and a new batch - the likes of Northeast, Matt Coles, Sam Billings and Daniel Bell-Drummond - are just starting to come through. The club is also adjusting to the new financial reality. Gone are the days when it could attract big-name players with big-money salaries and a sensible new business model has developed with a view to sustaining the club far into the future. Seen in that context, it could be that Kent missed a golden opportunity to go up in 2012. The battle for promotion will be no less fierce this year. Kent, along with Lancashire, Hampshire and Essex, should be among the contenders, but the success of their challenge is again likely to come down to a few key moments. While several key members of their squad may be ageing, there was little sign that any of them were in decline last season and the hope is that Rob Key, now relieved from the burden of captaincy, will be able to recover something approaching his best form in 2013. The young players promise much, but this could be a year too early for most of them.

Key player: Darren Stevens will be 37 at the end of April. It took him a long time to find the consistency to complement his talent but now, with bat and ball, in the longest format or the shortest, he is a quality player and as liable to win a match with his teasing swing or his thumping batting.

Bright young thing: Kent possess some of the brightest young batting talents in the domestic game. Daniel Bell-Drummond, a 19-year-old, made 90 runs for one dismissal in the match against the full strength South Africa attack last summer and looks a bright prospect, as does Sam Billings, the 21-year-old reserve wicketkeeper who fought his way into the List A side as a specialist batsman. Matt Coles, aged 22, has already won Lions recognition. But it is 23-year-old Sam Northeast of whom most will be expected this year. He made three Championship centuries in 2012 and held his own in the limited-overs sides.

Captain /coach: James Tredwell has replaced Rob Key as captain and remains on the periphery of the England team. Former West Indies captain Jimmy Adams is now in his second year as head coach.

Cricinfo's verdict: A club heading in the right direction. Kent have a strong batch of talented young players emerging that could serve them well for the next 10 years or more. While financial pressures remain, the club has a viable business plan now and can look to the future with more confidence than for any time in the last four or five years.


Last year: Eighth (relegated), CC Div 1; Group stages, T20; Semi-finals, CB40

2012 in a nutshell: To suffer relegation the year after winning the Championship title was a major disappointment. Lancashire started slowly, losing three of their first four games, and never really recovered. They won just one Championship match all season; no team in either division won fewer. The problem was two-fold: the top-order batting failed to fire - Ashwell Prince was the only member of the top order to average over 30 and, along with Steven Croft and Paul Horton, one of only three men to make a Championship century all season; and Stephen Moore, so influential in 2011, failed to pass 50 - and the bowling remained over-reliant on Glen Chapple. Their CB40 form was far better. They topped Group A with more wins than any side in the country, but then came unstuck against Warwickshire in the semi-finals. They also started well in the T20 but then fell away sharply, failing to win any of their last four games. Ajmal Shadzad and Sajid Mahmood were released at the end of the season. Gary Keedy moved to Surrey.

2013 prospects: Lancashire have never spent more than a season in the lower division and will be expected to win an immediate return to Division One. With a newly develop ground and big-money naming-rights deal, they will have a large budget advantage on some of their Division Two rivals, but competition for those top two places is likely to be extremely competitive. The level of expectation could become a burden. Lancashire have taken steps to strengthen the areas of weakness from last year: they have retained Ashwell Prince as a Kolpak registration and signed Simon Katich as overseas player, which should add substance to the batting; and they have signed Kabir Ali and Wayne White to add some pace and bite to the seam bowling. But the bowling remains a bit of a concern. Kabir's fitness record is not encouraging and White, while he has pace, is not the most consistent. The club remain uncomfortably reliant on Chapple, who was 39 in January. The plethora of allrounders should prove an asset in the limited-overs formats, though a lack of bite from the seamers is a concern in the Championship. In the longer-term, there may be growing concerns about the quality of players developing through the club. The production line that used to produce fine seam bowlers has ground to something approaching a halt in the last few years.

Key player: It is only three years since 32-year-old Kabir was signed by Hampshire in a big-money transfer from Worcestershire. The move didn't really work out due to a serious knee injury sustained early in the contract and Kabir joins Lancashire with some doubts over his long-term fitness. If he is injury-free, he remains a high-quality bowler and could prove a valuable acquisition. But if he misses vast chunks of the season, Lancashire are left with a batch of bits and pieces allrounders and useful medium-pacers to support Chapple.

Bright young thing: Such was Simon Kerrigan's influence on the Championship success of 2011 it may appear he has been around too long for inclusion in this category. But he is only 23 and remains a work in progress. A relatively fast, aggressive left-arm spin bowler, he could well be pressing for Monty Panesar's England spot before the year is out.

Captain/coach: Last year's relegation was a rare setback for Peter Moores at county level. Having won the Championship at two clubs, he remains a major asset as head coach. Chapple is the captain, with Mike Watkinson the director of cricket.

ESPNcricinfo's verdict: The players brought in should help Lancashire challenge for promotion, but that will not mask longer-term concerns about the quality of players developing at the club. Should remain competitive in limited-overs formats.


Last year: 7th, CC Div 2; Group stage, FLt20; 6th in Group A, CB40.

2012 in a nutshell: One of the also-rans. Leicestershire never threatened to challenge for promotion or in limited-overs cricket. After winning their first Championship game, they failed to do so again until late August and only by winning their final game did they ensure they would not finish bottom. They never got going in the CB40, failing to win any of their first five matches, and were similarly irrelevant in the FLt20, where they lost their first four matches, despite being the holders. There were a few areas of encouragement: only the two promoted teams lost fewer games in the lower division of the Championship and Shiv Thakor emerged as a player of rich promise. Ramnaresh Sarwan settled in well, too, and was rewarded with the captaincy.

2013 prospects: There can be few expectations of silverware. Wayne White, easily their leading wicket-taker in the Championship last year, has left for a fresh start at Lancashire and Sarwan's form has put him back on the radar of the West Indies' selectors. Matthew Hoggard, who did not take a five-wicket haul last year, is not the bowler he once was and ongoing financial pressures limit the club's competiveness in the transfer market. Still, Australian Joe Burns has been signed as cover for Sarwan, Niall O'Brien's arrival from Northants should strengthen the batting and Anthony Ireland, Robbie Williams and Ollie Freckingham will add competition for bowling places. A decent run in T20 cricket remains possible but a promotion challenge looks unlikely. Off the pitch, the club hope they can progress the ground development plans which would enable them to spend more on their cricket budget.

Key player: Nathan Buck, the 21-year-old seamer, endured a tough 2012, averaging 47.75 with the ball in the Championship. He is better than that, though, and if used - and rested - sensibly could develop into a match-winner.

Bright young thing: Thakor, a 19-year-old batting allrounder, is the latest to emerge from Leicestershire's remarkable production line. He topped the county's Championship batting averages last year and is tipped to have an outstanding future. How long Leicestershire can keep hold of him remains to be seen but, for now, he should enjoy and benefit from first-team cricket in all formats.

Captain/coach: Sarwan is the Championship captain, with Josh Cobb taking over for limited-overs cricket. Phil Whitticase remains the head coach.

ESPNcricinfo verdict: While promotion or a trophy are unlikely, Leicestershire do at least continue to produce players. If Cobb, Thakor, Buck, Matthew Boyce and co. can find form, they could surprise a few.


Last season 8th, CC Div 2; Group stages, T20; Sixth in Group C, CB40

2012 in a nutshell: A dire year. No team won fewer games in the Championship, the CB40 or the FLt20 in 2012 and the previous head coach, David Capel, paid for the failure with his job. While the red ball form was a disappointment - Northants had come close to winning promotion in 2011 - the white ball form was far worse as the club rely on limited-overs success to attract spectators. The bowling lacked incision, the batting lacked reliability and, crucially, in key passages of play, Northants seemed fragile. The failure precipitated some introspection at the club and, under the relatively new chief executive, David Smith, the club have reappraised their role in the game. There was a change of captaincy, the departure of some senior players - the club accepted they were unable to hold on to Jack Brooks and also released Chaminda Vaas, Rob White and Niall O'Brien.

2013 prospects: It will take time to turn things round at Northants. Without the budget to compete in the transfer market, they must recruit and develop far more of their own players if they are to regain relevance. In the long-term, their on-field success may rely on the improvement in the off-field facilities that is designed to increase the club's financial turnover significantly. Hosting concerts, conferences and improving community links are essential to the club's futures. The early signs are positive, though: they have recruited wisely - Matt Spriegel and Steven Crook are reliable, affordable players with points to prove, while Azharullah is an intriguing fast-bowling addition - and they have two of the better players in the England U19 team, Olly Stone and Ben Duckett, who it is hoped will form the spine of the team for years to come. Others, like Rob Newton and Alex Wakely, should be moving into their prime while the likes of Luke Evans looks to have the raw materials to make a strong impression. Expectations need to be tempered but Northants should be able to make noticeable advances in 2013.

Key player: Northants require far a greater contribution from Andrew Hall. Astute enough to have signed a long-term contract before the financial squeeze had hit - or before Northants had realised it had hit, anyway - Hall is far and away the most expensive player in the squad. To whom much is given, much is expected.

Bright young thing: Ben Duckett may still be at school but, so promising is his keeping, that the club were keen to move Niall O'Brien on in order to provide more opportunity for the 18-year-old. Olly Stone, a 19-year-old seamer who claimed the best-ever bowling figures for England in an U19 Test of 11 for 79, is also one for the future.

Captain/coach: With Hall having stepped down, Northants have two new captains this year. Stephen Peters is captain of the Championship side with Alex Wakely in charge of the limited-overs teams. The aim is to inject new energy into the squad and instil greater team unity and fight. Under the enthusiastic head coach, David Ripley, a burgeoning spirit seems to be building.

Cricinfo's verdict: Northants hit rock bottom last year, but it seems the experience has helped the club refocus on its role and responsibilities to the game. A determination to develop home-grown players will take time to come to fruition but, with young players offered opportunity and encouragement, the club should take the first steps on the road of progress in 2013.


Last year: 9th (relegated), CC Div 1; Quarter-finals, T20; 7th, CB40 Group A

2012 in a nutshell: Grim. Worcestershire were bottom of Division One in the County Championship - no team in either division lost as many games as their eight - and bottom of their CB40 group. A chronic lack of runs - no one averaged more than 35 and no one who played more than 10 games averaged more than 28 - was the overwhelming issue, though the failure of talented younger players to improve was, in its own way, just as disappointing. Players thought of as the future of the club, such as Richard Jones and Alexei Kervezee, were dropped, as were experienced pros such as Vikram Solanki and David Lucas. Solanki and wicketkeeper Ben Scott paid for their lack of runs by being released at the end of the season. Some of those brought in looked some way short of the standard required in Division One. The one redeeming feature was their progression to the quarter-final stages of the FLt20, which equalled their best performance in the format.

2013 prospects: It is hard to be optimistic. With financial constraints widening the gap between the rich counties and the poor, Worcestershire have been obliged to bring in some young and inexperienced players with plenty to prove in the professional game. Most pertinently, it is unclear who will keep wicket, with Ben Cox, 21, and Michael Johnson, 24 and signed from the Birmingham League, vying for the gloves. The batting appears thin, with much required of the overseas player, Thilan Samaraweera, and the likes of Daryl Mitchell and Moeen Ali, while Alan Richardson continues to lead the bowling attack. It does not bode well that they remain so reliant upon a seamer who will be 38 in May. Promotion appears unlikely.

But Worcestershire have surprised us before. In 2010, despite similar financial issues and the departure of several players, they bounced straight back into the top division thanks to a close-knit team spirit and some encouraging individual performances. There is some young talent at the club. The likes of Jones, Kervezee and Aneesh Kapil have all promised much at times and, if Gareth Andrew can remain fit, there is a decent first-team squad available, which could challenge any side in Division Two. There are a lot of 'ifs' and a concern remains over the lack of depth in the squad and the relative failure of talented young players to develop as they might have done in recent years. Jacob Oram looks a decent T20 signing, so long as he stays fit and complements the club's other allrounders, and Worcestershire could be dangerous in the shortest format.

Key player: Ali, as a top-order batsman in all formats and the main spin bowler, has developed into a valuable player. By his standards, however, he underachieved with the bat in 2012, averaging 26.08 in the Championship, and Worcestershire will need far more from him if they are to prosper. The fact that he is out of contract at the end of the season suggests this may well be his last at New Road.

Bright young thing: Kervezee has been around for several years now but has not, perhaps, pushed on as hoped. Now aged 23, it is time for him to kick-on. Kapil, 19, is a richly talented player, too.

Captain/coach: Knowing they cannot compete with the salaries offered elsewhere, Worcestershire have made a point of building a friendly, stable club that sticks with its senior staff. Whether that has made the club a little too cosy is moot and there is little doubt that, at many clubs, Steve Rhodes would have struggled to survive some of the setbacks of recent times. Bearing in mind the budget with which he works, however, there is much to be said for loyalty to a man utterly committed to the culture and best interests of the club. With Daryl Mitchell he forms a leadership team devoted far beyond the normal requirements of the job.

ESPNcricinfo verdict: At full strength Worcestershire have a decent team. But there is a lack of depth and it will be a surprise if they win promotion or go close to a limited-overs trophy.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo