Coach: Ian Harvey
Captain: Chris Dent
Overseas players: Kraigg Brathwaite, Daniel Worrall
Ins: Tom Lace (Middlesex), Jared Warner (Yorkshire)
Outs: Gareth Roderick (Worcestershire), Stuart Whittingham (retired), George Drissell (released)
Gareth Roderick's departure to Worcestershire means that James Bracey will probably face the burden of keeping wicket while batting in the top order - most likely at No. 3 - but he has impressed during his time among England's reserves, and should be up to the challenge. Ryan Higgins has 115 first-class wickets at 21.43 since his move from Middlesex, while averaging 36.82 with the bat: if he can maintain that form against a higher calibre of opposition then he may be touted as an England contender before long. One area of concern will be their record at Bristol: since 2016, they have won four, lost six and drawn 16 at their main home ground. A bit more life in the pitches may serve them well.
Director of cricket: Giles White
Coach: Adrian Birrell
Captain: James Vince
Overseas players: Kyle Abbott, Mohammad Abbas (April-May)
Outs: Harry Came, Oli Soames (both released)
A rain-affected friendly against Northamptonshire frustrated Hampshire's pre-season campaign, while injury setbacks for batsman Aneurin Donald and left-arm seamer Keith Barker add to their woes. But, in some good news, spinner Liam Dawson is back from a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in August. He took two wickets and scored 48 off 91 balls after being promoted to No. 4 in last week's friendly against Sussex.
Tom Alsop and Lewis McManus scored well against Sussex, adding to a batting line-up that will expect plenty of captain James Vince, Sam Northeast - now at peace with the notion that his England chance may have gone - Holland and Joe Weatherley. If they can get enough runs on the board, legspinner Mason Crane could be a wildcard matchwinner as the season wears on.
Coach: Paul Nixon
Captain: Colin Ackermann
Overseas players: Marcus Harris
Ins: Ed Barnes (Yorkshire), Rishi Patel (Essex), Scott Steel (Durham),
Outs: Tom Taylor (Northamtonshire), Paul Horton (retired), Mark Cosgrove (released)
If the defiant opener Hassan Azad can rediscover the form of 2019, when he seemed to be batting for ever, and Australia opener Marcus Harris makes an impact then runs may come. How Leicestershire will bowl the opposition out remains to be seen, however. The loss of Tom Taylor - viewed as England potential by Nixon - to Northants means that beyond the first-class wickets of Chris Wright and Dieter Klein there is not too much left. Leicestershire may need that youthful enthusiasm for some long days in the field. Ed Barnes, a former England U-19 seamer gained from Yorkshire, will hope to alleviate the shortcomings.
Director of cricket: Angus Fraser
Coach: Stuart Law
Captain: Peter Handscomb
Overseas: Peter Handscomb
Outs: Dan Lincoln (released), Miguel Cummins (Kent)
Since winning the County Championship in 2016, it's been a tale of barely mitigated failure in red-ball cricket for Middlesex. Relegation in 2017 was followed by two more seasons in the second division, including an abject campaign in 2019 when only Leicestershire won fewer matches than their three out of 14.
They did manage sparky showing in last year's Bob Willis Trophy, however, finishing behind Essex, the eventual champions, and Kent in the South Group. Their two victories in five attempts included a satisfying 190-run thrashing of Surrey at the Kia Oval.
The cornerstone of any Middlesex challenge will lie in the depth and variety of their seam attack. An enviable blend of youth and experience means that the old guard of Toby Roland-Jones, Steven Finn, James Harris and Tim Murtagh will be kept on their toes by youngsters such as Blake Cullen, Ethan Bamber and Tom Helm - who, at the age of 26 and after a winter on England's radar, should be all the more driven to succeed this summer.
Director of cricket Andy Hurry
Coach: Jason Kerr
Captain: Tom Abell
Overseas: Marchant de Lange
Outs: Nathan Gilchrist (Kent), Jamie Overton (Surrey), Dom Bess (Yorkshire)
The batting has an exciting look to it. While Tom Banton, George Bartlett and Tom Lammonby have lots to prove, they are a talented young trio and, alongside the more experienced James Hildreth and Steven Davies, provide an attractive line-up - even if Babar Azam's Pakistan/PSL commitments may prevent a return. The fact that most of those seamers can bat could prove important, too.
The one area Somerset may be lacking is in their spin bowling. With Dom Bess having moved to Yorkshire and every chance that Jack Leach will be on England duty from June onwards, much may be required of Lewis Goldsworthy, who is 20 and has yet to play a first-class match, and Roelof van der Merwe, who is 36 and has taken 16 first-class wickets in the last three years.
So, can they challenge? We'll see. But, such are expectations at Taunton these days, anything less than qualification for Division One would probably be considered a disappointment.
Director of cricket: Alec Stewart
Coach: Vikram Solanki
Captain: Rory Burns
Overseas: Kemar Roach, Hashim Amla
Ins: Laurie Evans (Sussex), Jamie Overton (Somerset)
Outs: Scott Borthwick (Durham), Morne Morkel (released)
But when has precedence ever got in the way of Surrey's pre-season narrative? It would be quite a shock if they aren't firmly in this year's shake-up - especially given a Test-quality batting line-up that could feature Rory Burns, Mark Stoneman, Hashim Amla, Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes in the top six, alongside such up-and-coming talents as Jamie Smith and Will Jacks - the latter, aged 22, surely primed for a pivotal season after three years of grounding in the first XI.
On the bowling front, Surrey's seam attack will be missing the spring-loaded menace of Morne Morkel, but the often-underestimated Kemar Roach is a world-class replacement. The Curran brothers will be away on IPL duty in the first half of the season, but Jordan Clark is an under-valued allrounder who may hope to thrive in their absences.
Surrey's most eye-catching signing, however, is arguably Jamie Overton, a genuine quick who found his style cramped at Somerset, but who hopes to unleash his full potential. In an Ashes year, he will be extra-incentivised to crank up the pace.
On the spin front, Gareth Batty is now more focused on his coaching duties, but Amar Virdi is itching to prove his progress after a winter in England's Test bubble, while the slow left-armer Dan Moriarty was one of 2020's breakout stars, with 17 wickets in two matches including 11 against Sussex.