Sadly, the new lockdown restrictions that went into effect at midnight on Friday mean the two grounds said to experience socially distant crowds – The Oval and Edgbaston – have had to close their doors again. No further releases will occur until at least August 15, when the third round of play is due to begin. But you can follow the matches on BBC radio, via county feeds and here – where the coffees will be served around 10:30 am, when I have passed biosecurity measures at Trent Bridge. For those of you who are in bereavement or in poor health, tremendous pressure, I hope the return of county cricket proves a light in the dark hole.
According to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “It is the time you lost for your rose that makes your rose so important.
In cricket: three regional groups of six, each against the other teams once, a final between the two teams with the most points to play in the fall, probably at Lord’s. Today’s meetings:
Edgbaston: Warwickshire contre Northants Will Rhodes, 25, is the new Warwickshire captain, bolstered by the experience of CCLive frontrunner Ian Bell, who signed a one-year contract extension. Northants coach David Ripley has spoken of the desire to use the trophy to give opportunities to as many members of his team as possible.
Bristol County Ground: Gloucestershire v Worcestershire Worcestershire, who suffered a disappointing redball season last year after a promising 2018, miss Pat Brown and Moeen Ali with England but signed Nottinghamshire batsman Jake Libby. Gloucestershire won promotion to the Championship at the end of 2019, under the watchful eye of coach Richard Dawson. Zimbabwean allrounder Ryan Higgins will be looking to repeat his fantastic 2019 season which put him on the shortlist for the PCA Player of the Year award and young wicket keeper James Bracey has caught the eye of Jack Russell, among others, for his glove work behind the stumps.
Taunton: Somerset contre Glamorgan The County Championship finalists open the season in Taunton where they made a final attempt, albeit without a cigar, to thwart Essex last September. Off the field, Marcus Trescothick is now Jason Kerr’s assistant and Gordon Hollins, ex-BCE, is the new general manager; on the field, their promising batting unit is in need of runs. Glamorgan, the sub-dogs, will be without Marnus Labuschagne, the Australian who was the foundation of their stick last year before moving on to even bigger things with Australia (he did, however, sign a two-year contract which led him to the end of 2022). Joe Root’s brother Billy will look to improve on a promising debut season for Glamorgan last year.
Chester-le-Street Durham v Yorkshire Probably the most even game in the north with two strong seam attacks – Duanne Olivier and Ben Coad at the head of Yorkshire, who lost Tim Bresnan and won Dawid Malan over the winter, and Durham bolstered by the return of Paul Coughlin of Trent Bridge and minus the new captain of the red ball Ned Eckersley.
New route: Lancashire v Leicestershire. A home game for Lancashire at New Road as Old Trafford is used by England and Grace Road was in the Leicester Lockdown Zone. Greater Manchester, of course, have since joined this club. Lancashire, who made a triumphant return to Division 1 at the end of last season, is without Saqib Mahmood, Richard Gleeson, Liam Livingstone, James Anderson and Jos Buttler, all with England. The Leicestershire Wooden Spoons have a new four-day captain at Colin Ackermann; Promising batsman Hassan Azad continued where he left off last season with 69 against Notts in the preseason friendly.
Pont de Trent: Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire: Notts had a disastrous season in the Championship last year – without a win – so it’s a chance, especially for their young batsmen Joe Clarke and ex-Lancashire Haseeb Hameed, to get off to a good start. Derbyshire cricket chief Dave Houghton is hopeful but realistic. “We’re not kidding ourselves, we’re in a very strong section with Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire and a definitely improving Durham, so we and Leicestershire have our work cut out for these guys. But we played cricket really well last year and I expect us to do the same this season.
L’Ovale: Surrey v Middlesex Surrey, who went from injury to injury in a burst ball from a 2019, is without seven players currently serving in England – Sam and Tom Curran, Jason Roy, Reece Topley, Rory Burns, Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes. The recent Middlesex underachievers are led by new captain Steve Eskinazi, after Dawid Malan left for Yorkshire.
Chelmsford: Essex v Kent Essex look like a strong team under the new management of the red ball from Tom Westley. They miss Ravi Bopara, who moved to Sussex, and Dan Lawrence, with the England squad, but Simon Harmer hovers dangerously to exploit Chelmsford’s ‘crisp’ surface, and Alastair Cook calmly enters another season. Kent, a mix of youth and experience, will be without captain Sam Billings, Zak Crawley and Joe Denly, all training in England. In the pre-game friendly between the two teams, wicket keeper Ollie Robinson went a century unbeaten.
Hove: Sussex contre Hampshire Sussex, still under Jason Gillespie, had an unsatisfactory season last year, although their top fashion designer, Ollie Robinson, was impressive; Hampshire miss James Vince, but Mason Crane, whose career has been so ravaged by injuries, is in good shape. Hampshire will play their home games at beautiful and rolling Arundel this summer as England sequestered the Rose Bowl.