Both Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire will come into 2015 looking to improve on disappointing campaigns last summer as they kick off the Division Two season at Wantage Road.
Northamptonshire suffered a disastrous campaign as they were relegated from Division One with a record low points total after failing to win a single game, and will be eager to pick up an early win to stop that run.
It has been a season of mild revolution at Wantage Road, with stalwarts such as David Sales, Andrew Hall and James Middlebrook all leaving the club, with their focus shifted more towards white ball cricket with Josh Cobb and Adam Rossington coming in.
However with David Willey back to full fitness and overseas bowler Rory Kleinveldt, Northants have a dangerous opening attack, while the batting will be led by Alex Wakely, who is back after a year out with an Achilles injury, taking over from Stephen Peters as Club captain.
Glocuestershire have also had a winter of change, with Richard Dawson and Ian Harvey appointing head coach and assistant, while also having a new captain with Geraint Jones taking the reins following his move from Kent.
They saw both Gidman brothers move on to pastures new at the end of season, with Alex and Will a big void to fill after filling the top two places in the batting averages, while Will was also leading wicket taker.
Peter Handscomb and Kieran Noema-Barnett were the two marquee arrivals along with Jones and will bolster an otherwise inexperienced side, while they will be hoping for Craig Miles to continue his progress form last summer and lead a bowling attack which picked up the fewest bowling bonus points last year.
David Willey has never fully fit last season following back surgery in the winter, but following a further operation on his shoulder this winter is back raring to go and is key to Northants hopes of a success Championship season.
His new ball partnership with Rory Kleinveldt will be crucial to their hopes, while Willey’s aggressing batting in the lower middle order has the ability to take the game away from opposition quickly.
Gareth Roderick only made four Championship appearances in an injury hit 2014, but in those games he scored 470 runs with a century and three further fifties. He has already hit a hundred against Cardiff MCCU, and could be set for a breakthrough season.
Twelve months ago Northants had barely 11 fit players to start the season after a pre-season plagued by injuries but are in a much better position this time round, though Maurice Chambers and Graeme White are nursing slight knock and will miss out, while there is also no place for Scotland’s World Cup centurion Kyle Coetzer.
Josh Cobb and Rory Kleinveldt are in line to make debut’s for the County, while Alex Wakely will lead the side in his first appearance since September 2013 after missing the entirety of last summer. Either Ben Duckett or Adam Rossington will keep wicket with the duo sharing the job towards the end of last season.
Northants squad: Alex Wakely (captain), Muhammad Azharullah, Ben Duckett, Josh Cobb, Steven Crook, Richard Keogh, Rory Kleinveldt, Richard Levi, Rob Newton, Stephen Peters, Adam Rossington (wicketkeeper), Olly Stone, David Willey
Gloucestershire include new signings Peter Handscomb and Kieran Noema-Barnett in their 13-man squad with the pair, who have both arrived on UK passports, likely to debut at Wantage Road. Geraint Jones will lead the side for the first time since re-joining the club permanently, Jones will play as a specialist batsman while Gareth Roderick takes the gloves.
Gloucestershire squad: Geraint Jones (captain), Chris Dent, James Fuller, Peter Handscombe, Hamish Marshall, Craig Miles, Kieran Noema-Barnett, Liam Norwell, David Payne, Gareth Roderick (wicketkeeper), Tom Smith, Will Tavare, Matt Taylor
Weather and conditions
The start of the season is often met with rather mild weather and those April showers, but this year all is set fair for Northampton this week with four dry days, and temperatures set to reach the dizzy heights of the early 20s on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Date: 12th – 15th April 2015
Ground: Wantage Road, Northampton
Umpires: Peter Hartley & Steve O’Shaughnessy
Odds (via SkyBet): Northants 5/9, Gloucestershire 6/4
LV County Championship Match Odds (in association with Opta)
- – The draw between these teams in their last meeting in August 2013 was the first in 10 not to produce a winner.
- – Tom Smith took the joint-most Championship wickets caught and bowled last season, three.
- – Steven Crook hit 13.9% of the balls he faced in the 2014 Championship for a boundary, the highest percentage of those facing at least 200 balls.