After the storm of the Natwest T20 Blast comes the relative calm of the Fifty-Over Cup, which starts on Saturday in its second year of its umpteenth reincarnation as the Royal London One-Day Cup. In the second part of our preview, we jog your memories of last year and look ahead to Group B. Group A can be found here.
Last year: Quarter-finals (second in Group A)
Ed Higgs’ Verdict:
For Essex, their 2014 RLODC campaign was a case of déjà vu all over again. After sailing through the Blast T20 group stages only to be defeated by Birmingham, they were once again thwarted as Warwickshire romped to victory at Chelmsford in the One-Day Cup.
Considering they had lost just once in the group stages, such a subdued performance was likely a mere aberration. 2015 offers the opportunity for redemption. As ever, few sides will relish a late summer trip to Chelmsford, whilst the Eagles also host Middlesex at the Colchester Festival. Shaun Tait’s stay does not extend to this competition.
Last year: Fifth in Group B
Jack Vittles’ verdict:
Last year, a series of mixed results meant that the side had to settle for fifth place in a very competitive group. However, there were some encouraging performances, including comfortable victories against Essex, Surrey and Somerset. Jacques Rudolph led the way with the bat scoring 575 runs, and finishing the season top of the RLODC run charts by over 100 runs, despite not taking part in the knockout stages.
Looking ahead to this season, Glamorgan will be hoping to go one better and progress to the knockout stages this time round. Whilst they have lost the services of Jim Allenby, a superb 50-over player, they do have some very skilful players to call upon. Craig Meschede has impressed on loan from Somerset this season, and Chris Cooke is developing into one of the most explosive batsman on the county circuit. Youngsters Aneurin Donald and Andrew Salter will also hope to feature heavily in this year’s campaign.
Last year: Ninth in Group A
Kevin Harper’s verdict:
Hampshire were surprisingly poor in the RLODC last year. For a side with such a good limited overs record in recent times, it was a major shock that they only won one of their eight matches as they finished bottom of their group.
This year they have no aspirations of any achievement in the Championship and aren’t certain to make T20 finals day given the likelihood of them being on the road in the quarter-final so this competition may get more focus than last year. Sadly Hampshire’s batting is struggling this season and while they might have enough to escape the group, a day at Lord’s may just elude them.
Last year: Semi-finals (second in Group B)
Lewis Blain’s verdict:
Kent surprised many by finishing second in Group B last year, winning four and losing just one of their eight matches.They saw off Gloucestershire with ease in the quarter-finals, which set up a tie at Warwickshire in the semis. Sadly for the Spitfires, Jonathan Trott’s heroics saw the Bears over the line with three overs to spare. No Kent fan would have expected the side to reach the semi-finals so all round it was a fantastic performance in the fifty-over competition.
Jimmy Adams’ side have blown other sides away in the Natwest T20 Blast South group this year so their form in the short format is nothing short of fearful. The form of the two Sams – Northeast (averaging 52.25) and Billings – puts the Spitfires in good heart for this year’s campaign. If their twenty-over form is anything to go by, I wouldn’t write them off.
Last year: Eighth in Group A
Luke Adams’ verdict:
Lancashire experienced a disappointing spell in the 50-over contest last season. Their campaign began with resounding defeats against Yorkshire and Hampshire on home soil and it felt as though the tournament was over for the Lightning before it had even got going. Just two wins in eight group games was a fair reflection of how they had performed throughout.
Ashley Giles’ men will no doubt be focusing on cementing promotion to the first division of the County Championship and their Twenty20 campaign could add further pressure to the current demand should they progress. Lancashire may therefore give opportunities to younger players, but with the likes of James Faulkner available they will at least be hoping for an improvement on their return from last season. A mid-table finish would be realistic for Lancashire given their focus on red-ball and Twenty20 cricket.
Last year: Seventh in Group B
Jack Sheldon’s verdict:
Defeat in three of their first four matches virtually ended Middlesex’s qualification hopes last year, though they ultimately finished just two points off the quarter-finals. The Panthers – as they were then known – had their moments with both bat and ball but often fell short in the crucial death overs.
The Twenty20 campaign suggests that many of the problems faced in white-ball cricket over recent years remain, though if Eoin Morgan can do what he did in 50-over cricket with England as captain of his county, a good run cannot be ruled out. As well as Morgan himself, big performances will be required from Paul Stirling, James Franklin and, with the ball, from the in-form James Harris.
Last year: Semi-finals (first in Group B)
Ross Lawson’s verdict:
2015 began very poorly for Nottinghamshire, struggling in the early stages of both the LVCC and Natwest T20 Blast, but a resurgence in form has seen the smiles return to Trent Bridge. Whether their momentum will carry over to the RLODC, however, is another matter.
James Taylor will lead his county from the front once again, with his mind firmly on securing his place in England’s ODI-side. The batsman made 114 in Notts’ last outing against Durham last year, but the Outlaws were dumped out by Ben Stokes’ brilliance in the semi-finals having topped Group B. A regular wicket-taker in the format will be key to repeat last year’s last four berth.
Trent Bridge is given a rest with Market Warsop hosting the first two matches.
Last year: Eighth in Group B
Ed Syers’ verdict:
Sussex have some pedigree when it comes to one day cricket, but just two semi-final appearances in the last five years is not a healthy return for a side with nine limited overs trophies to their name. The Sharks managed just three wins during a disappointing campaign last year, and it could have been fewer had it not been for Yasir Arafat.
But with the all-rounder having since switched to Hampshire, the club will be hoping the experienced heads of Ed Joyce, Chris Nash and Luke Wright at the top of the order will be enough to give Michael Yardy a positive send-off before retirement.
Last year: Runners-up (third in Group B)
Terry Wright’s verdict:
Warwickshire were last year’s beaten finalists in the Royal London One Day Cup. They only finished third in their group, winning four but losing three of their games. But, ironically, it was Durham, the team finishing behind them in fourth place, that went on to beat the Bears at Lord’s.
Warwickshire, with a talented squad, will have eyes on the quarter-finals as a minimum expectation. Progress will depend, however, on several factors. Will batsmen Varun Chopra, Jonathan Trott and William Porterfield, come good in this format after tricky seasons? Might Ian Bell be discarded by England and come back to the Bears, with Chris Woakes going in the opposite direction? Will injured pacemen Boyd Rankin and Chris Wright come back fit and raring to go? And, maybe most important of all, will Jeetan Patel and Rikki Clarke, both key figures, maintain their fitness as a gruelling campaign reaches its climax?