A preview of the fourth round of matches in the 2018 County Championship.
The domestic season continues to build momentum, with Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Jimmy Anderson due to make their first appearances in Division One matches tomorrow, joining the other England incumbents and contenders.
Root and Bairstow will line up against Alastair Cook as Yorkshire face the champions Essex in Chelmsford; Anderson will join Haseeb Hameed, Keaton Jennings and Liam Livingstone in Manchester in a Lancashire team still looking for their first win of the season as they face a Somerset side who have won their first two matches of the season for the first time since 1993 – and who hope to have Jack Leach back from illness to join Craig Overton and Australian opener Matt Renshaw.
Stuart Broad makes his second appearance of the season for Nottinghamshire against a Hampshire team led by James Vince, and Nick Gubbins is set to return after a hamstring injury to join Dawid Malan in the Middlesex team that travels to the south coast to face Jason Gillespie’s Sussex.
Division Two – Warwickshire v Derbyshire
Derbyshire have included the former England tourist Mark Footitt, who rejoined them on loan from Nottinghamshire this week, and also the Afghanistan-born England Under-19 off-spinner Hamidullah Qadri. They’re batting first. (Brian Halford)
Essex v Yorkshire
Essex have struggled to gain momentum in their Championship defence with a rain-ruined match at Hampshire last week following the complete abandonment of their opener at Headingley – although they did have a good win against Lancashire in their first home game. Cook started well, with 84 in his only innings, and they have other England hopefuls in Tom Westley and Jamie Porter. Yorkshire will welcome the return of Root and Bairstow to a batting line-up that was skittled for 96 last weekend at Somerset, despite the presence of Cheteshwar Pujara and captain Gary Ballance. The England pair are also available for next week’s game against Surrey at the Kia Oval.
Lancashire v Somerset
What a difference a year makes for young Somerset captain Tom Abell. Last spring, he endured a difficult time following his appointment, struggling for runs as Somerset slipped into relegation danger. This year, he’s contributed crucial runs and even a couple of handy wickets as they have opened up with home victories over Worcestershire and Yorkshire. This will be their first away test, and Lancashire head coach Glen Chapple admits that Anderson’s availability gives him seam selection headaches with Joe Mennie, Graham Onions and especially Tom Bailey impressing in last week’s home draw against Surrey. Lions wicketkeeper Alex Davies is doubtful.
Nottinghamshire v Hampshire
Notts surged to the top of the early-season table by romping to victory inside two days last weekend against the Worcestershire team who pipped them to the Division Two title last year. Broad played his part but the stars were Luke Fletcher, who has made a full recovery from the serious head injury he suffered last summer, and Jake Ball, who has bounced back from his miserable Ashes winter to take 21 wickets in three matches – the best in either division. Hampshire are still missing Sam Northeast who suffered a broken finger in training before last week’s home draw against Essex. Hashim Amla returns to familiar territory after a stint with Notts in 2010.
Surrey v Worcestershire
Another tough task for Worcestershire who have made a nightmare start in their return to the top flight with three consecutive defeats against Hampshire, Somerset and Nottinghamshire. Surrey beat Hampshire in their previous home game and salvaged a draw at Lancashire on Monday. They need to replace Dean Elgar, the South African batsman who was always going to be unavailable this week for personal reasons, but have two of Division One’s top scorers in Ollie Pope (237) and Ben Foakes (218) – who are separated by Somerset’s Matt Renshaw (228).
Durham v Leicestershire
Durham are bottom of the table and Leicestershire eighth, although both remain in better shape than this time last year when they started with points deductions. Durham were desperate to bounce back from an opening defeat by Kent but endured a complete washout at Northampton – leaving Aiden Markram, their South African signing, still looking for his first run for the county after suffering a pair on the first day of his debut. Leicestershire have made a solid start under new coach Paul Nixon and captain Michael Carberry with home draws against Sussex and Derbyshire, and their attack will again be led by Indian quick Varun Aaron.
Glamorgan v Kent
A familiar name returns to county cricket, with Glamorgan’s home reverting to its original Sophia Gardens title after 10 summers as the SWALEC or SSE SWALEC. Glamorgan enter their first home game of the season in good spirits, after a win at Gloucestershire and a good bowling performance against Middlesex at Lord’s, and are set to welcome back South African quick Marchant de Lange to join Australian batsman Shaun Marsh and their collection of Welsh youngsters. Kent have won one, lost one, and their acting captain Joe Denly scored a century in a tour match against Pakistan last week.
Sussex v Middlesex
Gubbins has recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered in the third match of the North-South Series in Barbados in March – after hitting centuries in each of the first two. He and Malan will look for friendlier batting conditions than Middlesex experienced in last week’s rain-ruined draw against Glamorgan at Lord’s. Their bowling attack is still missing Steven Finn as well as long-term absentee Toby Roland-Jones. Sussex are still looking for their first win under new coach Jason Gillespie after opening up with three draws, the last when heavy rain on Monday washed out their home game against Gloucestershire when it was intriguingly poised.