We start with Division 1 and the northernmost county Durham, who will be looking to improve on last season’s finish of 5th and recapture the glory of the title winning seasons of 2008 and 2009.
Durham’s main strength was its big weakness in 2010 when an almost biblical pestilence of injuries robbed them of Graham Onions, Mark Davies and Stephen Harmison for either the whole or significant parts of the summer. If Durham are to repeat their successes of 2008 and 2009, they will need this pace triumvirate fighting fit.
Other strengths include a powerful lower middle order of Ian Blackwell, Ben Stokes and Phil Mustard and the consistently high performing Michael Di Venuto and Dale Benkenstein.
Once again there is no overseas batsman to provide support to Di Venuto and Benkenstein in what is an area of weakness for Durham, although fans can expect to see more of Paul Collingwood this season now that he is retired from Test duty.
Stokes looks to have a big future and a good season could see him accelerated into the England set-up, and Di Venuto can be relied upon for substantial runs. But our nod here goes to the returning Graham Onions, who will be champing at the bit to make up for missing the whole of last season and the Ashes tour.
Look out for…
The return of Will Smith, who hasn’t been seen on a cricket field since he abruptly resigned the captaincy early last season. Hopefully, his break from the game will enable him to deliver the goods with the bat once again.
2nd – providing that they can keep Onions, Davies and Harmison fit. Add these three to Liam Plunkett and Durham has the best pace attack in the division.
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