Had their hopes of a third consecutive title ruined thanks to injuries to their bowling attack last year. With the return of Steve Harmison and Graham Onions, they may well have the firepower again. Despite his poor winter for England, Paul Collingwood will still have plenty to offer.
Player to watch: Ben Stokes.
Prediction: Aging squad may have one final Championship push.
Likely to miss Dimitri Mascarenhas and Nic Pothas again, but the overseas signings should create quite a stir. Shahid Afridi and Friedel de Wet’s arrival should ensure a strong one-day challenge again. Simon Jones also attempts to re-launch his career again after a promising pre-season.
Player to watch: Shahid Afridi.
Prediction: Strugglers in the Championship, a lively one-day outfit.
With seven of Lancashire’s eight Championship home matches on outgrounds that will almost certainly bring results, Glen Chapple’s men could get enough results to challenge for the elusive Championship. If results go against them there could be a battle to stay in the top division with a small looking squad.
Player to watch: Glen Chapple.
The Champions have a largely unchanged squad, but Ryan Sidebottom’s return to Yorkshire will leave a hole in the bowling attack. No Graeme Swann again will mean Samit Patel has to take on the spin workload once more and if he continues to do it successfully, Notts could lose him to England too.
Player to watch: Samit Patel.
Prediction: Will do well to match last year’s highs.
Last season ended in heartbreak on all fronts as Somerset finished runners-up in all competitions. Having snapped-up Gloucestershire’s paceman Steve Kirby and re-signed Kieron Pollard for the T20 campaign, the Taunton faithful will hope their team can challenge on all fronts again.
Player to watch: Jos Buttler.
Having bounced back with relative ease, Sussex looked well equipped to mount a serious challenge this season. Wayne Parnell will add some firepower to the bowling attack and Brendon McCullum’s hitting ability could make them serious contenders for the T20 competition.
Player to watch: Brendon McCullum.
Prediction: May surprise people and challenge on all fronts.
With Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott on England duty and Chris Woakes heading in a similar direction, Warwickshire may well be in for a long season. They are further hit by the departure of Imran Tahir who has joined Hampshire. Ashley Giles will his team feature in the latter stages of the one-day competitions.
Player to watch: William Porterfield.
Prediction: Will do well to survive and match last year’s CB40 triumph.
Despite operating with a small squad last year and even smaller budget, Worcestershire fought hard to win promotion. Will face a tough ask to lose their ‘yo-yo’ moniker, but the addition of Saeed Ajmal for the second-half of the season should provide some excitement.
Player to watch: Vikram Solanki.
Prediction: Relegation favourites.
The Tykes proved everyone wrong last year and competed well after being tipped to struggle, Andrew Gale led his young side to within a whisker of the Championship. This year they will need to fill the void of Jacques Rudolph’s 2,463 runs as the popular South African has returned home.
Player to watch: Joe Root.
Prediction: Maybe a little light for a Championship challenge again.
The signings of Usman Khawaja and Martin Guptill should help Derbyshire scramble away from the wooden spoon prize again. The return of Luke Sutton could be key, as the runs of Chris Rogers, who has moved to Middlesex, will be sorely missed.
Player to watch: Usman Khawaja.
Prediction: Should improve on last year’s bottom place.
Having Alastair Cook available for the first six county matches will mean Essex have a terrific chance to set the early season pace. Owais Shah will want make hay in the second tier after joining from Middlesex. Should make an instant return to the first division.
Player to watch: Ravi Bopara.
Prediction: Promotion beckons.
The Welsh side suffered with in-house disruptions that led to the departure of Matthew and Tom Maynard along with Jamie Dalrymple. Incoming captain Alviro Petersen will certainly make a difference to the one-day squad and they may just have enough for a promotion push.
Player to watch: Alviro Petersen.
Prediction: Will do well to match last year’s promotion challenge.
Have been hit by cost cutting measures that have severely hit the squad, with senior players leaving and replaced by youngsters from the academy. In some welcome good news, Muttiah Muralitharan has joined the club for their T20 campaign and that may give the Bristol crowd something to cheer.
Player to watch: Muttiah Muralitharan.
Prediction: Struggle at the bottom.
Faced with a cash crisis, Kent have been unable to budget for an overseas player this year, this means they’ll miss Makhaya Ntini from a weak looking pace attack. Rob Key, Joe Denly and Sam Northeast will need to banish their collective nightmares of 2010, otherwise it could be a long summer.
Player to watch: James Tredwell.
With the much reported off-the-field troubles now settled, Matthew Hoggard’s men can now concentrate on cricket matters. Hoggard and Paul Nixon will need to be at their best to keep a small looking squad going through the long summer. If injuries are kept to a minimum, there could be a promotion push.
Player to watch: James Taylor.
Prediction: Outside chance of a promotion bid.
Having released Owais Shah and likely to lose Eoin Morgan to England for the summer, Middlesex may find themselves a little light in the batting department. Bowling wise, they may find themselves boosted by the return of Steven Finn who has lost his place in the England line-up.
Player to watch: Neil Dexter.
Will be unlucky to see so many batsmen lose form again as they did in 2010. James Middlebrook served as a more than decent replacement for Monty Panesar and is a useful mid-order batsman. If Johan Botha fires, they could be an outside bet for the T20.
Player to watch: Johan Botha
Prediction: Mid-table languishers
Finally it appears that Surrey have a settled side and it’s one that boasts youthful potential rather than expensive imports. May struggle without Mark Ramprakash’s runs in the early season, but could benefit from seeing more of Kevin Pieterson if he retires from the England ODI team as expected.
Player to watch: Rory Hamilton-Brown
Prediction: Possible promotion bid, but likely to fair better in one-day game.