County Championship Division One at a Glance: Part One

With the start of the 2024 Vitality County Championship now just days away, we thought we would take a look at the teams that Somerset will be competing against for the Division One title this summer.


Captain: Scott Borthwick
Head Coach: Ryan Campbell
2023 finish: Champions (Division Two)
2023 highest run-scorer: Alex Lees (1,347)
2023 highest wicket-taker: Ben Raine (60)

What can we expect?: Durham will not be returning to Division One to just survive. You just know with the positivity their coach Ryan Campbell exudes that they will be aiming big. Campbell has made no secret of his contempt for draws, so strap yourselves in, this could be a fun ride.

Key winter moves: Australia cult-hero Scott Boland has signed an overseas deal until the end of July; the seamer could play as many as nine Vitality County Championship matches alongside South Africa batter David Bedingham, who returns for a full summer. England Lions left-arm spinner Callum Parkinson and experienced Netherlands batter Colin Ackermann have signed from Leicestershire, while club legend Graham Onions returns as lead bowling coach from Lancashire with a burgeoning coaching reputation.

One to watch: Alex Lees, last season’s leading run-scorer in Division Two, was in possession of an England opener’s berth at the start of the Brendon McCullum-Ben Stokes era and will be desperate to regain his place. Loves to dominate from the off.

Final thought: Durham’s seam bowling unit has a fearsome look about it heading into 2024. Boland will begin his maiden county campaign with big expectations, while fellow quicks Ben Raine and Matthew Potts both topped 50 wickets in Division Two last season. Then there are the likes of Brydon Carse, Bas de Leede, Paul Coughlin and young gun Ollie Gibson. Add in the wily left-arm spinner Parkinson and you can see why there is plenty of excitement building in the North East.


Captain: Tom Westley
Head Coach: Anthony McGrath
2023 finish: Second (Division One)
2023 highest run-scorer: Tom Westley (1,130)
2023 highest wicket-taker: Simon Harmer (61)

What can we expect?: For the first time since 2019 the two heavyweights of domestic red-ball cricket in the last decade – namely, Essex and Surrey – are scheduled to play each other home and away. It would be a sight to savour if the season’s finale at Chelmsford in late September was winner-takes-all for the title.

Key winter moves: Essex moved promptly and astutely to cover the retirement of Sir Alastair Cook and defection (to Surrey) of Dan Lawrence. They brought in another former Test captain at the top of the batting in South African Dean Elgar and prised away promising wicketkeeper-batter Jordan Cox from Kent to enhance the middle-order.

One to watch: If the circumstances are right, Matt Critchley is capable of stepping up to the plate, lighting the after-burners and taking the game away from the opposition in a whirlwind of boundaries. His leg-breaks can cause havoc, too.

Final thought: While there has been remedial surgery in the batting ranks with the loss of Cook and Lawrence, Essex are still able to field one of the most balanced and penetrative bowling attacks in the competition. Seamers Jamie Porter and Sam Cook will again soften up the opposition batters, weighing in with their fair share of wickets, before leaving Simon Harmer to bemuse any survivors with his relentless off-spin.


Captain: James Vince
Head Coach: Adi Birrell
2023 finish: Third (Division One)
2023 highest run-scorer: James Vince (1,007)
2023 highest wicket-taker: Mohammad Abbas (53)

What can we expect?: This will be the 52nd season since they last won the Championship, and with the likes of Kyle Abbott and Keith Barker into their twilight years, this could be the last dance for this highly-talented era. Hampshire have been dreaming of a dependable opener since the days of Michael Carberry and Jimmy Adams, and Ali Orr might be the man to set a platform for the likes of James Vince and Liam Dawson to cash in.

Key winter moves: Ali Orr has moved down the coast from Sussex to improve the top-order batting. Australian quick Michael Neser has joined predominantly for the Vitality Blast, but the door has been left ajar for him to feature in the Championship. Aneurin Donald is the only major departure, although Scott Currie and Mason Crane are spending season loans away from the newly-rebranded Utilita Bowl.

One to watch: John Turner – England liked what they’ve seen in 31 professional matches so much that they have already given him a Development Contract. Very quick, very accurate and very much likely to skittle batting line-ups this season.

Final thought: After three straight third-placed finishes, all the ingredients are there for another tilt at the title…but can they finally do it? They ended last season by beating the top two, with only Surrey equalling their eight victories across the campaign. Erratic performances have stunted them in recent seasons but if they can find a smooth consistency in all sessions then silverware should follow. A trip to the Kia Oval in late April will be a good barometer of their hopes.


Captain: Daniel Bell-Drummond
Head Coach: Matt Walker
2023 finish: Eighth (Division One)
2023 highest run-scorer: Ben Compton (735)
2023 highest wicket-taker: Wes Agar and Matt Quinn (both 21)

What can we expect?: Were Kent lucky or unlucky last year? Critics can claim that survival on the final day suggests the former, but after losing six potential overseas bowlers to injuries and having to do without Nathan Gilchrist for almost the entire season, the club could argue they were dealt a bad hand that they played as well as they could.

Key winter moves: The angst caused by Jordan Cox’s cross-Thames flit to Essex was more than offset by Matt Parkinson’s arrival from Lancashire and Xavier Bartlett will be available for the first three months. George Garrett and Michael Cohen should bolster a bowling attack that was on its knees by the end of last season.

One to watch: Grant Stewart tends to score quickly or not at all and his lower-order pyrotechnics have rescued a number of failing innings.

Final thought: Can Kent hope for anything more than survival this year? They stayed up by beating Northants twice and grinding out five draws, but 2023 was a frequently grim experience that ended with players, staff and fans alike huddling around phones and laptops to watch Middlesex’s nerve-shredding defeat at Trent Bridge. Canny reinforcements at least offer some hope this time round.


Captain: Keaton Jennings
Head Coach: Dale Benkenstein
2023 finish: Fifth (Division One)
2023 highest run-scorer: Josh Bohannon (1,257)
2023 highest wicket-taker: Tom Bailey (50)

What can we expect?: The arrival of Lyon is mouthwatering prospect, no doubt, but from an England point of view it will be interesting to see if England Lions skipper Josh Bohannon, the county’s new vice captain, can back up his brilliant 2023 summer, in which he was the top flight’s leading run-scorer. If he does, a Test call might be in the offing.

Key winter moves: Dale Benkenstein has replaced Glen Chapple as head coach, the ex-South Africa batter moving from Gloucestershire. The Red Rose have pulled off the winter’s eye-catching overseas signing, bringing in Australian off-spin legend Nathan Lyon, initially for a full season before Cricket Australia recently revised his availability to seven matches during the first half of the summer. New Zealand batter Tom Bruce also arrives at Emirates Old Trafford for a full summer.

One to watch: Lancashire have a number of contenders, and dynamic young wicketkeeper-batter Matty Hurst is one if he gets a run in the side. But imposing and experienced opener Luke Wells is capable of taking a bowling attack apart if he gets going.

Final thought: Lancashire finished second in all three competitions in 2022, so a fifth-placed finish in last season’s Championship stung. They struggled to get results on flat pitches at Emirates Old Trafford, hence the marquee signing of Lyon. But, after his recent 22-wicket return in the India v England Test series, a lot of focus will be on left-arm spinner Tom Hartley. How will Lancashire’s management handle his development during the first half of the summer when playing two spinners in English conditions is not always possible?