Apologies for the lack of blogs in recent days, but there's not been a lot of news on which to comment. Add to that the hectic nature of my work load, issues with our wi-fi and that much of this weekend has been taken up by confirming this year's holidays and I've not had too much time.
We're heading back to Tennessee this year in celebration of our son's 21st birthday. Its where he really wanted to go and the same goes for the rest of the family, so for just over a fortnight we'll be spending our time between Memphis and Nashville on what will probably be the last big family holiday before he hopefully graduates next year. I'll miss around half of our T20 campaign, but will keep in touch - there's much to be said for a netbook and hotels with good w-fi!
I've also sorted out my other holidays from work and should manage a few trips to the County Ground this summer. Its a shame that we'll not be at Scarborough (I was keeping fingers crossed for that one...) and that we're not playing Scotland, but as things go I should see a fair bit of the side. I hope to make it for the first game of the season, actually, as I'm planning a trip to see my parents and should hopefully manage down for a couple of days. I'll make sure I have plenty of warm clothing, though a repeat of last year's early summer Derbados would be nice. I might stick my cricket gear in too, just in case Krikk is short for one of the games...
Good to see the club planting some trees to soften the landscape at the County Ground. It will take some time for them to grow, but once again you cannot fault the thinking as what was once a pretty barren ground is being transformed bit by bit. It is equally good to see Rana Naved, our new recruit, being selected for the MCC, in a week when I shared the amusement of those on the Forum at a Sussex fan. He claimed that they would probably get a better player than Naved, a comment that supposed a county who were outbid for his services would pick up a better player for less money. Unless there is a true altruist on the world stage I fail to be convinced by that one.
I've also been gathering some thoughts on Division Two prospects and at this stage see Essex as the strongest side. If they don't make runs with Shah, Bopara, ten Doeschate and Petersen in their batting line-up they will be concerned, while Masters and Willoughby make up a fine opening attack. By the same token, I don't feel they have much in reserve and the availability of the last three names among the batsmen is likely to be limited by tours and the IPL. As with any other side, a few injuries could make a mockery of any prediction and in recent years they have flattered to deceive. Greg Smith might make a difference, but will need to produce on a more regular basis than he did for us to do so.The other question is how big an effect the Westfield case has on the club and no one knows that at this stage
Yorkshire seem to be the favourites of a few people, but again their inconsistency is an issue. They shouldn't lack for runs, but I wouldn't swap their attack for ours and unless Rashid returns to form and others kick on they won't run away with things. Look at it this way - they didn't worry us unduly last year, did they?
Northamptonshire have some good players but were heavily dependent on Vaas last year and how long he can keep going is anyone's guess. This week they signed South African Con de Lange, qualified to play after several years up here in Scotland. His record suggests a solid batsman and steady bowler, but 170 wickets at just under 40 is nothing to be overly excited about.
Likewise, I've seen comments that Kent will be contenders after signing Ben Harmison and Charlie Shreck, but I'm not sure what such comments are based on. Harmison hardly bowled last year and scored only moderately for Durham Seconds, while Shreck, though a good bowler on his day, rarely puts together a sustained run of fitness. If he does they will have a good bowler, but recent track record isn't great and they have lost some very good players.
As I've said before, I'll wait and see if there are any late signings before making my predictions. I think we currently look stronger than several sides on paper and I don't see anyone running away with things. Talent will be a factor, of course, but successful teams need luck with fitness, the weather and events on the pitch.
All I can say at this stage is that with the players we have, even allowing for inexperience, we should be in the mix and I will be disappointed if that isn't the case. If we can pick up one more seamer of talent I will revise my notional ideas accordingly.