Derbyshire's delayed start to the season sees us come up against England skipper Alastair Cook, as well as Ravi Bopara. There's also a strong attack with the evergreen David Masters alongside Graham Napier and international spinner Monty Panesar, so the challenge to Derbyshire is obvious.
Yet Essex are a division two side and have been for several summers, a side that flatters to deceive in which the whole doesn't necessarily add up to the sum of its parts. International calls hurt them, of course, but the side should have made a better fist of promotion challenges than it has.
Maybe this is their year, but Cook and Bopara will again miss large chunks of the county summer and much will depend on the depth of talent behind them. Owais Shah, a regular thorn in Derbyshire sides over recent summers, has gone, but ex-England wicket-keeper James Foster leads a side with a left-arm seamer of international potential in Tymal Mills, as well as ex-County Ground player Greg Smith.
Their squad in full:
James Foster (Captain/wicket-keeper),
Tymal MillsSaj Mahmood
Graeme Welch has named the same thirteen as for the Leicestershire game, with the only decisions being whether to play three or four seamers and who then misses out. That squad in full:
Godleman, Moore, Madsen, Chanderpaul, C.Hughes, Durston, Johnson, Clare, Wainwright, Palladino, Groenewald, Footitt, Turner
None of us have seen the players in practice and since all have done well pre-season it is a call I'll happily leave to the coach. It has been a difficult week for them, but the club's handling of things - including taking the players away for a hike in the Peak District, followed by a meal, quiz and a night in bunk beds, nine to a room - has been highly impressive.
The hurt won't have gone away from last weekend's tragedy, but the players will now be focused on moving forward and winning some cricket matches. This will be a tough one that will benchmark how well the side is prepared for a championship challenge and though it would be silly to read too much into a season opener, a winning start would be no bad thing.
There's an interesting sub-plot for this one too, as the game pits the two fastest left-arm bowlers in the country - Mark Footitt and Tymal Mills - against one another, assuming both are selected. Pace is nothing without control, of course, but it will make for interesting viewing.
With a positive forecast for the next four days, we'll get a chance to see what this side is made of.
My tip? I'll go for a winning start.
Come on lads!