Team-by-team guide: Division One

Somerset are good outside bet to claim title but drop looms for Hampshire
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The Independent Online

Durham

Captain: Dale Benkenstein

Overseas: Neil McKenzie (until June), Shiv Chanderpaul (from June), Albie Morkel (T20 only)

Prospects: Last season represented a coming of age and this one will determine if it is lasting maturity. The retired Ottis Gibson (80 wickets) is huge loss but they may see much more of Stephen Harmison, still potent (and frightening) below Test level. Expectation now outweighs hope; Benkenstein's selfless captaincy is crucial.

Hampshire

Captain: Dimitri Mascarenhas

Overseas: Shane Bond (until T20); Shane Watson (T20).

Prospects: Shane Warne's departure will be severely felt, since his aura pervaded the whole club. Belief may now be harder to come by, and the opening attack of Bond and Chris Tremlett must provide it quickly. John Crawley needs a return to form with the bat. A big test for Mascarenhas, not obviously captaincy material, and a relegation fight looms.

Kent

Captain: Robert Key

Overseas: Yasir Arafat

Prospects: Division One ever-presents, with more Kolpaks and UK passport holders than you can shake a stick at. It bespeaks the diminution of a once vibrant countywide, home-grown nursery. They have insufficient quality seamers so a Championship push is unlikely, but they would love to retain the T20 Cup. Expect Key to make a serious bid to recapture his England place.

Lancashire

Captain: Stuart Law

Overseas: Brad Hodge

Prospects: Question: what is the most oft-repeated fact in county cricket? Answer: that Lancashire have not won the title outright since 1934. Weather, not to mention self-pity as a result, will doubtless hinder them again. Bowling in abundance, some promising youth but perhaps too many over-30s. May not be 1934 all over again – again.

Nottinghamshire

Captain: Chris Read

Overseas: Adam Voges (until June), David Hussey

Prospects: Back to where they belong and may be expected to mount a challenge, except their awesome-looking opening attack, Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad, may be on perpetual England duty. Expect plenty of middle-order runs. Fascinating to see what fist Chris Read, who impresses everyone in cricket but England selectors, makes of captaincy.

Somerset

Captain: Justin Langer

Overseas: Langer

Prospects: Runaway Division Two winners and a smart outside bet to lift first title. Much will depend on their grand old seamer Andy Caddick, who is back from a back operation (whoever said he lacked guts was misguided), and the runs of Langer and the former England opener Marcus Trescothick. Need pace back-up but an array of Kolpaks will assist.

Surrey

Captain: Mark Butcher

Overseas: Matt Nicholson

Prospects: With Mark Ramprakash (almost 30 per cent of the county's runs last season) anything is possible. With 97, he will (very) soon become the 25th player to 100 hundreds. It seems somehow reprehensible that such a club have signed Pedro Collins as a Kolpak while also having an immensely promising Barbadian, Chris Jordan, 19, whom West Indies do not deserve to lose.

Sussex

Captain: Chris Adams

Overseas: Mushtaq Ahmed

Prospects: Aiming for hat-trick of titles, the first since Yorkshire in 1968 – and may be rewarded given Mushtaq's continuing grip on county batsmen. Will miss the all-round abilities of Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and will need more wickets from evergreen swinger Jason Lewry. This must be the last hurrah for county's most unlikely and successful captain, Chris Adams.

Yorkshire

Captain: Darren Gough

Overseas: Morne Morkel (early), Rana Naved-ul-Hasan

Prospects: Difficult to believe that the Barnsley dream ticket of Darren Gough and Martyn Moxon can engineer a 31st title, but Gough defied years and critics last season. Renewed vibrancy – and Naved – will help but they will need more runs from openers. A key player at only 20 will be the leg-spinning all-rounder Adil Rashid.

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