The possible impact of overseas players is another vital point to consider, and the bookmakers are in little doubt that Allan Donald will take Warwickshire very close to the title - 5-1 with Ladbrokes is the best price available with the major layers. Surrey, who actually managed to win a trophy last season when successful in the Sunday League, are also prominent in the list, though the unexpected loss of Brendon Julian, called into the Australian squad, and the regular unavailability of Alec Stewart on international duty cannot help their cause. Middlesex, whose bowling lacks depth, also make little appeal at single-figure odds.
Punters should look to Kent, 12-1 with Coral, who finished fourth last season and have since added to both batting and bowling options with the arrival of Alan Wells and leg-spinner Paul Strang.
In the Sunday League it may pay to take a chance with Somerset following the arrival of Dermot Reeve, who knows a great deal about winning one- day competitions, as their coach.
BRITANNIC ASSURANCE COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP: Best prices: 5-1 Warwickshire (L), 6-1 Surrey (H), 8-1 Essex (C,L), Leicestershire (H,L,S), 10-1 Lancashire (L), 12-1 Middlesex (C), Kent (C,S), Derbyshire (H,L,S), 14-1 Yorkshire (C), 16-1 Worcestershire (C,S), 25-1 Northants (H,L,S), 28-1 Glamorgan (H), 33-1 Somerset (H), 40-1 Notts (H,S), 50-1 Gloucs (L,S), 66-1 Hants (C), 150-1 Sussex (L), 750-1 Durham (L).
AXA EQUITY AND LAW SUNDAY LEAGUE (Best prices): 6-1 Warwickshire (C), Surrey (C,S), 9-1 Lancashire (L), Middlesex (C), 10-1 Kent (S), 12-1 Yorkshire (C), Essex (C), 20-1 Leicestershire (C), Somerset (C), 25-1 Northants (L), 33-1 bar.
C Coral. H William Hill. L Ladbrokes. S Surrey.