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Lancashire v Nottinghamshire
Notts, having claimed an emotional opening victory against Surrey on Wednesday as they digested the news of James Taylor’s enforced retirement, field Stuart Broad for their next three matches. Notts’s seam bowling resources are so strong that they have released county stalwart Luke Fletcher to join Derbyshire on loan. Alex Hales returns against Yorkshire on May 1.
Lancashire are also set to have an all-international new-ball attack for their first game back in Division One, with Jimmy Anderson available for three games to link up with Neil Wagner, their new overseas signing from New Zealand.
Ashley Giles, the former England coach who guided them to promotion and the NatWest T20 Blast title in his first year in charge, has agreed a contract extension until the end of 2018.
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Steven Finn will make his first appearance since suffering a side strain in England’s third Test victory in Johannesburg in January, against a Warwickshire team who made an impressive start to the season in a winning draw against Hampshire - where Ian Bell marked his appointment as captain with a big century.
Finn, who was subsequently ruled out of the World T20 with a calf injury, will be joined in the Middlesex team by Nick Compton, also aiming to seal a place in England’s first Test of the summer next month. Warwickshire may be without their England seamer Chris Woakes, depending on the result of scans on a knee injury sustained at Hampshire.
Middlesex finished second last season, their best Championship performance since 1995, but have a bad record against Warwickshire, who are unbeaten in the last 19 matches between the teams since June 2001.
Yorkshire v Hampshire
Even with Joe Root unavailable and Tim Bresnan out with a calf strain, there is no guarantee that David Willey will go straight into Yorkshire’s Championship team following his winter move from Northants – although he is included in a 13-man squad. As well as Willey, Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett, three members of England’s T20 squad, Yorkshire feature two batsmen hoping to regain their Test places this summer in Adam Lyth and Gary Ballance.
Hampshire have added Brad Wheal, a South Africa born seamer, to the 13-man squad they named for their opening game against Warwickshire at the Ageas Bowl, meaning he is one of three possibilities to come in for Reece Topley, who suffered a broken bone in his hand in his debut when batting. England Under-19s legspinner Mason Crane and left-arm seamer Chris Wood are the other options. Jimmy Adams is still missing.
Glamorgan v Leicestershire
A first game as head coach for Robert Croft. He has included Timm van der Gugten, an Australia-born Holland international who impressed against England in the 2014 World T20, in a 13-man squad. South African opener Colin Ingram is expected to pass a fitness test on a knee injury.
Leicestershire, who finished bottom of Division Two for the third consecutive season in 2015, have signed three experienced batsmen with captaincy experience – Neil Dexter from Middlesex, Paul Horton from Lancashire and Mark Pettini from Essex, who will lead them in one-day cricket. Surprisingly, Leicestershire have not lost a season opener since 2007.
Gloucestershire v Derbyshire
Derbyshire have signed Luke Fletcher on a five-match loan from Nottinghamshire and he could go straight into their side for their first match of the season. They lost Mark Footitt to Surrey over the winter and Billy Godleman, who had been due to take over from Wayne Madsen as captain this season, is out with a fractured left thumb. Hamish Rutherford will fill in.
Gloucestershire lost their opening match against Essex but could be boosted by the return of left-arm seamer David Payne.
Sussex v Essex
Sussex will celebrate the life of Matt Hobden at a ceremony before Sunday’s opening Specsavers County Championship home game against Essex at the 1st Central County Ground in Hove.
The 22-year-old fast bowler’s death on January 2 cast a long shadow over Sussex’s pre-season preparations and Hobden will never be far from the thoughts of captain Luke Wright and his players throughout the season and beyond. Sunday’s ceremony will see a tree planted in Matt’s memory at the Sea End of the ground, between the Club Shop and Reception area at the County Ground.
Reverend Kate Lawson of nearby All Saint's Church in Hove and Zac Toumazi, Sussex’s Chief, will address those present, before Matthew's family plant the tree. Baritone Nick Gee will then sing 'Sussex by the Sea.’ The ceremony, open to all, is at 1020am.