This year, a sense of anticipation replaced the indifference which ordinarily greets the beginning of the county cricket season. With England looking to rebuild after a winter which saw them lurch from one calamity to another, an unprecedented number of places in the national side appear to be there for the taking.
With three hundreds on the England Lions tour of Sri Lanka, Middlesex’s Sam Robson became the frontrunner in the race to partner Alastair Cook in the first Test of the summer, a position he cemented with a big hundred for his county. The haughty sacking of Kevin Pietersen opens up a middle-order berth, which could be taken by Gary Ballance, who looks likely to retain his spot after two early season hundreds. Joe Root and Matt Prior will probably regain the places they lost in the winter, barring a horror run of form in the lead-up to the opening Test.
England may overlook the claims of Graham Onions in favour of one of a promising battery of young quicks to be their third seamer. Chris Jordan, who has impressed in England’s limited overs sides, and Tymal Mills, a rapid but raw left-armer, have looked threatening for Sussex and Essex respectively. Steven Finn appears to have regained form, though England may be unwilling to welcome him back so soon after being deemed ‘unselectable’ in Australia. Monty Panesar looks favourite to be England’s spinner, with the skills of Scott Borthwick, Durham’s promising leg-spinning all-rounder, as yet unhoned.
While Peter Moores’ second coming as coach may rule out a return for Pietersen, the recruitment of his assistant, Paul Farbrace, is a damning reflection on world cricket. Farbrace left his job as head coach of Sri Lanka, having won the Asia Cup and the World Twenty20, to take up the post, his former employers unable to compete with the pay offered in England.