PREDICTING the County Championship in recent years has been tougher than facing a medium-pacer on an April greentop.

In recent years, Middlesex have gone down the year after winning it, Essex have won it the year after coming up and Somerset have fluctuated between title challenges and great escapes.

Just one team goes down this year, with three coming up, but the quality and competitiveness will be as high as ever - a fairly good case could be made for any of the eight teams winning it.

So without further or do, here are the County Gazette 2019 predictions for Division One of the County Championship...

1st - Surrey

The reigning champions were 46 points clear of their nearest challengers last season and look well set to defend their crown.

Morne Morkel, who took 59 wickets at 14.32 last season, leads an attack bolstered by the signing of Liam Plunkett.

Rory Burns, Ben Foakes and Jason Roy will all be looking to score heavily with Ashes spots up for grabs, while Will Jacks is a batsmen with great potential - as his 25-ball century in pre-season showed.

He'll be more cautious than that against the red ball, of course, but the likes of Jacks will be crucial if Surrey lose players to international duty - surely what the chasing pack are banking on.

Even if they do suffer England call-ups, there are 10 Championship rounds before the first Ashes Test - if Surrey continue last season's momentum they could well have done enough by then.

2nd - Somerset

ALL bases look covered for Somerset to have another real go.

Jack Brooks is a shrewd addition to a talented attack hailed by Jason Kerr as the best in the country and, crucially, the former Yorkshire man knows what it takes to win the Championship.

James Hildreth's move up to three could be a masterstroke while simultaneously allowing the likes of George Bartlett and Eddie Byrom the chance to thrive further down.

Tom Abell, Lewis Gregory and the Overton twins all have the potential to push for international honours this season, while Jack Leach and Dom Bess should benefit from the increase in red-ball games at the height of summer.

All of which suggests this could be the year for Somerset - if they build on last season and benefit from a bit of luck along the way, they could well end their hoodoo.

3rd - Nottinghamshire

NOTTS have added well to their squad, picking up talented players with points to prove from their neighbouring counties.

Two of those, Ben Duckett and Joe Clarke, have the ability to score big runs while the Trent Bridge outfit should also see more of Stuart Broad than they have done in recent years due to the World Cup.

Steven Mullaney and Samit Patel remain two of the best all-rounders on the circuit and Notts, like Somerset, have the squad to compete on all three fronts.

4th - Essex

THE 2017 champions couldn't replicate their heroics last summer, but third place still represented a solid effort.

This year, they can build on that with the inevitable runs of Sir Alastair Cook, no longer on England duty but still with that hunger for big scores.

Somerset fans who saw Marcus Trescothick play at the end of the last decade will recall how Test-class batsmen can plunder effortless runs at this level and Cook could well have a similar impact at Chelmsford.

The consistency of Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer are key to the bowling attack and Essex have the ability to surprise a few this season.

5th - Yorkshire

AS mentioned earlier, Morne Morkel's impact was crucial for Surrey last year - Duanne Olivier could find Division One batting line-ups similarly to his fancy this summer.

The South African made the surprise decision to swap Test cricket for the county game at the age of 26 over the winter and his Test record - 48 wickets at under 20 - is evidence he could have played at the highest level for much longer.

Olivier replaces the consistent and popular Jack Brooks, now with Somerset, but whether there is the depth in the bowling attack to back him up is open to question.

Yorkshire will again see little of England stars Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow - the likes of Jack Leaning and Tom Kohler-Cadmore need to start fulfilling their potential if the White Rose are to challenge at the top end.

6th - Hampshire

RUNS should not be a problem on the south coast - South African Test opener Aiden Markram has signed for the early part of the season and James Vince, also now opening, is looking to put his Ashes case forward.

Below them come the likes of Sam Northeast, Rilee Rossouw and Aneurin Donald, who showed glimpses of his promise while with Glamorgan and is now testing himself at a higher level.

It could be a big summer for Mason Crane, now back from injury with plenty to prove, but the pace attack perhaps lacks the potency to launch a title bid.

7th - Kent

LIFE can be tough for newly-promoted sides at this level and Kent haven't been in the top tier since 2009.

The signing of Matt Renshaw should guarantee early season runs at the top of the order, while Daniel Bell-Drummond will look to kick on against the red ball.

The jury is out on whether 42-year-old Darren Stevens will wreak as much havoc against better batting line-ups as he has done in Division 2, and it could be taking 20 wickets that proves Kent's undoing.

However, from 2020 it is vital the non-Test match grounds have a sound stake in the top tier - for that reason, plenty will be willing Kent to survive.

8th - Warwickshire

WARWICKSHIRE made an instant return to Division One with promotion last season but their star man, Ian Bell, misses the first three months of the season through injury.

The onus is therefore on the rest of their batting line-up, which includes former Somerset man Adam Hose, to fill the void but, while talented, there is a lack of experience which could prove costly.

Their two pace additions from Gloucestershire, Craig Miles and Liam Norwell, have very good First Class records but may find Division One batsmen tougher nuts to crack, while it will be intriguing to see how Olly Stone fares if he can stay fit.


Surrey - 5/2; Essex - 10/3; Hampshire - 7/1; Yorkshire - 15/2; Nottinghamshire - 15/2; Somerset - 8/1; Warwickshire - 8/1; Kent - 14/1