Guide to the Opposition - June and July

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Warwickshire

Last Season: After defeating eventual LV= County Champions Durham, Warwickshire spurned their chances and ended the year as 4th best despite a big talented squad at the County’s disposal.

Player to Watch: Varun Chopra was a run machine in Division One last season, smashing 1095 runs including a top score of 228*. A place with the England Lions this winter beckoned for the talented opening batsman, and if the 26-year-old can keep his form going this season, there may be further England honours on the horizon.

Overseas Player: Jeetan Patel, the experienced New Zealand spinner will once again reside at Edgbaston. A tricky spinner, Patel could be within the wickets on dry late season surfaces – indeed, Warwickshire arrive at Northampton in late June. Jeetan was Warwickshire top wicket taker in 2013, with 52 wickets.

Verdict: Warwickshire will once again be in the hunt, but there will be stronger teams in the division. This could be a winnable match for Northants in mid-season.

Somerset

Last Season: Perennial underachievers, Somerset are usually the bookies’ favourites but never quite mount the title challenge a squad like theirs deserves.  Somerset flirted with relegation in 2013 as the talented Taunton based outfit never really got going.

Player to Watch: or Players – The Overton brothers are a hugely gifted duo of pace bowlers. The younger twin, Jamie is already a mainstay in the Somerset attack, taking 35 wickets in 13 Championship matches whilst his older brother Craig, who started earlier in the 1st XI, is an all-rounder who had his 2013 season destroyed by a stress fracture in his back. Big things are expected of the pair.

Overseas Signing:  Alviro Petersen, the South African international batsman is set to be with Somerset for the majority of the season due to South Africa’s light summer schedule. Petersen will add much needed runs from the middle order –Last season he made centuries in his first two appearances, helping secure a draw at The Oval before almost setting up victory over Warwickshire, and scored 562 runs at 46.83.

Verdict: A misfiring Somerset could be dragged into a battle for survival once again in 2014 and this match could be a crucial encounter for both Northants and Somerset ambitions.

Guide to the Opposition - June and July www.northantscricket.com