<h1>WHITE ROSE FORUM 2017 Season Preview</h1>
With the 2017 season just around the corner, here is the White Rose Forum's look
at how things may turn out, including Dave Morton's assessment of each first
division team's prospects. We also include relevant 2017 player and team mile-
stones, the latest odds and team changes since last season, Stu Acton's Fantasy
cricket, and our annual pre-season poll.
But first, as is our tradition:
<h2>Dave Morton's Season Preview...</h2> This is
clearly not performance related. Despite my abysmal record as a predictor, I have
been asked to try again, which I do with pleasure. Which are the County teams, and
which the players, who will be getting us talking in 2017?
I’ll begin with Yorkshire. It’s all change at Headingley, with new coach, new
captain, new overseas batsman; but there will be the same old moaning, and the
same old four-man pace attack, just so long as they stay fit. England have been
fairly constant in their selections, of late, so the loss of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow,
Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett and David Willey for the first half of the season, and of
Root and Bairstow, as a minimum, for the duration of the Tests, seems inevitable.
If any team has the resources to cope, that team is Yorkshire. But it will not be easy,
especially given the continuance of the no-toss rule, which tended to negate our pace
attack last season. We all hope our team will be in Championship contention again; but
with two teams out of eight to be relegated, there will be some nervous looks over the
shoulder, too. Nobody does pessimism as well as we do in Yorkshire!
<h4>The inimitable Ryan Sidebottom is set to retire
at the end of the season</h4>
Obvious candidates for relegation will be Hampshire, who are the first visitors to
Headingley. All was not well at the Ageas Bowl last season, with the grumbling of
members making the travelling fans feel quite at home. In the event, Hampshire escaped
relegation only because of the penalties imposed against Durham. It is difficult to
see them doing much better in 2017, though there are a few young players we might
enjoy: opening bat Tom Alsop, leg-spinner Mason Crane, if he plays, and a 20-year-old
South African pace bowler called Brad Wheal. (He’s got good wheals, someone said, but
that’s terrible and I won’t repeat it.)
Unhappy Adam Wheater has returned to Essex, and much will depend on the availability of
James Vince and Liam Dawson, fringe England players both. The overseas contingent
looks strong, with George Bailey and a couple of good South African Kolpaks. They will
be nobody’s pushover.
The promoted team – just one this time – is usually pre-season favourite for the drop,
but Essex look strong to me, especially in batting. A certain Mr A Cook should be an
early-season presence, unless Team England judge he needs to rest, and there is the
impressive Tom Westley in addition to the aforementioned Wheater. Varun Chopra also
returns to his roots after a long spell in Birmingham. and Neil Wagner will bring
unquenchable enthusiasm to their bowling, as he did with Lancashire’s last year.
Yorkshire folk tend to underrate Ravi Bopara, but don’t include me in that.
Lancashire perhaps surprised people last season, and may fall foul of their own success
as a result. Young Haseeb Hameed will surely be with the England Test team later on,
unless he suffers from second season blues in the first part of the Championship
campaign. Liam Livingstone may force his way into the ODI squad; he is very good,
brilliant even, but better than Bairstow? England may think so. I bet he’s not so good
at carrying drinks. Yet.
Shiv Chanderpaul is one of the more surprising County recruits, but he won’t lack
desire, nor professionalism, nor experience of English early-season conditions.
Lancashire are playing up the 42-year-old’s role as a mentor to their many young
players. They will undoubtedly miss Alviro Petersen’s runs, and they look as
vulnerable as anyone. How big a part will Jimmy Anderson be allowed to play? He could
make a big difference by getting some wins into the Red Rose Bank before departing to
the Test arena. Kyle Jarvis is excellent, but otherwise the pace bowling could again
be a weakness.
Click here for 2016 Player action photos by Dave Morton on Flickr
I believe Warwickshire have pulled off a major signing in young Northants all-rounder
Olly Stone. He missed much of last season, after injuring himself in the act of
celebrating a wicket, but he could be a major player, if he stays fit. Jonathan Trott
will be available, and Ian Bell probably, unless England have a change of heart, and
they have much experience, along with the likes of Rikki Clarke, Tim Ambrose and
Jeetan Patel. Sam Hain is another impressive young batsman who has attracted the
Surrey have benefited from Durham’s problems, with Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick
both moving to The Oval. They will have three men who played for England in Bangladesh
and India this winter, though many might struggle to remember who they were – Gareth
Batty, Zafar Ansari, Jason Roy would be the answer – and Aaron Finch and Kumar
Sangakkara will share the overseas duties.
Ben Foakes has been spoken of as a wicket-keeper of the old school, and he has a First
Class batting average of 40, and the Curran brothers are obviously talented, too, so
‘on paper’ they should be title contenders. But last season I saw them get slaughtered
by both Yorkshire and Lancashire, and they didn’t have the body language of champions.
So I’m backing Surrey for relegation, which means that come September we will all be
watching a team in brown caps lift a cup decked out in brown ribbons. All my fault.
One Surrey player has moved to Taunton. Steve Davies has decided he wants to keep
wicket again, and Somerset’s batting will be strengthened. Whether their wicket-
keeping will be improved is a different question, especially for a team that relied
heavily on spin bowling in 2016. They have swapped one traditional-style, left-handed
opening bat for another, Chris Rogers out, Dean Elgar in, and with Marcus Trescothick
and James Hildreth still around, runs are unlikely to be in short supply.
However, it was their bowling that so nearly took Somerset to a first-ever title in
2016. The quick men seem to understand the lengths to bowl on the flat Taunton tracks,
though these pitches suddenly became turners later on in the season. The much heralded
(by me!) Jack Leach was joined by teenage off-spinner Dominic Bess, a player I have
yet to see in action, and they almost bowled Somerset to the Championship.
Another player to watch is bowling all-rounder Lewis Gregory, who is growing into a
sort of Peter Trego junior. Leach has had a difficult winter, with his action
amazingly called into question, but if he is not too damaged by the experience I
expect Somerset to challenge strongly again. I hope they manage to prepare a result
pitch for our visit in June.
However, it is Middlesex who have found the Philosopher’s Stone, a team of talented
and experienced individuals not quite good enough to be called up for England. It
would be easy to make a case for the inclusion of any (or all) of Nick Gubbins, Ollie
Rayner and Toby Roland-Jones in the England team. Stephen Finn too, of course.
If that happens, Middlesex will struggle. Otherwise I expect them to be holding the
trophy aloft again in 2017. There is a nice balance to the side, with young players
like Tom Helm and Stevie Eskinazi to balance the experience of Nick Compton and Tim
Murtagh. At full strength, there is no weak link. Just like Yorkshire. Watch out for
Rayner’s slip fielding; world class, Sharpe class!
The two teams meet at Lord’s in June and at Headingley in early September, two fixtures
to be keenly anticipated; also Yorkshire v Somerset at Scarborough in early July.
Throw in a couple of almost back-to-back Roses matches in May and early June,
and...well, I can hardly wait! Bring it on!
I am sure everyone will wish Andrew Gale and Gary Ballance all the best in their new
roles, and Peter Handscomb too. It would be lovely if Ryan Sidebottom in his final
season, and Steve Patterson in his Testimonial year, could remain fit and in form.
England calls will test our team’s determination and depth of talent, and there will
be opportunities for younger players. That is for sure.
I have written 1,300 words and not even mentioned the Second Division. I hope I won’t
be mentioning it in twelve months’ time, either, except that my support for cricket
extends to all eighteen counties. I wish I could be a member of all of them.
From Scarborough to Lord’s, Hove to Chelmsford, Chester-le-Street to Taunton, we are
all one family, a family under threat of eviction. We have paid our dues. The England
teams, white ball and red, are proof of that, and the influx of a host of talented
young players. But it seems to make no difference. County cricket in all its forms
could really use a successful and happy 2017.
Dave Morton, March 2017
Dave Morton’s excellent 2016 season diary and photo book Sweet Shires can be
bought from SilverWood Books (£9.99 + p&p) or Amazon or directly from Mr. Morton for
£10 including p&p to WRF readers at firstname.lastname@example.org
<h2><b>Stu Acton's Fantasy Cricket</b></h2>The link below follows to the login page with full details of the scoring system and rules.
Name: White Rose Forum
Fantasy Cricket Link
<h3>First XI</h3>Jonathan Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan, Jack Brooks, Peter Handscomb
(overseas), Travis Head (T20), Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Steven
Patterson, Liam Plunkett, Azeem Rafiq, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ryan Sidebottom, David
<h3>2017 Selected Milestones</h3>Yorkshire require one County Championship victory to reach 1,200 County (1890 to date)
Championship matches won
Jonny Bairstow requires 379 runs to reach 10,000 first class runs
Tim Bresnan requires 19 wickets to reach 500 first class wickets and 7 wickets to reach
to reach 300 List A wickets
Jack Brooks requires 40 wickets to reach 400 first class wickets
Andrew Hodd requires 84 runs to reach 1000 List A runs
Jack Leaning requires 249 runs to reach 2000 first class runs
Adam Lyth requires 173 runs to reach 3000 List A runs
Liam Plunkett requires 55 wickets to reach 500 first class wickets
Adil Rashid requires 20 wickets to reach 500 first class wickets
Ryan Sidebottom requires 2 wickets to reach 200 List A wickets
<h3>Ins and Outs</h3>IN: <b>Rafiq
OUT: Gale (retired)
OVERSEAS: Peter Handscomb
</b><h3><b><b>Latest odds Odds
<b>WRF 2017 Pre-Season POLL VOTE HERE