Ahead of the Bob Willis Trophy beginning on Saturday, August 1, we preview the sides that will be competing in the North Group.
2019 form: Just as they did in 2018, Derbyshire finished seventh and with four wins in the County Championship, failing to take advantage of the three promotion slots up for grabs. There was more joy in the T20 Blast, with a first-ever appearance at Finals Day.
Key player: Billy Godleman
Skipper Godleman led from the front in 2019, hitting over 2,000 runs across all formats, including seven centuries – four of them coming in the County Championship. He finished as the fifth-highest run-scorer in Division Two.
One to watch: Michael Cohen
A 21-year-old left-arm quick who previously represented South Africa Under-19s, Cohen was signed in October last year on the back of an impressive record in his homeland. Having played for Cape Cobras and Western Province, his 50 first-class wickets so far have come at 26.12. He isn’t an overseas signing courtesy of EU citizenship.
2019 form: Marcus North (director of cricket) and James Franklin’s (head coach) first season at the helm involved a fifth-placed finish, with promotion hopes not ended till a defeat away at Northants in their penultimate game of the season. There was promise shown in limited-overs cricket, but still just two group-stage finishes.
Key player: Chris Rushworth
Ever reliable and the man that haunts the dreams of batsmen across the country with not his pace, but accuracy and movement. No one took more than his 69 wickets in Division Two, and you’d imagine he’ll be up there again in this truncated season.
One to watch: Paul Coughlin
Back at his home county after two tough and injury-ridden years at Nottinghamshire, it will be interesting to see whether the all-rounder can reclaim the form that led to his ascension to England Lions ranks.
2019 form: Promotion back to Division One was achieved by finishing top of the table, while there was impressive work in white-ball cricket too, reaching the final four in the One-Day Cup and falling just short of an appearance at Finals Day in the Blast.
Key player: Dane Vilas
An appearance at The Hundred, after reeling in a hefty fee at the draft, will have to wait for now. Not that facing the red ball is any trouble: Vilas hit 1,036 Championship runs at 79.69 and a strike rate of 74.63 in 2019.
One to watch: George Balderson
An all-rounder who spent the winter captaining England Under-19s at the World Cup, Balderson looks set to make his first-team debut this year.
2019 form: Bottom of the County Championship and their white-ball groups – a torrid year.
Key player: Hassan Azad
A bright spark who must have felt aggrieved not to figure in England’s red-ball plans this summer. The opener was the leading run-getter in Division Two, totalling 1,189 runs at an average of 54.04, with three centuries to boot.
One to watch: Alex Evans
A right-arm quick, Evans made his County Championship debut in the closing stages of last season and took 4-73 against Northants, and the Leicestershire academy graduate was rewarded with his first professional contract earlier this year.
2019 form: Many would have imagined Notts challenging for the title; instead they plummeted to relegation. They reached the semi-finals of both white-ball competitions, although how they didn’t manage to overcome Worcestershire on Finals Day probably still hurts.
Key player: Joe Clarke
A disappointing debut season amounted to 621 County Championship runs at 31.05 for one of the brightest batting talents going, and he appears a long way away from international recognition. Nevertheless, Clarke remains the man to build a batting unit around, and a warm-up century against Leicestershire indicates some form.
One to watch: Haseeb Hameed
The boy the world wishes well. The one-time England whizz kid has had a miserable few years but is now at Trent Bridge after being released by Lancashire at the end of last season. Many will be hoping he can rediscover the form that landed him a Test debut on the 2016 tour of India.
2019 form: Middling returns across all formats; they finished fifth in Division One and offered little spark in white-ball cricket.
Key player: Gary Ballance
It’s been three years since England came calling, but Balance remains a domestic titan, with only Dom Sibley hitting more Division One runs last summer.
One to watch: Ben Coad
An established performer, yes, but one to keep an eye on after being overlooked from England’s training group from the summer despite a startling first-class record of 145 wickets at 20.98.
Bob Willis Trophy North Group Fixtures
Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire, Trent Bridge
Durham v Yorkshire, Emirates Riverside
Lancashire v Leicestershire, Blackfinch New Road
Durham v Lancashire, Emirates Riverside
Leicestershire v Derbyshire, tbc
Nottinghamshire v Yorkshire, Trent Bridge
Durham v Leicestershire, Emirates Riverside
Lancashire v Nottinghamshire, Emirates Old Trafford
Yorkshire v Derby, Emerald Headingley
Derbyshire v Durham, Emirates Riverside
Leicestershire v Nottinghamshire, The Fischer County Ground, Grace Road
Yorkshire v Lancashire, Emerald Headingley
Lancashire v Derbyshire, Liverpool
Nottinghamshire v Durham, Trent Bridge
Yorkshire v Leicestershire, Emerald Headingley