With only a few weekends until the first ECB Womens' County Championship game of the 2013 season, now seems the right time to look forward to what lies ahead. Some sunshine would be a good start.
Division One of the LV County Championship will be contested by 9 sides - Berkshire, Essex, Kent, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire and Yorkshire. Each team plays the other just once. Kent are the defending champions, having defeated Essex in last year's final, which is played for by the two teams that finish in the top two places in the league. In fact Kent have won the title for the last two years and five times in all since the competition began in 1997.
Below we take a look at the teams and pick out some of the players to look out for during the season. We will be covering all the results, match reports and information that we can get our hands on and publishing it here on this blog. There will be twitter (@wmnscricketblog) announcements for each new post. After each round of matches there will be a round-up of results and individual performances. If you are involved with any of the county teams then we would love to hear from you with match reports, news and gossip - email firstname.lastname@example.org. The full fixture list as it currently stands follows the county previews. If we can get confirmed ground information for fixtures we will publish this so that you can get along and support your county and see the girls in action.
Berkshire (last year finished 5th)
Berkshire have a young squad headed by 22 year old England bat Heather Knight (formerly of Devon). They also have England Academy players Alice Macleod and Fi Morris (on loan from Gloucester), and England U19s Carla Rudd (on loan from Sussex) and Linsey Smith. In addition they can call on all the experience of Isa Guha, the former England opening bowler. They will be a lively side in the field, but their best chance of hardware may be in the T20 tournament again, where they have finished runners-up for the past two years.
At the end of March the county are taking the players for a week's pre-season training to La Manga where they will play five games against Ireland Women in both 50 over and T20 format. They are likely to hit the ground running.
Confirmed Squad - Heather Knight (capt), Alice Macleod, Alex Rogers, Daisy Gardner, Isa Guha, Carla Rudd, Linsey Smith, Fi Morris, Rosie Inns, Sherisa Gumbs, Nicole Beasley, Imogen Brown, Georgina Dean, Shenica Gumbs, Rosie Inns, Rachel Hardy, Rachel Newborough, Ashleigh Muttit, Sophie Castle, Rebecca Hartless
Essex (last year - Runners-Up)
Essex managed to get themselves to the County Championship final last year, but only on the back of playing and winning just 2 games - against Notts and Yorks. They lost the final by 7 wickets. They have a new captain in Joanne Cook and have some good youngsters in the England Academy's Beth Langston and England U19's Cordelia Griffith and Lily Reynolds (on loan from Cambridge). They also have the services of Australian leg-spinner Kristen Beams. They are a young side and are likely to struggle to replicate their success of last season.
Confirmed Squad - Joanne Cook (capt), Karen Baker, Kristen Beams, Laura Boorman (capt), Bryony Butcher, Hannah Courtnell, Cordelia Griffith, Hannah Jeffrey, Beth Langston, Beth MacGregor, Grace Melhuish, Lauren Onajaife, Laura Owen, Lily Reynolds.
Kent (last year - Champions)
As defending champions and with England captain Charlotte Edwards at the helm, Kent will be hard to beat. They can boast three of the current England squad with Tammy Beaumont, Lydia Greenway, and Laura Marsh (when she returns from shoulder surgery) all joining their England skipper, but they have lost the services of England's Susie Rowe, who has joined Surrey on loan. In addition they have Academy girls Alice Davidson-Richards and the young left-armer Tash Farrant, plus England U19s Grace Gibbs and Charlotte Pape. We would not be surprised to see an overseas player added to this squad before the season starts. They will once again be the team to beat.
Confirmed Squad - Charlotte Edwards (capt), Tammy Beaumont, Deanna Cooper, Alice Davidson-Richards, Tash Farrant, Grace Gibbs, Lydia Greenway, Gemma Greenwood, Elysa Hubbard, Jenni Jackson, Hannah Jelfs, Laura Marsh, Charlotte Pape, Laura Thompson, Dee Tress, Joanna Watts
Middlesex (last year finished 4th)
Beth Morgan may have retired from international cricket, but her experience will prove invaluable to another young side which has the likes of Catherine Dalton, Naomi Dattani and Natsha Miles to call upon, who have all been involved in the England set-up over the past few years. Aussie import Lauren Ebsary who played last year is not coming over again this year, but she is replaced by another Aussie in Emma Inglis, the wicket-keeper batsman, who has played for the Australian U23 team. They are likely to upset a few teams.
Confirmed Squad - Beth Morgan (capt), Catherine Dalton, Naomi Dattani, Sophia Dunkley, Emma Inglis, Raveena Lakhtaria, Natasha Miles, Anna Nicholls, Ria Raval, Claire Ross, Binaisha Shah, Helen Stolle, Hannah Wakeman, Danni Warren.
Nottinghamshire (last year finished 6th)
Notts have the very experienced England all-rounder Jenny Gunn at the helm this year, and they have added England spinner and opening bat Danni Wyatt to their ranks (from Staffs), who will no doubt add plenty of fizz to the side. They could cause one or two upsets, but like Berkshire they may be suited better by the shorter format of the game.
Squad - Yet to be announced - includes Jenny Gunn (capt), Sonia Odedra, Danni Wyatt
Surrey (last year finished 7th)
Surrey may struggle this year again, having just avoided relegation last year. They have lost their star player following the retirement of skipper and former England opener Ebony Rainford-Brent, but they have managed to recruit a replacement in Susie Rowe, who was due to go to the T20 World Cup with England before breaking a finger. A lot of responsibility will fall on her and also on the young shoulders of England Academy player Natalie Sciver, but they will need support.
Squad - Yet to be announced - includes Susie Rowe, Natalie Sciver
Sussex (last year finished 3rd)
Five times County Champions Sussex will again be a strong outfit this year. Having been unbeaten last year in five games they were aggrieved not to have made the final against great rivals Kent, due to the fact that Essex had acquired full bonus points in the only two games they played all season. They can call on four full England internationals - Holly Colvin (new to the captaincy), Sarah Taylor, Arran Brindle and Georgia Elwiss. In addition they have young quick Izi Noakes who is in the England Academy, and England U19s Georgia Adams, Izzy Collis, Freya Davies, Abi Freeborn and Paige Scholfield. They have the strength in depth that many of the other teams are lacking.
Confirmed Squad - Holly Colvin (capt), Georgia Adams, Arran Brindle, Alicia Caillard, Izzy Collis, Freya Davies, Georgia Elwiss, Abi Freeborn, Chiara Green, Izi Noakes, Sophie Parnell, Hannah Phelps, Paige Scholfield, Rebecca Silk, Sarah Taylor, Alexia WalkerWarwickshire are the new kids on the block having been promoted from Division 2 last year, which they won quite comfortably, winning all six games that they played. They will rely heavily on former skipper Helen Shipman and England debutant Amy Jones with the bat, and they will be looking to young England U19s Marie Kelly and Georgia Hennessy (on loan from Worcester) to step up at senior level. They will have their work cut out against some of the more established sides, but will probably go well.
Warwickshire (last year - promoted as winners of Div 2)
Warwickshire (last year - promoted as winners of Div 2)
Provisional Squad - Fran Clarkson (capt), Kayleigh Alsop, Laura Crofts, Darcy-Chantell Evans, Becky Grundy, Georgia Hennessy, Amy Jones, Marie Kelly, Rebecca Morrell, Anisha Patel, Lizzie Russell, Helen Shipman, Elizabeth Smart, Isabelle Watson
Yorkshire (last year finished 8th)
Yorkshire excelled in the early years of the County Championship, winning the title five times in the first six years. However they have not had such a good time of late, losing their only two games in a rain-affected 2012 season. They can boast two England internationals at the heart of their team in the charismatic fast bowler Katherine Brunt and the off-spinner Danni Hazell. They also have an array of young talent coming through - their U17s were national finalist's last year. Their lack of experience may hold them back again this year, but they will be a lively squad.
Confirmed Squad - Saliann Briggs (capt), Katherine Brunt, Hannah Buck, Kathryn Doherty, Phoebe Graham, Danielle Hazell, Rachel Hildreth, Katie Levick, Charlotte North, Emma Shilitto, Aimee Simms, Laura Spragg, Jess Watson, Camilla Westwood, Lauren Winfield
Sunday 14th April
Sussex v Berkshire
Surrey v Essex
Middlesex v Yorkshire
Warwickshire v Kent
Sunday 5th May
Essex v Notts
Kent v Middlesex
Surrey v Yorkshire
Warwickshire v Sussex
Monday 6th May
Essex v Yorkshire
Middlesex v Berkshire
Notts v Kent
Sussex v Surrey
Sunday 19th May
Berkshire v Kent
Middlesex v Essex
Notts v Surrey
Yorkshire v Warwickshire
Sunday 26th May
Berkshire v Essex
Notts v Warwickshire
Surrey v Middlesex
Sussex v Yorkshire
Monday 27th May
Berkshire v Yorkshire
Kent v Sussex
Middlesex v Notts
Warwickshire v Essex
Friday 21st June
Middlesex v Warwickshire
Surrey v Berkshire
Sunday 23rd June
Essex v Kent
Sussex v Notts
Sunday 7th July
Kent v Surrey
Notts v Yorkshire
Sussex v Middlesex
Warwickshire v Berkshire
Sunday 14th July
Berkshire v Notts
Essex v Sussex
Warwickshire v Surrey
Yorkshire v Kent