The County Championship season kicks off on Friday with six matches taking place in the first week of the campaign, three from each division, as another lengthy term gets up and running across the country.
We have to wait until next week for Surrey to begin the defence of their title but we get to see some of the sides expected to be challenging them this week, while Middlesex and Sussex have early chances to lay down a marker for the season head in the second division.
The pick of the matches on the opening week of the season comes from the Ageas Bowl where the One Day Cup kings Hampshire play host to the 2017 champions Essex in a tasty looking clash that sees James Vince up against Sir Alastair Cook. Nottinghamshire host Yorkshire in a powerhouse battle to kick off the season at Trent Bridge while runners up from last year Somerset welcome the newly promoted Kent to Taunton with Matt Renshaw taking on his former county on his Kent debut.
In the second division the pick of the matches comes from Wantage Road where the leading all-rounder in the world will be in action as Jason Holder makes his Northamptonshire debut. They go up against Middlesex, who will be out to lay down their title credentials right from the start of the season. Sussex will be looking to do likewise and they welcome Leicestershire to Hove while the other match in this division sees Derbyshire and Durham beginning their quests for better campaigns when they meet at Derby.
No match bet floats my boat in the first division but Betway have a huge number of markets up for these matches which is encouraging and it would be rude not to have a look at them. The one I like comes in the top Hampshire batsman market. This is a first innings market where Liam Dawson is overpriced at 10/1. There is no toss remember so Essex are highly likely to stick Hampshire in and it would be no surprise were Jamie Porter and his colleagues to go through the top order of the home side. Dawson warmed up for the season with 80 odd in the University game last week and should his teammates fail on the first morning, which would be just like Hampshire, then the all-rounder can benefit for us down the order.
There is a match bet I like in Division Two though and while this might not be the strongest Durham will be this season we know they will bowl first and the likes of Chris Rushworth and Ben Raine can run amok. There is enough in this Durham batting line up to be more than competitive and if they can control Wayne Madsen they will go a long way to controlling Derbyshire I believe. Over the course of the campaign I expect Durham to fare much better so it makes sense to take them here.
Back L.Dawson Top Hampshire 1st Inns Batsman for a 1/10 stake at 11.00 with Betway
Back Durham to beat Derbyshire for a 4/10 stake at 1.80 with Betfred
Back them here: