The race for the top flight of the County Championship begins on Friday. It is probably one of the least glamorous leagues in the world game, but that doesn’t mean we should view Division Two as beneath us for a wager. Quite the opposite.
The beautiful thing about the bottom rung is the fact that bookmakers do not care a jot. They don’t have the time or resources to properly scout out teams’ potential, so there can be a plethora of wrong prices. And why not? They are taking far more money on, say, the Indian Premier League, so their energies are best focused on that league in case they make a big rick.
Leicestershire are +3300 with Ladbrokes to win the league and that is a bet we will be taking. Go each-way at a fifth of the odds to finish in the front three.
The Foxes, like the section they play in, are as unfashionable as it gets and their very survival as a first-class county often seems in doubt. It is hard to see them still being around in 20 years when the pro game in England has, surely, been streamlined to produce more talented players.
No matter. Leicestershire have a good squad which will be well-drilled under the effervescent management of former England wicketkeeper Paul Nixon.
They have a couple of wise heads leading the batting lineup, including captain Michael Carberry, unfortunate not to have played more for England, and Mark Cosgrove, the Aussie. These two should be able to pass on a wealth of experience to some inexperienced thrusters.
With the ball, Nixon’s recruitment has been impressive. The India pacer, Varun Aaron, is their overseas mainstay. He is extremely quick and could provide Leicestershire with the x-factor.
Middlesex are the favourites for the title at a prohibitive +200 (Bet365). That’s too short for us. Warwickshire are next best at +500 (Ladbrokes). That’s not a great price considering their lack of bowling talent.
Sussex are a fancy at +550 (Bet365) but the timing is not right. With Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan away in the IPL, we expect to get a better price when they return. Importantly, they are led by Jason Gillespie, the former Aussie quick who was the architect of Yorkshire’s championship success.
Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire and Glamorgan look unlikely to be more than also-rans. And that’s one reason why Leicestershire, who have some vim and vigour, appeal. They are a much bigger price and have little to beat to get into that all-important third slot.