Featured News | 28th February 2007

Looking ahead to the Championship season

Bilal Shafayat has one major aim for 2007 - to help us bounce straight back to the top flight in the Liverpool Victoria County Championship.

He knows it will be a tough task to overcome our rivals but believes we have the strength in depth to finish top of the pile, having spent the past two seasons playing in Division Two with Northamptonshire.

We caught up with him to get his assessment of the competition and the players to watch over the summer - starting with ourselves.

“I don’t want to tempt fate but we have to be looking at winning immediate promotion back to Division One. We have a great balance of players in the squad from the experience in the top order of Jason Gallian and Stephen Fleming to the firepower of David Hussey, Chris Read and Mark Ealham at five, six and seven, and seamers who can all win us matches on their day.

“Hopefully myself, Will Jefferson, Mark Wagh, Samit Patel and Rob Ferley will just add to the mix. I can’t say enough about how great it is to be back playing at Trent Bridge - I’m itching to get back into the dressing room and looking forward to walking back out on to the pitch.”

“They have been reviving themselves for the last few years with the appointment of Dave Houghton as director of cricket and their decision to go and look for young talent such as Chris Taylor.

“Then they’ve brought in quality overseas batsmen in Simon Katich and Travis Birt, while Ian Harvey can now qualify as a Kolpak player. Add those types to the likes of experienced campaigners like Graeme Welch and Kevin Dean and I think if you give them a couple of years, they will be challenging for trophies.

“But their problem might be taking 20 wickets in a match, as they’ve lost their leading wicket-taker Steffan Jones to Somerset.”

“A dangerous team and while they’ll be looking to their overseas players in Andre Nel, Andy Bichel and Danish Kaneria to take the wickets, their batting line-up is very strong.

“You’ve got the likes of Alastair Cook, Andy Flower and Ravi Bopara at the top of the order, while Ronnie Irani and James Foster do a great job of holding the middle order together.

‘With Irani as skipper they’re a very passionate side who always back themselves. It’s bound to be a tough game and our bowlers will need to be on fire. Hopefully Will Jefferson will be able to give us some of his inside knowledge.”

“He might not be skipper this year but Glamorgan are definitely going to be feeding off Robert Croft. He’ll still be their main man on the bowling front but unless he and Dean Cosker are firing, bowling sides out twice might be their problem.

“They’ve lost James Franklin, who offered them a lot last season with ball and bat, and although Jimmy Maher will stabilise their top order, they’ll be a bit of a mix and match side.”

“A very capable unit with the ball in hand and they have only added to that by signing Umar Gul and Ashley Noffke as their overseas players.

“Jon Lewis leads the pack very capably while Steve Kirby always runs in hard and gives it 100 per cent.

“Then they’ve got Hamish Marshall and Marcus North sharing duties on the batting front, and Kadeer Ali is a talented batsman who I went on tour with for England A back in 2003-04.

“They’ve got a nice little ground and it’s usually good fun to play there. They always have a loyal following and it generates a bit of atmosphere.”

“In many ways they are similar to my old side Northants. They might not have any star names but they all work very hard as a team. You never know what version will turn up on the day but they could potentially be dangerous.

“In the past they’ve been a bit short on the bowling front but now they have Stuart Broad, you know they’ll be strong with the new ball. HD Ackerman quietly goes about his job accumulating runs - he scored more than 1800 in first-class cricket last year - and holds everything together.

“Paul Nixon of course is anything but quiet and I’m sure he’ll be even more in our face and ear following his England call-up.”

“A good side and they’re bound to be aiming for promotion along with Essex. Their batting line-up must be one of the strongest in Division Two - Ed Smith, Ed Joyce, Nick Compton, Owais Shah - and if Chaminda Vaas, Richard Johnson and Murali Kartik provide Chris Silverwood with some back-up, their bowling attack will be up there too.

“I always look forward to playing at Lord’s. It’s the second best ground in the world after Trent Bridge and I think it inspires everyone who plays there to produce something special.

“In 2005 I hit 85 not out off 46 balls at Lord’s in a National League game. It was one of those days where everything I tried came off - and I’d love to go on and make a hundred there.”

“My old team-mates are a competitive bunch who always look to pick up results at Wantage Road, where they can prepare a pitch to suit their spin attack.

“But I think they might be short of a couple of experienced seamers for away games, despite signing former Notts boys Richard Logan and David Lucas, along with Johannes van der Wath as one of their overseas players.

“Northants have a small budget and work around that as well as they can. They really are a great group of people and I intend to keep in touch with them - but I’ll still be looking to get one over on them.”

“You’re always guaranteed runs at Taunton and with Justin Langer and Cameron White in the team, we’re going to need to be on top form when we’re bowling.

“They could be the dark horses for the season because they’ve got so many big hitters in the line-up now. We’ll definitely need to get Langer out early, White can take a game away from you very quickly, and Ian Blackwell will be ready for action after missing so much of last season with injury.

“Add that firepower to the experience of their bowling attack and you’ve got a potential surprise package.”

Next Fixture

County Championship Division Two

26th May 2017 at Trent Bridge





Last Fixture

19th May 2017 at The SSE SWALEC

County Championship Division Two