The Royal London One Day Cup returns this Sunday with 6 opening fixtures. The 50 over format last year proved a massive success with over 15 games seeing scores of 300+, a far cry from the 40 over format previously favoured by the ECB. The competition was eventually won by Gloucestershire, who shocked the cricket community by beating Surrey in the final.
Much like "tika taca" took over the footballing world a couple of years back following the success of Barcelona, the term "positive brand of cricket" is yielding positive results for the England international set up, so expect this to trickle down to the county game even more so than last year. I would predict seeing more scores of over 300+ and teams to bat far deeper than previously. Whoever you back, I’d recommend getting behind a county who have strength and depth in their batting.
The pre-tournament favourites, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, are both full of quality. Yorkshire have a great coach in Jason Gillespie and international quality throughout their team but have got off to an awful start in the T20 blast. Nottinghamshire, now employer of former England coach Peter Moores, are always there or thereabouts and bat all the way down to number 8, where you’ll find seasoned pro Chris Read.
Both teams are in Group A, which also includes Lancashire and Warwickshire, dressed up as Birmingham Bears, who look a decent outfit this year. The Bears are always a good punt in the one day arena, who now have Ian Bell as captain, Luke Ronchi as the overseas pro and ever present Rikki Clarke along with a wealth of players that have played in big international one day tournaments. My money is on Birmingham to win the Group A at 5-1.
Away from the Group A, Kent look to be on the up having got off to a good start in the County Championship and T20 blast. An in form batting line up which includes tipped future England star Daniel Bell-Drummond, Kiwi international Tom Latham and current England and IPL star Sam Billings, chased down 197 in the Blast and have scored over 400 on 3 occasions in the Championship so far. They were unlucky last year, losing to Surrey in the quarter finals. The game was rain effected and they fell 17 runs short of a revised target. An amazing century from fast bowler Matt Coles off 73 balls who was batting at number 9, was a surprise to say they least, but this demonstrates their strength in depth. With momentum on their side, a youth policy beginning to pay dividends, Kent are not my pick to win the group, but to grow into the competition and win it at 20-1.
Group B is a tough group to call, with all but Glamorgan in with a real chance of winning it. My fancy is Middlesex who look a good value call at 8/1.