Cricketers around the country are gearing up for the Vitality County Championship which gets under way on Friday.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at five players who could make their mark this season.

Josh Hull (Leicestershire)

A 6ft 7in left-arm seamer who has his sights set on being England’s version of Mitchell Starc. Hull may need to add a bit more pace to his weaponry but he can swing the ball and, at 19, has plenty of time on his side. Hull has made only 20 professional appearances but already shown an appetite for the big occasion after defending eight in the last over of the 2023 One-Day Cup final as Leicestershire upset Hampshire. Hull will miss the first couple of red-ball rounds this month because of injury but, fitness permitting, he can enhance a burgeoning reputation that has already attracted admiring glances from England director of men’s cricket Rob Key.

Gus Atkinson (Surrey)

The only individual included in every England squad this winter, Atkinson was sparingly used in the white-ball matches before Christmas and not at all in the 4-1 Test series defeat in India recently. Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum liked what they saw, though, and indicated the fast bowler will likely be given a go this summer. With England’s emphasis on those who can operate in the high 80mph bracket, Atkinson fits the bill. After withdrawing from the Indian Premier League, Atkinson can elbow his way into England’s plans with some starring roles for Surrey in the early part of the season.

Josh de Caires (Middlesex)

Started last season with designs on a top-order role before finishing the campaign as an off-spinning all-rounder. The son of former England captain Michael Atherton, De Caires followed up a seven-for against Hampshire with an eight-wicket haul versus Essex. It may be these two performances become outliers as the 21-year-old’s career progresses but England are always on the lookout for promising spinners, even if the cupboard appears to be more stocked than usual.

Tawanda Muyeye (Kent)

Arrived in the United Kingdom as an asylum seeker after he and his family fled their native Zimbabwe, Muyeye has one of county cricket’s more interesting backstories. He is also one of the most precocious and eye-catching talents on the circuit and a video of him batting on social media earned praise from Kevin Pietersen. With an attacking verve ready-made for Bazball – Muyeye has expressed an interest in playing for England – the 23-year-old may need to become more consistent to get his wish but he bolstered his reputation with a breakout 179 against Northamptonshire last June.

Ollie Robinson (Durham)

With scrutiny on whether Jonny Bairstow or Ben Foakes will take the gloves for England this summer, there is a very real possibility Robinson will swoop in and leave them both surplus to requirements. Robinson averaged 58.18 at a jaw-dropping strike-rate of 88.66 in Durham’s promotion last season and is more than adept behind the stumps. The 25-year-old made a couple of counter-attacking 80s in England Lions’ unofficial Tests against India A and higher honours may beckon this summer. It is therefore feasible England could have two Ollie Robinsons in their ranks – remarkably they share the same birthday although Durham’s wicketkeeper-batter is five years older than the 20-cap seam bowler.

Zak Crawley’s 158 inspired Kent to 387 for four on the opening day of their LV= County Championship Division One game with Nottinghamshire.

The 25-year-old needed just 153 balls before being caught and bowled by Calvin Harrison as second-bottom Kent gave their survival hopes a boost.

By then Crawley had helped Kent to 248 for two while Daniel Bell-Drummond also hit 60 and skipper Jack Leaning an unbeaten 54 to put them in control.

Tom Bailey’s three for 24 ensured Lancashire had Middlesex 132 for eight as Sam Robson’s gritty 56 from 173 balls – spanning more than four hours – spared them from further embarrassment.

The visitors had fallen to 83 for six in the face of Lancashire’s rampant attack, with Will Williams and Luke Wood also claiming two wickets each.

Emilio Gay made 77 and Karun Nair 78 as Northamptonshire frustrated Warwickshire at Edgbaston.

Oliver Hannon-Dalby claimed three for 29 as rock-bottom Northamptonshire slipped to 24 for two but Gay and Nair helped them recover to 200 for five.

In Division Two, Yorkshire closed on 330 for three as Glamorgan’s slim promotion hopes took another dent.

Finlay Bean’s 93 and Shan Masood’s unbeaten 113 had Yorkshire firmly in charge.

Ollie Price’s career best 125 not out helped Gloucestershire to 333 for six against Derbyshire. He and captain Graeme van Buuren (78) put on a fifth-wicket stand of 157.

Sussex were all out for 262 against Leicestershire, with Fynn Hudson-Prentice top scoring with 65 as Matt Salisbury claimed five for 73.

In reply, Leicestershire lost Sol Budinger and Lewis Hill to finish the day on 68 for two, trailing by 194.

Kent dropped into the bottom two of LV= Insurance County Championship Division One as they crashed to a heavy defeat against Nottinghamshire on Friday.

Dane Patterson took five for 41 and Brett Hutton four for 44 as Kent, set a notional target of 407, were skittled for just 85 in their second innings at Trent Bridge.

The hosts had declared on 372 for six after Will Young and Ben Slater both scored 87 and Joe Clarke a blistering 73 from 40 balls.

Bottom side Northamptonshire batted out for a draw against Lancashire at Emirates Old Trafford.

The Red Rose finally declared in their first innings with a lead of 202, having reached 544 for seven with overnight pair George Balderson and Tom Hartley unbeaten on 49 and 24 respectively.

Northamptonshire were 213 for five, with captain Luke Procter and James Sales having shared an unbroken stand of 51, when the players shook hands. Emilio Gay had top-scored with 61.

Derbyshire openers Luis Reece and Harry Came shared in a county record first-wicket stand to earn a remarkable draw against Glamorgan at Derby.

The pair put on 360 as they batted throughout the final day, with Reece hitting 201 and Came 141.

Glamorgan, who had begun the day 125 ahead and hoping to force victory, failed to take a single wicket despite trying nine bowlers.

Worcestershire are in a dominant position after three days of their game against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham.

Joe Leach, Dillon Pennington and Adam Finch all finished with three wickets apiece as the hosts were bowled out for 301 in their first innings, to concede a deficit of 105, despite 115 from Oliver Price.

Jake Libby then top-scored with 117 and Matthew Waite added 62 as Worcestershire built up a commanding lead of 421 by reaching 316 for eight before the close.

Yorkshire’s clash with Durham at Scarborough was abandoned as a draw as play was washed out for a second successive day.

Surrey completed the second-highest successful run chase in County Championship history by reaching 501 to beat Kent.

Dom Sibley’s marathon, unbeaten 140 – from 415 balls and spanning 580 minutes – underpinned a sensational effort from the champions as they eclipsed their previous highest chase of 410 in 2002.

In finishing on 501 for five Surrey achieved the highest winning target in the County Championship since Middlesex chased down 502 to beat Nottinghamshire in 1925.

Ben Foakes (124) also completed a century on the final day while Jordan Clark hit the winning run shortly after tea.

Elsewhere, Sam Cook, Simon Harmer and Jamie Porter helped Essex record a 196-run victory over Somerset.

Fast bowler Cook grabbed two wickets in two deliveries with the new ball before Harmer took two more to claim match figures of eight for 178 and Porter rounded off the tail.

Somerset needed to bat out 151 overs, or reach 466 to win, but they were eventually bowled out for 269 with two sessions to spare.

Lancashire made short work of scoring the 92 runs they required to clinch a six-wicket victory against Hampshire in just over an hour’s play on day four.

An unbeaten 64 by Red Rose captain Dane Vilas steered his side to a first championship win of the season before lunch.

Joe Clarke turned his first red-ball century for 21 months into a maiden double-hundred as Nottinghamshire denied Warwickshire victory.

Thanks to Clarke’s unbeaten 229, spanning eight hours and 38 minutes, Notts clawed back a deficit of 416 on first innings after following on.

In Division Two, Worcestershire fell agonisingly short of their target of 386 in a tense draw with Sussex.

All four results were possible with two deliveries of the match remaining, before Joe Leach needed five off the final ball but a swing and a miss left the visitors stranded on 381 for eight.

Chris Wright and Callum Parkinson took four wickets apiece as Leicestershire dismissed Gloucestershire for 202.

That left the Foxes needing 221 to win and they got home for the loss of five wickets with Rehan Ahmed hitting a rapid 71 and Colin Ackermann making 78 not out.

Yorkshire celebrated a championship victory for the first time in 14 months as they knocked off 65 to beat Derbyshire by three wickets.

Shan Masood’s unbeaten 95 off 112 deliveries and a run-a-ball 41 not out from Dom Bess saw the visitors home after Dawid Malan had fallen to the first ball of the day.

Chris Cooke (134 not out) and Timm van der Gugten (52 not out) batted Glamorgan to a draw at Durham with an unbroken stand of 153.

A century by Jamie Smith has given Surrey a chance of making history in the LV= Insurance County Championship.

The Division One leaders need another 238 for victory against Kent in what would be their highest-ever successful run chase.

The leaders were 263 for three at stumps and more than halfway to their target, with Dom Sibley 61 not out and Ben Foakes unbeaten on 22, after Smith made 114 and Tom Latham 58.

Kent were all out for 344 just before lunch at Canterbury, giving them a lead of exactly 500.

Joe Clarke posted his first century since September 2021 for Nottinghamshire but Warwickshire remain favourites to complete a fourth win of the season.

Nottinghamshire were following on after being bowled out for just 155 in reply to Warwickshire’s 571 for nine declared at Trent Bridge.

But despite Clarke’s unbeaten 119 they remain 149 runs behind after closing on 267 for four.

Matt Critchley hit 52 and took two wickets as Essex pushed for victory over Somerset at Chelmsford.

Essex set the visitors an unlikely 466 runs to win in just under five sessions after declaring on 170 for seven.

Somerset’s batters, headed by Tom Lammonby and Tom Abell’s half-centuries, gave them a chance of salvaging a draw as they finished on 172 for four to trail by 294.

Lancashire are closing in on a first win of the season after bowling out Hampshire for 371 in their second innings and reaching 48 for two in pursuit of their 140-run target.

A three-wicket burst by George Balderson helped the hosts work their way through the six remaining wickets, although they were held up by a determined knock of 87 from visiting skipper James Vince at sweltering Southport.

In Division Two, Shan Masood is unbeaten on 68 but Yorkshire lost late wickets chasing Derbyshire’s target of 212 and closed on 147 for six at Chesterfield with 65 more runs needed.

Derbyshire skipper Leus du Plooy made a superb 170 and shared a fifth-wicket stand of 277 with Haider Ali, who scored 146, as the home side made 453 to set up an exciting final morning.

Bas de Leede produced career-best batting and bowling figures to boost Durham’s hopes of defeating Glamorgan at Chester-le-Street.

De Leede scored an unbeaten 85 to allow Durham to post a mammoth total of 630, their fifth-highest score in first-class cricket, following 151 from David Bedingham.

The Netherlands international then struck with his first two deliveries before adding a third to end the day with three for 25 to leave Glamorgan four down at the close, still requiring 81 runs to make Durham bat again.

Tom Haines made 91 as Sussex headed into the final day against Worcestershire at Hove on 359 for six, with a lead of 297.

Lewis Hill spent more than five hours at the crease for 103 as Leicestershire reached 350 in reply to Gloucestershire’s 368. The hosts closed on nine without loss second time around with a draw appearing the most likely outcome at Bristol.

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