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County Championship: Five players to watch in 2019

County Championship: Five players to watch
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Duanne Olivier and Liam Livingstone are among those who will be hoping to make a major impact in 2019.

The County Championship season gets under way later this week with cricket fans up and down the country excitedly awaiting its return.

Surrey are bidding to defend their Division One title while there are three promotion spots up for grabs this season in Division Two.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at five players to keep an eye on across both divisions.

Duanne Olivier – Yorkshire

Duanne Olivier (right) has starred for South Africa in the last 12 months
Duanne Olivier (right) has starred for South Africa in the last 12 months (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Olivier has made the headlines ahead of the new season for his decision to turn his back on a blossoming international career with South Africa in order to sign a three-year Kolpak deal at Yorkshire.

That decision sparked much criticism of the 26-year-old Olivier and soul-searching as to what it means for South African cricket and Test cricket in general. It also means that all eyes will be on the right-arm paceman as the new season gets underway.

Certainly Yorkshire have secured the services of a man who appears to be reaching the peak of his powers. His 10-Test career has been a real success story and in particular he has excelled over the last 12 months. Olivier's last five Tests have delivered a superb 31 wickets at an average of just 17.12 – form which propelled him up to 19th in the ICC Test bowling rankings prior to his international retirement.

He has some County Championship experience following a spell with Derbyshire last season and looks set to prove a major weapon for the White Rose county.

Will Jacks – Surrey

Jacks made his first-class bow for Surrey in June, midway through their dominant run to the Division One title. He featured in six matches, hitting one half-century and will hope to build on his average of just 21.

The 20-year-old all-rounder did enough in all formats to earn an England Lions call-up, spending the winter in India, and has shown his potential against both red and white ball. In only his third List A match for Surrey last May, Jacks smashed 121 from 100 balls in a Royal London One-Day Cup victory over Gloucestershire and he has shown form in pre-season – hammering a 25-ball century in a T10 match against Lancashire in Dubai.

He will hope to translate that form into the longer format. While Surrey's title-winning team is a tough one to break into, Jacks is certainly a player who looks set to make a big impression in 2019.

Henry Brookes – Warwickshire

Henry Brookes will hope to make a big impression in 2019
Henry Brookes will hope to shine in 2019 (Tim Goode/PA)

The 19-year-old fast bowler made a huge impression at Warwickshire early in his fledgling career and would represent the England Under-19s before he had even made his first-class bow for the Bears.

That debut came in 2017 and his performance caused then Warwickshire sport director Ashley Giles to describe Brookes as a "potential superstar". The right-arm paceman continued his impressive rise through the early part of last season, claiming 37 wickets – including 21 in five Division Two matches – before a stress fracture of the back ended his season in July.

Brookes, capable of bowling in excess of 90mph, will hope to enter the new season fully fit and show his potential with Warwickshire back in the top flight this season.

Liam Livingstone – Lancashire

Livingstone, like Lancashire, had a 2018 season to forget. It was the first under the 25-year-old's captaincy and, having been tipped as title contenders following a second-place finish in 2017, Lancashire were relegated to Division Two.

Livingstone's failure to deliver runs was symptomatic of the Red Rose's batting unit as a whole. His first-class record had been superb following his debut in 2016, and his performances in 2017 were enough to see him included in England's Test squad for the tour of New Zealand. But last season, Livingstone failed to reach a single half-century from 10 matches and his broken thumb in July's Roses match rather summed up a miserable campaign.

Despite leading Lancashire to T20 Blast Finals Day, Livingstone has relinquished the captaincy in all formats and will hope that decision helps him to recapture his batting form. His quality is undoubted – quality which has earned him an Indian Premier League contract – but the Cumbrian-born right-hander has a point to prove this season.

Zak Chappell – Nottinghamshire

Zak Chappell is on England's radar
Zak Chappell is on England's radar (Nigel French/PA)

Chappell has followed the path taken by England star Stuart Broad back in 2007 by moving from Leicestershire to Nottinghamshire.

The 22-year-old is among a raft of quick bowlers on England's radar as they bid to get genuine pace in their Test ranks. He has spent the winter in India with the England Lions and has delivered impressive displays, including four for 60 in the final first-class match.

Chappell will hope the move to Trent Bridge and to Division One will boost his international prospects, though his fitness could prove his biggest obstacle. He has managed only 16 first-class matches since his debut in 2015 and played only four last season. If he can stay fit, Chappell is a bowler worth watching.

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