• Catch up on all of the 2015 highlights right here
  • Mark is a former Surrey player and England opener
  • He’s chosen one match from each round and provided an insight into the game

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You can also watch daily highlights from each day's play on the ECB website.

Mark’s Match of the Round

Round 21 

Nottinghamshire v Hampshire, Yorkshire v Sussex, Somerset v Warwickshire

These three games will determine who goes down into Division Two with Worcestershire. Hampshire start with it all to do, 16 points behind Sussex and 18 behind Somerset. So they need a 24-point win or something close to it, which isn’t going to be easy at Trent Bridge against a Nottinghamshire team who have plenty of incentive themselves, as they could still overtake Middlesex and pinch the runners-up cheque. Might Hampshire be wishing now that they’d played things safe on the last day against Yorkshire last week, and taken the extra points on offer for a draw rather than going for a win which was always a long shot?

It’s an interesting team selection from Notts, with Stuart Broad back but no Alex Hales or James Taylor.

After all the emotion of Mike Yardy’s farewell to Hove in their last game against Somerset, Sussex will need to knuckle down at Headingley. Getting eight or nine points up there is no easy business, as Somerset can confirm after the thrashing they had from Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago. The worry for Sussex is that Yorkshire seem determined to finish the season with a flourish. They looked weary for the first three days at Hampshire, after losing to Middlesex at Lord’s, but pulled themselves together to chase down that target on the last day. That has already given them a record number of points for Division One, and Andrew Gale and Jason Gillespie have also spoken of their determination to set another record of 11 wins out of 16 matches.

Given the tasks facing Hampshire and Sussex, Somerset ought to be safe. With Marcus Trescothick ending the season with a flourish, and his highly promising opening partner Tom Abell also keen to go out with a bang, they’ll be confident of picking up a few bonus points at Taunton anyway. Warwickshire’s season promised much but has failed to deliver really, although they could still get above Durham into fourth which increases the size of cheque for the players’ pool.

Round 20

Lancashire v Surrey

Both teams have already secured promotion, but still have the incentive of going for a double, Lancashire having won the NatWest T20 Blast and with Surrey in the final of the Royal London One-Day Cup next Saturday.

With that in mind, it will be interesting to see their team sheet on Monday morning. But after Lancashire have been setting the pace for almost all of the season, Surrey got their noses five points in front by winning their last game against Derbyshire – and I know they’ll be keen to go back up to Division One at champions.

Lancashire have had a few injury problems with Kyle Jarvis and James Faulkner out for the season and now Alex Davies, their feisty young wicketkeeper who is one of the contenders for the LV= Breakthrough Player Award – with Surrey’s Tom Curran.

Ashley Giles has picked up Phil Mustard on loan from Durham to take the gloves from Davies for their last couple of games, with Jos Buttler also unavailable, and the Colonel should enjoy the experience of ‘keeping to James Anderson, adding more interest to this match.

Round 19

Middlesex v Yorkshire

Barring a monsoon hitting north London this week, Yorkshire will pick up their second consecutive LV= County Championship title – and it would arguably be a greater achievement than last year’s. They have had to cope with England call-ups throughout the season since April, and they have had their share of injuries too.

Being the team that’s there to be shot down by everybody else in the division while having to cope with all those call-ups is extremely difficult. Andrew Gale, Jason Gillespie and co deserve an awful lot of credit for maintaining the team’s focus, and not allowing the absences to be an excuse – and in the latter half of the season Yorkshire have performed at a level that none of their rivals could reach.

If you have to pick out individuals from what has been an outstanding squad achievement, then you have to start with Jonny Bairstow, whose runscoring exploits in the eight matches he has played have been extraordinary. Jack Leaning also deserves a mention as a 21-year-old who has been handed a lot of responsibility, often batting at number three, and shown great consistency to make him a strong contender for the LV= Breakthrough Player award.

Tim Bresnan is next in the batting averages. He’s been an ever-present and in addition to those runs he’s chipped in with 34 wickets, making him the glue in their team. Jack Brooks has been the stand-out bowler with 55 wickets at 20, ably supported by Steve Patterson who has 43 wickets at 22 – he’s done a great unsung job for the champions elect.

It’s right that we pay tribute to Yorkshire for their achievement, but we shouldn’t forget that they are facing a Middlesex team who are second in the table and have had a very good season themselves. I know from my playing days how determined I was not to have opposition picking up silverware in my backyard. So Middlesex should have all the motivation they need to put up the best performance possible in this fixture.

Round 18

Worcestershire v Sussex

Worcestershire are in the relegation zone, Sussex are only four points ahead of them and both have only three games left. There's a lot riding on this one!

For Worcestershire, I've been very interested to see that Ross Whiteley has forced his way into their four-day side on the back of some belligerent performances in white-ball cricket and his undefeated half-century in the draw against Somerset last week is very encouraging for a talented player.

Sussex’s batting hasn’t been great this summer so to have Ed Joyce, Mike Yardy and Ben Brown all making centuries in a high-scoring draw against Yorkshire can only be a good thing – particularly as their bowling line-up looks to be getting back to full strength.

Round 17

Somerset v Worcestershire

With Yorkshire so far ahead at the top of the table, the biggest games this week concern the battle to avoid relegation. It looks like two from four now, and two of the teams in danger meet in Taunton. Matthew Maynard will be reminding his Somerset players that it was a bad loss at Worcester that dragged them into trouble, but they would surely back themselves to gain revenge on a true Taunton pitch that would allow the quality of guys like Craig Overton to come through. They have a game in hand on the teams below them so a draw wouldn’t be a bad result for them. But Worcestershire have impressed all season with their battling qualities, in all competitions and on all sorts of surfaces, so it will be fascinating to see how this one goes.

Round 16

Yorkshire v Durham 

It’s the usual story for Yorkshire – they’ve lost more players to England, Liam Plunkett called into the squad for Trent Bridge as well as Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid, Adam Lyth and Joe Root. No change there then, yet they have consistently put their rivals to the sword. Bairstow played a big part in the win at Durham a few weeks ago but in his absence they have Gary Ballance back with plenty of motivation and Jack Leaning seems to relish the responsibility that’s come his way at number 3. 

People will be keeping an eye on the performances of Durham pair Mark Stoneman and Chris Rushworth after they were mentioned in dispatches for possible Trent Bridge selection. Neither got the nod this time - however, a game against the Champions elect at Scarborough is a good stage to stake a claim for future selection.

Round 15 

Yorkshire v Worcestershire 

Yorkshire go into their first game of the year at Scarborough in a very healthy position at the top of the table, after three consecutive wins against Middlesex, Durham and Warwickshire. But Worcestershire also had a great result in their last game, at home to Hampshire, which has kept their hopes of avoiding relegation very much alive. 

One thing the teams have in common is a left-arm seamer playing a big part in their attack. Ryan Sidebottom suffered a nasty calf injury when Yorkshire started the season at Worcester back in April, but he showed that he's fully recovered with a huge contribution to their last win at Edgbaston. Jack Shantry is a very different type of bowler but with 44 wickets at 20, he's had a huge season. I'll also be intrigued to see whether Adil Rashid is in the Yorkshire team, after he ruled himself out of the Lord's Test.

Round 14 

Durham v Warwickshire 

Two teams who will be licking their wounds after heavy home defeats at the hands of Yorkshire. You wouldn’t say either of them are out of the title race yet, but Yorkshire have got a decent lead now and a match in hand, so this game is an important one. 

Durham still haven’t drawn a game all year, home or away, so you’d say there’s going to be a result. They were beaten at Edgbaston earlier in the season but will be relieved that Keith Barker, who continued his superb record against them in that game by playing a key role with bat and ball, won’t be playing this time because of injury. 

There seems to be a chance that Chris Woakes could come back for Warwickshire, which would be timely, and perhaps Tim Ambrose as well after he missed the Yorkshire game with illness. Dougie Brown will be looking for a positive response from everyone.

Round 13

Warwickshire v Yorkshire

Yorkshire's toppling of Durham has lifted them to the top of the table and the efficiency with which they dispatched the former leaders sent out a warning to the chasing pack. There's still a long way to go however and a well-deserved England call-up for Adil Rashid confirms that the demands on their resources are going to continue.

The pitches aren't exactly going to be green seamers with the weather we've had - as Warwickshire's bowlers will confirm after a punishing 600 plays 600 match versus Sussex last week. I was delighted to see that Laurie Evans scored a double-century in that game. He's a very talented player whose numbers have not always reflected his ability. Hopefully that will be a turning point for him.

Round 12

Durham v Yorkshire

Yorkshire are hot on the heels of Durham after a thumping win against Nottinghamshire and, I’d go as far as saying that if they win this one they would be absolute favourites to win the title again.

Durham don’t have many draws, especially at home, so you’d imagine it’s going to be an all-or-nothing approach from them anyway. Yorkshire will have Adil Rashid back as well as Jonny Bairstow, who will have happy recent memories of Durham after his brilliant innings for England there last weekend. They’re still missing a few but, as we’ve been saying all season, they can cope with that with young players like Jack Leaning relishing the extra responsibility. Durham deserve credit for that too though because they’ve been without Ben Stokes and Mark Wood all season but they’re still at the top of the table with guys like Scott Borthwick and Chris Rushworth performing consistently well. It should be a fascinating game.

Round 11

Gloucestershire v Essex

For 3 days it looked as though Gloucestershire were on course for a win against Lancashire that would have propelled them into the promotion shake-up. Unfortunately they let things slip on the last day, prompting their coach Richard Dawson to call for greater mental strength from the team. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back from that, against an Essex side who have something to smile about at last after a big home win against Derbyshire lifted them off the bottom of the table.

Alastair Cook made a contribution to that in his first LV= County Championship appearance of the season and he’ll also be playing here, which will be a challenge for the young Gloucestershire seamers Liam Norwell, Craig Miles and David Payne. Essex have a young bowler of their own who has also been taking wickets consistently in Jamie Porter, so there’ll be plenty to look out for on the highlights.

Round 10

Worcestershire v Warwickshire

The eye-catching stories in this contest will be the guys playing for their counties who we expect to see in the Ashes – Moeen Ali for Worcestershire, and Ian Bell for Warwickshire. Moeen is going to need to bowl – the question is how many overs he’s going to get in a Worcester team that also includes Saeed Ajmal. For Bell it’s about time at the crease, albeit that Worcestershire's fast bowling resources are a bit short of what he’s going to be facing in the Ashes.

As for the game, it’s important for both sides – Worcester in their battle for survival, and Warwickshire aiming to stay in contention with the teams at the top.

Round 9

Yorkshire v Middlesex

England calls could have a big bearing on this meeting between fourth and first - Middlesex probably standing to lose more than Yorkshire.

The leaders will have to find replacements for Eoin Morgan and Steven Finn, while the champions will lose Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid. Having Adam Lyth and Gary Ballance back from Test duty will soften that blow. They must have contrasting emotions at the moment, Lyth returning with a maiden Test century under his belt, whereas Ballance has had an uncomfortable start to the international summer. In such times it can be helpful to get back to county cricket to work things out away from the spotlight of the Test arena. Form will hopefully follow.

Video highlights from each day's play

Round 8

Surrey v Lancashire

Surrey-Lancashire clashes have very often been significant in the course of the season, and this one is no different. Lancashire look like they are running away with things after four wins in six games, but Surrey have a game in hand and they could eat into that margin with a win at The Kia Oval.

Their bowlers seem to have enjoyed a bit of extra pace and carry in their last game at Beckenham, but on the evidence of what we’ve seen so far this season at The Oval this is likely to be very flat. Zafar Ansari has been amongst the wickets for the hosts and runs have been flowing freely. Simon Kerrigan and Arron Lilley, who bowled Lancashire to their last win against Derbyshire, will be hoping for a bit of help on a dry surface too. I gather Kevin Pietersen might be back after strolling the course at Wentworth last week, so there should be plenty of interest in this one.

Video highlights from each day's play

Round 7

Sussex v Warwickshire

Keith Barker is the one to keep an eye on here, after his all-round performance as Warwickshire won their second straight game against Durham at Edgbaston last week. Losing him to injury last season was a huge blow to them and who knows, if he stays fit, he might provide the missing ingredient to help them go one better in the Championship this year.

As for the home team, you have to feel for Tymal Mills and Sussex. He was signed from Essex with a view to being a potent wicket-taking weapon in four-day cricket but injury looks likely to restrict him to appearances in one-day/T20. Injury has hampered their seamers this year but having Chris Jordan back from England will be a welcome boost.

Video highlights from each day's play

Round 6

Warwickshire v Durham

Having only just welcomed him back, Durham will be missing Mark Wood for this one due to his inclusion in the England squad for the first Test against New Zealand.

He made a big contribution to the win against Notts which keeps them snapping at Middlesex’s heels but it shouldn't overly concern them - Durham seamers are like shark’s teeth: you lose one, another takes its place.

This is going to be a tough assignment though, against a Warwickshire team who earned their first win of the season against Worcestershire with exactly the sort of collective performance that has become their trademark.

It will be good to see Jonathan Trott back for the Bears.

Video highlights from each day's play

Round 5

Yorkshire v Hampshire

The cavalry return for Yorkshire - Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Jonny Bairstow and Adam Lyth - which will be warmly welcomed by the faithful, not to mention Geoffrey Boycott who’s been off his long run recently. It’s been a slightly frustrating start for them but they’ve done pretty well considering how many guys they’ve had missing, with a win and two draws.

I think it’s good for the Championship actually, to have these guys coming back into this round to generate more media interest, especially Adam Lyth, with the speculation that he is in line to open the batting with Alastair Cook in the Tests against New Zealand later this month. That will be an interesting challenge for him, the tension will be rising with the attention and expectation, but that’s a good thing I reckon, because it will be interesting to see how he reacts.

I’ve liked the little bits I’ve seen of him, especially with the century he made when they won the title at Trent Bridge last September – he looks a good compact player. But he could do with sometime in the middle because it’s been a while now since he made those runs for Yorkshire in their Champion County game against the MCC in Abu Dhabi. 

Video highlights from each day's play

Round 4

Northamptonshire v Lancashire

The two relegated counties have both made a pretty good start. Northants had a fine win at Leicester, despite being put in, and Lancashire have won their first two games under Ashley Giles.

It's interesting what’s happened with Ashley over the last year or so. After what happened with England, he just wanted to distance himself from cricket for a while. That time out simply confirmed his love of the game and he’s come to Lancashire with a real zeal and enjoyment.

One of his great strengths has always been the way he relates to players, understanding the ups and downs of being a professional cricketer ­as well as working bloody hard!

The signs are that Lancashire are benefiting from that already. The names that have struck me from their first two performances have been Kyle Jarvis, the fast bowler signed from Zimbabwe, and Alex Davies.

The keeper-batsman might have been disappointed not to register a maiden Championship century in the win against Kent at Old Trafford, when he was out for 99. But Ashley will be delighted to see one of the less familiar names in the team making such an important contribution, ­and given that they are not going to see much of Jos Buttler it’s important for Lancashire that they’ve got a wicketkeeper capable of scoring runs.

Video highlights from each day's play

Round 3

Durham v Sussex

Something’s got to give here. Durham won their first match against Somerset down in Taunton, and Sussex made it two from two by beating Worcestershire at Hove.

They’ve had a few injury problems, especially among the seamers, but Ajmal Shahzad has made a great start to life at his fourth county, and Matt Machan made the most of his chance with a century after Michael Yardy pulled out with illness.

Chester-le-Street isn’t a straightforward place to go, so the Sussex batting is going to have its toughest test yet, because guys like Graham Onions and Chris Rushworth are so good at home.

Durham should also benefit from having a week’s break since their win at Taunton, if only because it’s given veteran Paul Collingwood time to recover from his incredible all-round performance.

Video highlights from each day's play

Round 2

Glamorgan v Surrey

There are some big games in both divisions this week, but there’s only one place to start. No disrespect to either county, but it might have been a pretty low-key early-season game if it wasn’t for a couple of names on the Surrey team sheet. Now the cricket public of Cardiff and South Wales have the chance to see Kevin Pietersen and Kumar Sangakkara teaming up together for the first time.

It’s funny, going back to my playing days games between Surrey and Glamorgan always seemed to have a bit of needle – I’ve no idea why. So the Glamorgan boys are going to love this, with all the fuss there’s going to be about the Surrey superstars – and they’ll have the benefit of having played a game already, where they had some decent performances in a draw at Leicester, whereas this is the first game for Surrey.

I’m tipping Surrey to get promoted, but with the proviso that the support cast to KP and Sanga, if that doesn’t sound too disrespectful, aren’t overawed or submerged by the circus. You don’t win Championships, or Division Two titles, if you’re looking to two superstars to do everything. So the challenge is there for the other Surrey players and also Gareth Batty at the start of his first year as official club captain.

If there’s any danger of complacency, they only have to think of the first game of last season, when Glamorgan came to the Oval and thrashed them by 10 wickets, with Graham Wagg taking 6-29 in the second innings.

Video highlights from each day's play

Round 1

Worcestershire v Yorkshire

It’s a massive challenge for a newly-promoted side, to play against the champions in their first match back in Division One. But there’s no better time to catch them cold.

Worcestershire have been the kings of punching above their weight – win the toss, with conditions in your favour, and you can put any team under pressure.

Yorkshire are obviously a top side with plenty of depth, as they’ve already shown against the MCC out in Abu Dhabi. But Worcestershire will be saying that if there’s any good time to play them, this is it.

Who knows, anything’s possible. They could even have Moeen Ali as an extra bonus as he aims to prove his fitness to join England in the West Indies.

Video highlights from each day's play

Mark Butcher on his role and the LV= County Championship

Mark shares his thoughts on the importance of the LV= County Championship competition, the players to watch and the season ahead.

You can also watch daily highlights from each day's play on the ECB website.

Video transcript

MB - Part of what one of my many roles is in terms of talking about and watching cricket is to be involved in the county stuff, to be able to keep a closer eye on the county championship rounds as they go by and sort of deliver a verdict if you like on what’s going on and who are the runner and riders are and likely to be is something that is pretty exciting for me this summer. You know it tends to be perhaps overshadowed by the glamour of the T20 and even test match cricket but this is where the players come from when you watch them representing England. It may pass you by but there is often some very, very fine cricket being played for the county championship cricket. Hopefully you will stay with us for the ride because it should be a good one. 

MB – Well it’s the competition, it’s the most important competition if you want to put your name forward to selectors. To gain test match recognition then the championship is the place to do it. Runs, wickets, match winning performances, this is the place to do it otherwise you are not going to get picked up. So it’s incredibly important and always has been. It’s all about the crowds that we get that we are lucky enough to play in front of in terms of test match cricket in this country. Hopefully that will always stay the same and the reason that it will stay the same is having high quality players coming up from county cricket to fill those places in the test matches and if there aren’t thousands of people down there watching the local county game okay – it is still fulfilling its role.

MB – I was fortunate enough to win it three times and each time it was as fulfilling as before. Incredibly difficult to do, as I say you need a little bit of luck with injuries and a little bit of luck with call ups, not too many of them hopefully and you need to play very, very good cricket over the course of a very long and difficult summer. So, if you are lucky enough to win one you know how hard it was to do and how worthwhile having that sip of champagne is once it is done.

Mark Butcher on the forthcoming season

Video transcript

MB – Well I think England might give Yorkshire a run for their money. Urm, you know six players out of their squad off on the West Indies tour is going to going to stretch their resources. If any county can cope with that it’s Yorkshire. They have an absolute abundance of young talented players coming through from winning the county, up through their academy system. But I think that that many players at once is going to be a stretch even for them.

DN – It’s not impossible.

MB – No, for sure but um you know losing a guy that made six hundreds in the championship last year, Adam Lyth… Urm Liam Plunkett, he was injured for quite a long time so the real spearhead in terms of the quick bowling rate. Root, Balance who they were missing for most of the year anyway last year. It starts to become difficult to replace all those players. Adil Rashid has been a massive player for the last two or three years for runs and wickets. It’s not going to be straight forward for them.

MB – Big year for country cricket players. Urm…right the way across the spectrum. The sort of, the sands are shifting in terms of English cricket as they always do when the team is unsuccessful. And therefore that means that there are places up for grabs. You’ve got the likes of Mark Footitt who took 80 wickets for Durham last year and bowled quickly, with real aggression every time I saw him. And Tymal Mills moved down to Sussex and will be hoping he can almost resurrect his career. Both guys genuinely fast left arm-ers. So you know there is an opportunity for perhaps one of those. Urm somebody like James Vince, Jason Roy at Surrey young batsmen who might find their way into a one day international side. You know there are players up and down the land who will be looking at this year and thinking to themselves – Wow, there are places up for grabs there. That’s what the country championship is all about. It’s where future test start are made!

MB – Surrey, in terms of their resources and just the history and size of the club, always expected to carry off. Particularly that second division title and it would be challenging to win the championship outright in the first division. Um, it hasn’t happened for them in the last few years. They have found it difficult, there has been transitional periods. You know one or two things behind the scenes going on and just because you have got a couple of marking signings like that isn’t guaranteed success. You know the division two championship has been very closely contested over the last few years and Surrey have missed out. One thing I will say however, I mean given that Kevin Peterson is signed to play championship cricket and given that Kumar Sangakkara is one of the best players in world cricket at the moment have signed up and given that young bowlers like Matt Dunn, young batsmen like Jason Roy, Zafar Ansari and Rory Burns are in that team now. It’s now becoming a time where you have to say – right we really ought to get promoted this year. You know and if you’re promoted then you might as well do it as champions as well. There is an expectation there but I think that’s only right for a club of that size.

MB – Yeah I mean listen, you’re in a sort of envious position of playing four day cricket, professional four day cricket at the time of year where very few other people are and yes the door is very much open. The more high profile talent that can come in the better. The more you raise standards by having players in that ilk around the better too.

MB – Well I mean there’s plenty of players that have the skill and the temperament to do so. I mean look out for Nick Compton coming back here for Middlesex. Sam Robson who’s obviously found himself in and then out of the England reckoning. He will have a point to prove. There are plenty of quality batsmen around in the county championship. Michael Carberry is another one, an experienced player yes but he will be looking to pile the runs on down there in Hampshire. Look, the batting talent Mahela Jayawardene turning up to players as an overseas player. I mean there are some wonderful, wonderful players knocking around so you get a decent summer with some fair weather and the bowlers might have their work cut out for them.  

MB – Once again there are some sort of big names from overseas coming in on the bowling front. Someone like Vernon Philander, if he stays injury free early season conditions will help him out in the way that he hits the scene on a regular basis. You know someone like Steve Magoffin is so reliable for Sussex down there. You know he always picks up wickets. You know there are a lot of very, very fine bowlers knocking around. I mean the one challenge, the one difficulty for any bowling team – if you want to win the championship you need to take a lot of wickets during the summer. One of the most difficult things to do over the course of the county summer, 16 matches when you’ve got all the other formats of cricket going on, is keeping all those guys fit. The best bowlers on the parks and you’re able to take 20 wickets in these games. And so the endurance and I know a bit of luck always plays its part over the course of the summer. That won’t be any different this year I can promise you.