5 players to watch in the 2022 County Championship campaign

Shaheen Afridi

The County Championship season gets under way on Thursday with cricket fans around the country eagerly awaiting its return.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at five players to keep an eye on.

Shaheen Afridi

Pakistan's Shaheen Afridi has signed for Middlesex until mid-July
Pakistan’s Shaheen Afridi has signed for Middlesex until mid-July (Alastair Grant/PA)

Middlesex have secured the services of Pakistan paceman Afridi until he goes on international duty in mid-July. The 6ft 6in left-armer, who played for Hampshire in 2020 and turns 22 on Wednesday, has already impressed in Test cricket, taking 95 wickets at 25.08 in 24 matches.

Darren Stevens

Darren Stevens' Kent career has reached new heights since he turned 35
Darren Stevens’ Kent career has reached new heights since he turned 35 (Adam Davy/PA)

The career of Stevens, who turns 46 at the end of this month, began before many of the players he has played with and against were born. The all-rounder has taken over 800 wickets and scored more than 20,000 runs for Kent since his 2005 debut. He has come into his own since the age of 35 and was named among Wisden’s five cricketers of the year for 2021.

Tom Haines

Sussex's Tom Haines' name could be dropped into the England conversations with a good start to the season
Could Sussex’s Tom Haines play himself into England contention with a good start to the campaign? (John Walton/PA)

Twenty-three-year-old Haines was the first batter to score 1,000 Championship runs last season. The diminutive left-hander has played 34 first-class matches, averaging 34.03 having made his debut at the end of the 2016 season, and offers an additional bowling option with his medium pace.

Simon Harmer

Harmer will return to Essex, but for the first time as an overseas player, in the 2022 season
Simon Harmer will return to Essex as an overseas player (John Walton/PA)

Having spent five years out of the South Africa fold, Harmer’s impressive form with Essex as a Kolpak signing led to a Proteas recall. While at Essex, Harmer won the County Championship twice and the T20 Blast once. The 33-year-old spinner now returns to Chelmsford, but this time as the overseas signing after the end of Kolpak registrations.

Luke Fletcher

Nottinghamshire's Luke Fletcher had an impressive 2021 season and 2022 will be his testimonial year
Luke Fletcher had an impressive 2021 for Nottinghamshire (Simon Marper/PA)

This will be a testimonial year for 6ft 6in fast bowler Fletcher after an impressive 2021 for Nottinghamshire, which saw him take 66 wickets in 13 matches at an average of 14.90. The 33-year-old was the club’s player of the season and, over his career, has taken 409 first-class wickets at an average of 26.