Kent, led by Rob Key, will be eager to make an impact on their return to the top tier of the LV County Championship.
By Rob Lancaster
Last Updated: 06/04/10 2:54pm
Kent made sure their stay in Division Two of the LV County Championship was a short one, while they came close to winning the Twenty20 Cup for a second time.
It was a case of mission accomplished for Kent in four-day cricket, as they secured promotion from Division Two of the County Championship, going up as champions no less.
Their success in the longer format was built around big totals (four of their batsmen surpassed 1,000 runs in first-class cricket) and the wickets of off-spinner James Tredwell, who finished with 69 scalps.
The ever-reliable Martin van Jaarsveld led the way with the bat, while Geraint Jones' promotion to number three reaped dividends with five centuries in his tally of 1,345 runs.
While Tredwell was the star performer with the ball, Kent were far from a one-man attack. Seamers Amjad Khan and Simon Cook also helped Rob Key's side record eight wins in their 16 Championship fixtures.
The Spitfires were once again impressive in Twenty20 cricket, topping the South Division with six wins before losing to Somerset in the semi-finals.
However they did not enjoy the same levels of success in the longer formats in the one-day arena. Only Scotland finished below them in Group B of the Friends Provident Trophy, while they were third in Division Two of the Pro40.
In and outs
The South African contingency at Canterbury has been reduced by the departures of Ryan McLaren, who is now part of the Proteas' squads in both one-day and Test cricket, and Justin Kemp.
Both all-rounders will be missed but their exits will allow coach Paul Farbrace to give some of the county's impressive young talent more of a chance.
Adam Ball - a member of the ECB Fast Bowling Elite group - is the latest prospect, the 16-year-old having already represented England Under 19's.
The plan had been to have two overseas players during the season - Australian seamer Stuart Clark kicking off the campaign before leg spinner Malinga Bandara arrives from Sri Lanka for the second half of the summer.
However, the experienced Clark will not be coming at all due to concerns over his fitness as he returns to action from a back injury.
The step up to Division One shouldn't faze Kent; after all they had been an ever present in the top tier before their shock relegation in 2008.
Scoring runs won't be a problem with van Jaarsveld, Key, Jones and Darren Stevens in their line-up. This also needs to be the year when Joe Denly, who has found life tough early on in international cricket with England, becomes a consistent performer in all forms of the game.
It will be wickets that will be the key and Farbrace appears to realise this by the overseas recruits (even if Clark is no longer coming). Tredwell and Bandara will form a threatening spin pair, so Kent will be hoping for a hot summer.
The seam cupboard is a little bearer now without McLaren and the retirement of Martin Saggers. Khan will hope to stay fit to show just why he was picked by England and he needs to strike early and often.
As for their one-day prospects, the Spitfires look a strong unit with a plethora of all-round talents, including former Pakistan international Azhar Mahmood, who are capable of making an impact with both bat and ball.
David Fulton's one to watch... Sam Northeast
Northeast has long been talked about as an England player in the making. He made three hundreds for England Under 19's against Bangladesh last summer, while 128 not out for Kent against Gloucestershire, when he carried his bat, further enhanced his reputation. Should get a start in all forms.