Read - Somerset team to beat
Outlaws skipper "aware of the uphill task" side face to retain title
By Joe Drabble. Last Updated: 06/04/11 1:24pm
Read: Wary of Somerset
Nottinghamshire captain Chris Read believes rivals Somerset pose the greatest threat to his side's hopes of retaining the Division One title.
Notts won their first title since 2005 on a dramatic final day of the 2010 season and begin their title defence against Hampshire on April 14.
Runners-up Somerset have reacted to their final day heartache by bolstering their seam attack for the new campaign.
Fiery paceman Steve Kirby and last season's Division Two destroyer Gemaal Hussain both arrive at Taunton from Gloucestershire and Read expects the Cidermen to be fighting for the title once more.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the former England wicketkeeper said: "I think Somerset are looking really strong. They've strengthened their squad, brought in a couple of seam bowlers and look a team to beat.
"There are a lot of other sides too. I think the whole division will be very competitive again. Hampshire have made good strides, I think Durham in recent years have been very strong and they are welcoming back Graham Onions who is a fine bowler.
"We're aware of the uphill task we've got (to retain the title). I believe we are going to have to play better than we did last year if we're going to compete at the top."
Notts themselves have enjoyed a relatively quiet off-season in terms of transfer activity.
Former England seamer Ryan Sidebottom has returned to his native Yorkshire, while bowling all-rounder Ben Phillips and wicketkeeper Riki Wessels arrive at Trent Bridge from Somerset and Northamptonshire respectively.
Speaking on the make-up of the Notts squad, Read added: "We're looking pretty good.
"We're aware of the uphill task we've got. I believe we are going to have to play better than we did last year if we're going to compete at the top."
Chris Read Quotes of the week
"The squad isn't too different from previous years, we've lost Ryan Sidebottom but brought in Ben Phillips and Riki Wessels, so the squad is shaping up nicely and hopefully we start in a positive vein next Thursday (against Lancashire).
"Other sides have strengthened their squads and hopefully with our younger players a year older and more experienced we'll be a stronger squad too."
The lack of availably of some counties' international stars often plays a major part in their hopes of silverware and at Nottinghamshire it is no different.
Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann are both centrally contracted to the national side, however Read is hopeful that both men will feature for Notts before England kick off their home campaign against Sri Lanka in May.
"We build a team without Stuart and Graeme, but this year early season we might see a bit of them," Read added.
"Stuart is progressing well from his (side strain) injury and he'll obviously come into the reckoning as soon as he's fit.
"Graeme is available for two games prior to the first Test match (against Sri Lanka). We always welcome them back with open arms."