It says much about Warwickshire's year that their Championship game against Gloucestershire starting today is the first 'dead' match of the season.

Such has been the drama of this, the longest of all county seasons, that the result of every other game could have had a vital bearing on promotion, relegation, success of failure. Supporters could ask for little more.

In the Championship at least, however, all is just about settled. Warwickshire may yet finish in the top half of the table and, against weak opposition, a win will be expected. But these are minor details at the end of a long and fulfilling season.

With relatively little to play for from a team perspective, much of the focus will turn to personal milestones.

Adam Shantry is poised to make his Warwickshire Championship debut. He is named in the 12-man squad for the first time this summer and could come in for Naqaash Tahir, who has hardly impressed since his return from injury.

Shantry, a left-arm seamer, has been frustrated by injury through much of this season and has still not recaptured his full pace. Yet he swings the ball both ways and could yet develop into an important part of the side's plans for the next decade.

Several other players are fighting for new deals. James Anyon is certain to win an extended contract, probably two years, but these are nervous days for the likes of Nick Warren and Trevor Penney, who are still waiting to here whether they are required next year. Stuart Eustace appears doomed but can console himself with the thought that he has at least experienced life as a professional cricketer. Many would swap their roles in an instant.

Neil Carter has an unusual 'double' just about within range. Carter has already passed the 1,000 run total in all competitions but requires an unlikely 13 more wickets for the 100 mark. No Warwickshire all-rounder - not Dougie Brown, Dermot Reeve, Shaun Pollock or Neil Smith - has achieved this modern-day double since Anton Ferreira in 1984; a fact which amply demonstrates Carter's importance to the team throughout the summer. An ubiquitous presence in all important games, Carter has yet to sign a new deal and was unimpressed by the club's first offer.

Brown is also on the brink of an impressive milestone. He has currently taken 48 first-class wickets this season (47 in the Championship) and is well-placed to surpass 50 for the fourth time in his career; a fine effort for a man who will be 36 next month.

The other man with a personal target within reach is Nick Knight. In his final first-class game as captain of a side he has led with distinction, Knight requires 83 Championship runs to pass the 10,000 barrier for Warwickshire. No-one - not Dennis Amiss, 'Tom' Dollery, MJK Smith, Rohan Kanhai, Alvin Kallicharran et al - has ever reached the milestone in fewer innings.

Gloucestershire are in a sorry state. Long since relegated, they are without overseas player Ramnaresh Sarwan, who has returned to the West Indies, and opening batsman Phil Weston, who has a rib injury. They also announced the release of Barnt Green all-rounder Roger Sillence and Tim Hancock yesterday.

They look set to give a first-class debut to batsman Grant Hodnett and a Championship debut to reserve 'keeper Steve Snell, possibly as a specialist batsman. Kadeer Ali, who developed through Warwickshire's youth system, is also likely to play.