County champions Yorkshire, eager to retain their title, travel to Edgbaston to take on one of the teams with ambitions to steal their crown. This early season contest should give both teams a realistic view of their prospects.
Warwickshire suffered a dismal end to last season, seeing Yorkshire run away with the title whilst they slipped down to a mid-table position in the Championship that represented their worst result for five years. Their keenness to get off to a flying start this year has been slightly dented by two draws so far, caused by a combination of the weather and dead pitches.
Jonathan Trott took time off from finalising what should be a red-hot autobiography to score an unbeaten double century against Middlesex; and in two matches, Keith Barker has taken 11 wickets at 17 runs apiece. He also scored 81 in the game at Lord’s. When it comes to left-arm pace bowlers with batting credentials, David Willey will not be the only man in town over the next four days.
Yorkshire come to Edgbaston having played out a high-scoring draw with Hampshire in which Adam Lyth and Liam Plunkett both scored hundreds and Jonny Bairstow registered a massive 246 at almost a run a ball.
On the evidence so far, the new regulation which gives away teams the right to insert the opposition without a coin toss seems to be making groundsmen reluctant to give visiting teams too much incentive to bowl first. This looks likely to lead to dead pitches and too many drawn games. Some would say that this is just another example of the unwritten Law of Unintended Consequences that lies in wait for cricket’s law-makers. It will be interesting to see what Edgbaston groundsman Gary Barwell produces for this match.
Ian Bell has taken over the captaincy of Warwickshire with an enthusiasm that confirms that, throughout his England career, he has always been a Bear at heart. He still retains England ambitions, however; and 174 against Hampshire was an early statement of his claims. A big score against the champions would be an even louder declaration of his intentions.
For Yorkshire, Liam Plunkett produced a maiden Championship hundred against Hampshire and is another on the long list of players in this match wanting to state their England credentials. Of course, it’s wickets that he needs in order to work his way back into the selectors’ minds. He forms part of a strong pace attack that should (pitch permitting) present plenty of challenges to Bell, Trott and their batting colleagues.
Warwickshire have named a 15 man squad. They welcome back Chris Woakes and Boyd Rankin who both missed the match against Middlesex with minor injury niggles. Leg spinner Josh Poysden comes into the squad after picking up early season wickets in the second team but he may struggle to force his way into the team.
Laurie Evans, Chris Wright and ex-Yorkshire man Oliver Hannon-Dalby may also miss out.
Yorkshire have named the same 13-man squad that played against Hampshire. Will Rhodes comes to Edgbaston having competed hundreds in both innings for the Second XI against Lancashire so might just squeeze into the team. Tim Bresnan is still recovering from a torn calf muscle. Although he will travel with the squad, this is just to enable him to work with the medical team.
Warwickshire squad: Ian Bell (c), Tim Ambrose (wk), Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke, Varun Chopra, Laurie Evans, Sam Hain, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Jeetan Patel, Josh Poysden, Boyd Rankin, Jonathan Trott, Ian Westwood, Chris Woakes, Chris Wright
Yorkshire squad: Andrew Gale (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Gary Ballance, Jack Brooks, Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Steve Patterson, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Will Rhodes, Ryan Sidebottom, David Willey
So far this season:
Weather and conditions
Spectators will need to wrap up well; and players will need a couple of sweaters because temperatures may struggle to reach double figures. The good news is that, a few showers apart, it should be dry.
In the corresponding match last season, Warwickshire were bowled out for just 69, with Ryan Sidebottom taking 6-34. So the Bears’ batsmen will no doubt be hoping for an easier surface. Even so, a third consecutive draw would not really assist their title hopes.
Date: 24th to 27th April 2016
Time: 11.00 am
Ground: Stadium Edgbaston
Umpires: Jeremy Lloyds & Nigel Cowley
Odds (SkyBet): Warwickshire 6/5, Yorkshire 4/6