Warwickshire started 2017 with a short sharp shock. By the time they had rubbed the sleep from their eyes, Surrey’s Mark Footitt had ripped out the roots of their batting and the game was all but over. There is something deeply unpleasant about being dismissed for under 100 in a first-class game. It is not how they planned to start their season.
Yorkshire were also toppled in their first match, albeit in different circumstances. Despite a second-innings batting collapse precipitated by some excellent bowling from Kyle Abbott, they would still have felt fairly confident about defending 320 on a pitch that was far from flat against a side they had skittled for 141 in the first innings.
Hampshire ground out a remarkable win to further dent the fearsome reputation of the team that has claimed the title in two of the past three seasons.
Another big talking point is the availability of England players. Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes is away at the IPL, and unlike in previous years they are blessed with the middle-order pair of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell whose England careers are officially and apparently over respectively.
Yorkshire, however, are left to rue the continuing absence of both Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow. Bairstow’s unavailability in particular will rankle with Yorkshire fans because the ECB allowed him to enter the IPL auction.
Both sides need to put the events of the past week behind them quickly. The new Division One format means that a quarter of the teams will go down to the second tier, so this game is a crucial encounter that could define which if either of these teams can bounce back and make a success of their season.
A second consecutive loss could leave one of these clubs facing an uncomfortable and unexpected struggle to stay up.
When Jonathan Trott was out lbw to Mark Footitt for a five-ball duck in the first innings and Footitt proceeded to send four of Trott’s teammates on their way without scoring, few would have predicted that Trott would head back to Edgbaston in the top five run-scorers in Division One.
Untroubled by time constraints, he amassed a dogged 151 which nearly helped his side avoid an innings defeat. His much-maligned mannerisms and unfashionable preference for patience over power remain valuable assets to his side this year.
There were times at Headingley when it looked like Gary Ballance was batting in a different country from his teammates, let alone on a different pitch.
He is just three runs short of Essex’s Dan Lawrence at the top of the Division One run-scorer’s chart and he appears to be relishing his new role as Yorkshire captain. While his former England teammates are watching on from the sidelines, Ballance has an opportunity to show to his fans, and to himself, that he is still one of the best batsmen around.
Warwickshire are unchanged from the team that travelled to the Oval – as before, Sunny Singh and Grant Thornton are expected to miss out to give the side that faced Surrey a chance to bounce back.
Warwickshire squad: Ian Bell (c), Tim Ambrose (wk), Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke, Sam Hain, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Alex Mellor, Jeetan Patel, William Porterfield, Sunny Singh, Grant Thornton, Jonathan Trott, Chris Wright
Yorkshire are still without Ryan Sidebottom and Jack Brooks due to injury, while Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow are still being rested (somewhat controversially in Bairstow’s case) by the ECB. They will be boosted by the return of David Willey and Matthew Fisher from injury, and Adil Rashid is no longer in need of a rest according to the ECB.
Yorkshire squad: Gary Ballance (c), Tim Bresnan, Ben Coad, Matthew Fisher, Peter Handscomb, Andrew Hodd (wk), Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Steven Patterson, Adil Rashid, Jared Warner, David Willey
Yorkshire have only lost once across their last 17 fixtures played against Warwickshire (W9 D7).
Three of the last four encounters at Edgbaston between these sides have been won by the visitors (D1).
William Porterfield needs 97 more runs to reach 6,000 in first-class cricket whilst Sam Hain is 74 away from reaching 2,000 first-class runs.
Gary Ballance was one of only three batsmen to record 50+ in both innings during the opening weekend of the 2017 County Championship campaign (Kent’s Joe Denly & Lancashire’s Dane Vilas).
Weather and conditions
There is a chance of showers on day one and four but there should be enough overs bowled to secure a result. Last season, snow affected the fixture in a high-scoring draw. Fortunately or unfortunately, nobody is dreaming of a white Easter in 2017.
Date: 14th-17th April 2017
Odds (SkyBet): Warwickshire 11/10, Yorkshire 8/11