Edgbaston Stadium may still be echoing to the cheers for Brendan McCullum’s amazing T20 innings on Friday night. But on Sunday, the Birmingham Bears, having played two games in two days, will transform themselves back into their alter egos, Warwickshire, to take on County Championship leaders Yorkshire. They will not only be without coloured clothing but also will have no McCullum, signed only for the T20 Blast.
Yorkshire sit atop the table after eight games and are, of course, the reigning champions. They are a comfortable 34 points ahead of last year’s runners-up, Warwickshire, who are in fourth place. Whereas Warwickshire have won three and lost one, Yorkshire are unbeaten with five wins.
Although Warwickshire are unbeaten in their last seven Championship games at Edgbaston, with five wins and two draws, Yorkshire can point to the fact that they have not lost in their last six visits to Birmingham. They won their last two matches at Edgbaston by an innings and they are coming off the back of two innings victories over Nottinghamshire and Durham.
Yorskhire coach Jason Gillespie says: “We know how good a side Warwickshire are. We relish the challenge of going to Edgbaston. It’s a great place to play cricket. They are a fantastic cricket team, and we know we will have to be at our best to compete with them.”
With the proviso that we don’t want another pitch like the one that has just produced a high-scoring bore draw against Sussex, this has the potential to be a cracking game of cricket.
The problem for Warwickshire is how they can compete with the strength of the Yorkshire pace bowling attack. One or more of their own quicker bowlers will need to step up to the mark. Whilst Chris Wright has shown signs of getting back to his form of two years ago, it could be the moment for Boyd Rankin to demonstrate that he has the kind of pace and bounce that won him his solitary England cap.
Yorkshire have in Jonathan Bairstow a wicket-keeper batsman who is in prime form and will want to keep his name in the minds of the England selectors. Edgbaston might just give him the stage to show off his talents once again.
Warwickshire will wait until after the T20 game against Leicestershire to announce their squad. They would love to have injured trio Chris Woakes, Keith Barker and Sam Hain back but all three look still doubtful. Ian Bell is absent on Ashes duty, while Will Porterfield is with Ireland. Laurie Evans and Tim Ambrose made big hundreds against Sussex but skipper Varun Chopra and young all-rounder Ateeq Javid are both short of runs. Young leg-spinner Josh Poysden had a tough four-day debut against Sussex but may get another chance if there is a bit more spin and bounce in the pitch for this game.
Possible Warwickshire squad: Varun Chopra (Captain), Tim Ambrose (Wicket Keeper), Rikki Clarke, Laurie Evans, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Ateeq Javid, Tom Milnes, Jeetan Patel, Josh Poysden, Boyd Rankin, Jonathan Trott, Ian Westwood, Chris Wright
Yorkshire lose spinner Adil Rashid to England as well as Joe Root, Gary Ballance and Adam Lyth. They have drafted spinners James Middlebrook and Karl Carver into the squad. Their strength in pace bowling is sufficient for them to be able to leave teenage prospect Matthew Fisher on the sidelines. The Yorkshire website says that “the team will be confirmed after the toss on Sunday.” A nice try, but I think the umpires – and Warwickshire skipper Varun Chopra – will insist on knowing the team before the toss!
Yorkshire squad: Andrew Gale (captain), Jonathan Bairstow (wicketkeeper), Tim Bresnan, Jack Brooks, Karl Carver, Aaron Finch, Matthew Fisher, Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, James Middlebrook, Steve Patterson, Will Rhodes, Ryan Sidebottom.
Weather and Conditions
The forecast is for four largely dry days but with the distinct possibility of some thundery showers and a temperature of around 20 degrees. Warwickshire’s Director of Cricket Dougie Brown admits that groundsman Gary Barwell advised against playing on the dead track for the Sussex game. Let’s hope that he is listened to this time and we get a decent pitch.
Date: 5th – 8th July 2015
Ground: Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham
Umpires: Nigel Cowley & Alex Wharf
Odds (via Skybet): Warwickshire 5/4; Yorkshire 4/7