Hampshire and Warwickshire will both be looking to kick their seasons off to a fast start when they meet in the Specsavers County Championship on Sunday.
Warwickshire will have more than half an eye on the title this season and a win here would be a good start. Hampshire will be looking to build on a strong finish to the last campaign so even this early in the season there is plenty at stake for these two.
The Ageas Bowl hasn’t always been the fortress in four day cricket that Hampshire would like and it is important to establish home form if they are to survive this season. They have the chance to do that right from the outset but it has to be said they look like they could be up against it here.
Warwickshire are going into the season looking much stronger than in terms gone by, and will be under the permanent leadership of Ian Bell for the first time here. He will bring a solid cricket brain to the captaincy role and if him carrying the burden releases the shackles from Varun Chopra then so much the better.
This looks a great early season clash. There is no lack of experience on show here so both sides will know what it takes to get the win. If the weather allows it this could turn into an intriguing battle to fire the season into action with.
James Vince has toured the globe this winter playing T20 leagues and representing England. He was part of England’s T20 side that made the final of the World T20 and although he only featured in one match in the tournament he will have taken plenty from the experience I’m sure.
Vince now skippers Hampshire in this format of the game and he has the chance to lead by example right from the beginning. In a Hampshire batting line up which looks a little light in depth their captain firing is crucial to their chances.
Ian Bell might not be an England international at the current time but he remains a class act at this level and he’ll be looking for early season runs to remind the selectors of his talent should a vacancy appear in the future. Hampshire will fire plenty of quality at this Warwickshire batting line up and they will need their captain to stand up to it.
Hampshire will be without Gareth Berg, Ryan Stevenson and Jimmy Adams who all miss out through injury so Tom Alsop is likely to start the season in the side. Fidel Edwards is in the squad and expected to feature while Liam Dawson and Reece Topley were given permission to play by England.
Hampshire squad: James Vince (captain), Tom Alsop, Michael Carberry, Mason Crane, Liam Dawson, Fidel Edwards, Sean Ervine, Ryan McLaren, Will Smith, James Tomlinson, Reece Topley, Adam Wheater (wicket-keeper), Chris Wood.
Warwickshire have England internationals Ian Bell and Chris Woakes available while Jonathan Trott is also ready for selection. The Bears have a full strength seam attack at their disposal so Dougie Brown and Ian Bell have some big decisions to make on the morning of the game.
Warwickshire squad: Ian Bell (captain), Varun Chopra, Tim Ambrose (wicket-keeper), Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke, Laurie Evans, Sam Hain, Jeetan Patel, Boyd Rankin Jonathan Trott, Ian Westwood, Chris Woakes, Chris Wright.
Weather and conditions
Monday aside, the weather looks pretty fair throughout this match. There is the chance of some showers on the final day but nothing that should prove too problematic. As always in April temperatures are expected to be quite chilly.
Date: 10th – 13th April 2016
Ground: Ageas Bowl, Southampton
Umpires: Steve O’Shaughnessy & Martin Saggers
Odds (Skybet): Hampshire 11/8, Warwickshire 8/15