The clash between Warwickshire and Hampshire is a vital game for both teams. At the top of the table, the Bears are just one point behind leaders Middlesex and level with Lancashire. All three of these teams will be aware that Durham and Yorkshire are not far behind them and both of those have a game in hand.
Supporters of Hampshire might observe that if Bears’ fans think being successful is stressful, they should try failure. The southern county sits at the bottom of the table with just one win from eight games.
To be fair, they have only one fewer win and one more defeat than their opponents, such is the pattern of results in this season of rain affected draws.
When the two teams met at the start of the season, Warwickshire had the better of a rainy draw, largely thanks to a big hundred from captain Ian Bell and seven wickets from Keith Barker.
Most recently, Hampshire fought out a high-scoring draw with Durham whereas the Bears crushed Surrey at Guildford by ten wickets, with overseas spinner Jeetan Patel recording a ten wicket match haul for only the second time in his long career.
For Warwickshire, Keith Barker who tormented the Hampshire batsmen back in April is having a stellar season. He averages over 40 with the bat, having hit one hundred and three fifties. With his left arm seam and swing bowling, he has taken 35 wickets at 25 apiece. Not surprisingly, he tops the Specsavers County Championship Most Valuable Player (MVP) rankings. By rights, the England and West Indies selectors should be fighting over him but there hardly seems a sniff of interest – bad news for Barker but good for Warwickshire.
The bowling averages of the two sides tell their own story. Warwickshire have five bowlers with averages in the twenties. Hampshire have only Ryan McLaren who has taken 22 wickets so far at a cost of just over 28 each. Whilst they could do with some of his colleagues to step up to the mark, they certainly need McLaren to continue to deliver. Like Barker, he is making a strong all-round contribution, with a batting average of almost fifty.
Warwickshire will be without Chris Woakes but can still field a strong bowling attack. Jonathan Trott has just been appointed vice-captain of the four day team, a recognition of his key role as a senior player but also a further acknowledgment of how far relationships have cooled between the Bears’ hierarchy and ex-captain Varun Chopra. Chopra will continue to play four day cricket but will definitely leave at the end of the season.
Warwickshire squad: Ian Bell (c), Tim Ambrose (wk), Keith Barker, Varun Chopra, Rikki Clarke, Laurie Evans, Sam Hain, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Jeetan Patel, Josh Poysden, Boyd Rankin, Jonathan Trott, Andy Umeed
Hampshire have James Vince on England duty. They are likely to rely largely on the team that drew with Durham.
Hampshire team (possible): Will Smith (captain), Jimmy Adams, Tom Alsop, Michael Carberry, Adam Wheater, Sean Ervine, Ryan McLaren, Lewis McManus (wk), Gareth Berg, Gareth Andrew
Weather and conditions
The forecast is for sunshine and showers across the four days – hopefully more of the former than the latter, with a stiff breeze blowing the rain away.
Groundsman Gary Barwell generally produces good pitches. With Jeetan Patel in top form, Warwickshire would not complain if there was some turn in the later stages.
Date: 10th-13th July 2016
Time: 11.00 pm
Ground: Stadium Edgbaston
Umpires: Rob Bailey; Paul Baldwin
Odds (SkyBet): Warwickshire 2/5; Hampshire 2/1