The Birmingham Bears are sitting comfortably at the top of the North Group table and have shown some top-class form in the shortest format this season. The Yorkshire Vikings on the other hand are languishing at the bottom of the table with just one team below them; the team who beat them in their opening fixture of the season.
This does not automatically translate into a white-wash however. Yorkshire showed some good form and skill against the Lancashire Lightning in last week’s Roses clash with some real grit being shown by the younger players in the squad.
The hosts are also in the favourable position of having some key international players return to the ranks: leg-spinner Adil Rashid will return as well as all-rounders Liam Plunkett and David Willey.
Birmingham Bears, on the other, hand welcome Matthew Wade into their midst and have the highest rank player of both squads for runs scored this season: Ian Bell has amassed 235 runs thus far and if his reputation is anything to go by, will be showing no signs of lapsing on form.
Both sides still have six matches to play which means a lot could still change in the table rankings – both sides will want to chalk up a win in this fixture to give themselves the best possible chance.
The phrase, “it’s fine, we/they bat deep” is one that is frequently used when that particular team include a certain Liam Plunkett in their line-up. His ability to come to the crease with the bat and take the game away from the opposition is second only to his skill with the ball. On Friday night Plunkett will play for his county again having played a key role in the limited-overs matches for England against Sri Lanka. He featured in all five ODIs and the IT20 finishing only once with no wickets and all other times taking a minimum of two wickets – 2/27 in the IT20.
Whilst the midlands team lose their big-hitting New Zealander Luke Ronchi, they have gained the inimitable Matthew Wade. Despite his recent statistics – bar the 57* in the Tri-Series final – not necessarily reflecting his influence on games and outcomes, he is highly valued within the Australian setup and director of cricket at Warwickshire, Dougie Brown, told the Birmingham Bears website what his feelings are on the wicketkeeper’s impending debut:
“Matt is an exciting cricketer who has come to us in excellent form.
“He is a really good addition to the squad and we will be looking to him to bring his experience and quality to bear in that number four or five spot in the order, just as he has done to such good effect many times for Australia.”
Whilst the host side are still without the big-hitters Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, they have had Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid and David Willey returned to them and they do feature in the squad.
Gary Ballance has been named in the squad but was also named in the Test squad for next week’s fixture against Pakistan so there is a chance he won’t feature in the final XI.
Karl Carver misses out this week, presumably as fellow spinner Rashid comes back into the side.
Yorkshire squad: Alex Lees (C), Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan, Ben Coad, Andrew Hodd, Jack Leaning, Adam Lyth, Liam Plunkett, Azeem Rafiq, Adil Rashid, Will Rhodes, Steve Patterson, David Willey, Kane Williamson.
Matthew Wade will make his debut for the Birmingham Bears when they travel north to face the Yorkshire Vikings having recently finished up a stint with his international side, Australia, in the Caribbean. Wade’s inclusion is in the place of Luke Ronchi.
Warwickshire squad: Ian Bell (C), Liam Banks, Rikki Clarke, Recordo Gordon, Laurie Evans, Sam Hain, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Ateeq Javid, Matt Lamb, George Panavi, Jeetan Patel, Josh Poysden, Aaron Thomason, Matthew Wade (wkt)
Birmingham Bears: NRWWWL
Weather and conditions
There shouldn’t be any repeat of last week’s weather interruptions as the forecast reads dry and bright over Headingley stadium all day and into the evening. It could be cloudy and it will certainly be warm at around 18 degrees.
Date: Friday 8th July 2016
Ground: Headingley Stadium, Leeds
Umpires: Russell Evans, Steve O’Shaughnessy
Odds (SkyBet): Yorkshire 1/1, Birmingham Bears 4/5