The Royal London quarter final between Warwickshire and Essex is a vital game for both teams. For the home team, the 50 over competition represents their sole remaining route to a trophy in what is turning out to be a disappointing season. For Essex, the real possibility of promotion to the top flight in the Championship plus a One Day success could herald an overdue return to the big time.
It would be an exaggeration to say that Warwickshire’s season is in crisis. But, in the four day game, a team with the squad strength of the Bears should be doing better than struggling against relegation. As for T20, the Birmingham Bears have gone into an early hibernation and for the first time in three years will not feature in Finals Day on their home ground.
Success in the Royal London competition would offer a lifeline for Dougie Brown and his embattled team.
The Bears achieved second place in the Royal London North Group without ever looking dominant. Sam Hain and Jonathan Trott scored well with Tim Ambrose and Laurie Evans providing some momentum in the middle of the innings. With the ball, it was the familiar story of the two veterans, Jeetan Patel and Rikki Clarke carrying the attack.
Essex have not had much success against Warwickshire in One Day encounters in recent years but will approach this game with more confidence. They are riding high in Division Two of the Championship and though they only managed third place in the Royal London South Group, their points total of ten was one more than the Bears achieved in coming second in the North. Essex also have the advantage of a settled team: nine players appeared in all eight group games.
Jesse Ryder averaged over 60 in those group games and the ageless James Foster not only averaged 73 but scored at a rate of 155 per 100 balls. The leading wicket taker was captain Ravi Bopara. Ironically, he was also the least economical of the bowlers. It was another veteran, David Masters, who was most miserly conceding runs at just 3.78 runs per over.
For Warwickshire, there is a good case to choose either Chris Woakes or Jeetan Patel as the key man. But the word is that Warwickshire may play three spin bowlers, with Ateeq Javid and Josh Poysden supporting Jeetan Patel. So the fate of the third member of the trio, leg spinner Josh Poysden, could well determine the destiny of the game, especially if Essex target him. He is a resilient character and might just chip in with some key wickets.
On what is likely to be a good pitch, pace off the ball may prove vital so Ravi Bopara looks like a key man for Essex. His clever shot-making could be crucial with the bat and his medium paced variations with the ball may be well suited to the conditions.
Warwickshire welcome Chris Woakes back from his highly successful England stint but lose William Porterfield to Ireland. Sam Hain is fit again after his shoulder injury but Boyd Rankin fractured a tibia in training and is out for the season.
Warwickshire (likely squad): Ian Bell (c),Tim Ambrose (wk), Keith Barker, Varun Chopra, Rikki Clarke, Laurie Evans, Recordo Gordon, Sam Hain,Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Ateeq Javid, Jeetan Patel, Josh Poysden, Jonathan Trott, Chris Woakes
Essex have Dan Lawrence out injured but otherwise will be looking to stick with the side that got them into the quarter-finals.
Essex: Ravi Bopara (c), Nick Browne, Ryan ten Doeschate, James Foster(wk), David Masters, Jaik Mickleburgh, Tom Moore, Graham Napier, Jamie Porter, Jesse Ryder, Kishen Velani, Paul Walter, Tom Westley, Ashar Zaidi
Weather and Conditions
The forecast is for a fine day. The pitch is likely to be good for batting and without too much pace for the quicker bowlers.
Date: Wednesday 17th August 2016
Ground: Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham
Time: 11.00 start
Umpires: To be confirmed
Odds (Skybet): Warwickshire 4/6; Essex 6/5