Warwickshire’s Bank Holiday match with Somerset will decide who gets a trip to Lord’s for the final of the Royal London One Day Cup. For both teams, it is the last chance of a trophy this season. They sit next to each other in mid-table in the Specsavers County Championship and they each failed to progress beyond the group stages in the T20 competition.
Warwickshire disposed of Essex in their Royal London quarterfinal, which was played at Edgbaston on the well worn Test pitch. The Bears spun the visitors to defeat by 70 runs.
At Taunton, Somerset’s quarterfinal win was even more decisive. They sailed past Worcestershire’s total of 210 with nine wickets and more than 13 overs to spare.
Warwickshire’s batting in the competition has relied on Jonathan Trott and Sam Hain, who have scored more than 800 runs between them so far. Trott’s quarterfinal hundred was an immaculate, perfectly paced effort. Laurie Evans and Tim Ambrose, in that match and the tournament as a whole, have provided good support.
With the ball, Warwickshire have, as ever, leant heavily on the differing skills of Rikki Clarke (fast medium) and Jeetan Patel (off spin), their combined total of 28 wickets costing around 25 runs apiece.
Somerset will miss quarterfinal centurion Mahela Jayawardene. But skipper Jim Allenby has scored consistently and has been well supported at different times in the competition by Tom Abell, Johann Myburgh and Peter Trego.
With the ball, Lewis Gregory and Tim Groenewald have taken 31 wickets between them. Roelof van der Merwe, whose batting has largely disappointed, has come to the party with his left arm spin that has claimed 12 victims.
Overall, Warwickshire’s home advantage may well give them a slight edge. Even so, taking a longer-term perspective, it is possible to see these two sides as being on different trajectories.
Somerset has, in Abell, Gregory, Ryan Davies, Josh Davey and, of course, the Overton twins, a cadre of fine young players who should serve the team well over the next decade. Warwickshire, on the other hand, have an ageing squad. They fielded a quarter- final team where only two players (Hain and Ateeq Javid) were under 25. Ambrose, Trott, Clarke and Patel are all well into their thirties, as are captain Ian Bell and pace men Boyd Rankin and Chris Wright.
The Bears clearly have some rebuilding to do. Regardless of the result of this match, it is a task that Director of Cricket Dougie Brown will need to accomplish quickly if he is to satisfy not only the Bears’ supporters but also Neil Snowball, their new Chief Executive, who is not a man used to failure.
There are plenty of options to choose key men from amongst the more experienced players on both sides, such as Trott, Clarke, Bell or Patel for Warwickshire and Allenby, Myburgh or Pete Trego for Somerset.
Let us focus, instead, on two young batsmen who may well find themselves playing together for England before too long. My key men are the almost biblical pair of Hain and Abell.
Sam Hain came to Warwickshire via Hong Kong, Queensland and Loretto School in Scotland. Tom Abell, on the other hand, had a very straightforward passage to the Somerset team, having been born in Taunton and attended Taunton School.
The pair of them have style and class imprinted into their batting DNA so that their future in the game seems assured. It may just be a question as to which of them gains an England cap first and in what format. Meanwhile, if they both score runs in this key game, they will delight neutral supporters with their range of assured strokes.
Warwickshire will be without Chris Woakes who is on England duty. Irishman Mark Adair is out for the season with a back injury.
And then there is, as Sherlock Holmes might have said, the curious incident of Varun Chopra and the Royal London Cup. If Doctor Watson were on hand, he would point out that Varun Chopra has not played in the Royal London Cup: “That, my dear Watson,is the curious incident.”
Excluded from the one day team all season, except for a single T20 innings in which he narrowly missed a century, the accomplished Chopra has, in effect, been frozen out and so has taken his bat home, signing up to return next season to Essex, the county of his birth.
Likely Warwickshire squad: Ian Bell (c), Tim Ambrose (wk), Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke, Laurie Evans, Recordo Gordon, Sam Hain, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Ateeq Javid, Jeetan Patel, Josh Poysden, Jonathan Trott, Chris Wright
For Somerset, the departure of Jayawardene will be offset by the return of Johann Myburgh. As well as Myburgh, Somerset have added Tim Groenewald, Adam Hose and Jack Leach to their squad.
Somerset squad: Jim Allenby (c), Johan Myburgh, Peter Trego, Tom Abell, James Hildreth, Adam Hose, Lewis Gregory, Roelef van der Merwe, Craig Overton, Ryan Davies (wk), Tim Groenewald, Max Waller, Josh Davey, Jack Leach
Weather and conditions
The forecast is for a fine and dry day, with light winds and a top temperature of around 20 degrees.
As for the pitch, Warwickshire captain Ian Bell is on record as saying that grounds man Gary Barwell could be a key man. His task is to produce a decent track; but it remains to be seen whether, faced with a tired and overworked square, he can succeed.
Date: 29th August 2016
Time: 11.00 am
Ground: Stadium Edgbaston
Umpires: to be confirmed
Odds (SkyBet): Warwickshire 8/11, Somerset 11/10