After a disastrous start to the 2017 season – two consecutive innings defeats, no wins from three games – Warwickshire took to 50 over cricket like the proverbial waterfowl to water.
In their opening Royal London One-Day Cup match, they dispatched Northants by ten wickets thanks to an efficient display in the field and a vibrant opening stand between William Porterfield and Sam Hain.
Durham, on the other hand, suffered the frustration of a no-result match against Derbyshire. The rain intervened with Durham poised to set a big target. There were contributions from Stephen Cook, Keaton Jennings and Michael Richardson.
The two teams had contrasting fortunes in the same competition last year. Warwickshire triumphed over Surrey in the final whereas Durham failed to qualify from the group stage. In truth, the difference was not that great. The Bears won four of their eight group games whereas Durham won three. Such are the fine margins between success and failure.
For different reasons, neither of the teams has much prospect of success in the County Championship this year. Warwickshire’s start means that they have only relegation to think about and Durham, cruelly penalised by the ECB, sit at the bottom of Division Two with a depressing minus 33 points.
So, until the madcap fun of T20 begins, both counties need success in the Royal London competition to enliven their season and encourage their supporters. Durham’s penalty of two points in the One-Day Cup is not an insurmountable obstacle to qualifying, especially if they make a good start in the competition.
For Warwickshire, Oliver Hannon-Dalby has become an unlikely key figure. His bowling action resembles a (lanky) schoolboy guiltily reaching for a magazine on a newsagent’s top shelf. In the field he is as uncoordinated as a baby giraffe and at the batting crease, he looks like a natural right-hander who has chosen to bat left-handed just to be, in every sense, awkward.
And yet he takes wickets. At age 27, he is the only Warwickshire player in the mid-20s age band and could be a vital part of the Bears’ plans to rebuild their ageing team.
Durham’s Keaton Jennings played a fluent innings of 79 off just 72 balls against Derbyshire. He is a key factor in getting the innings off to a fast and safe start. Last year, many thought that he might leave Durham as Championship relegation loomed and Warwickshire were rumoured to be interested. But loyalty won the day.
In order to add to his two international caps, he will no doubt look to score heavily in all competitions this year.
Warwickshire will be without Chris Woakes who is away at the IPL. New recruit Olly Stone is still months from fitness. Otherwise, the squad should be pretty much at full strength.
The team that played against Northants may well take the field again, which means that youngsters Grant Thornton and Aaron Thomason may get another chance to impress. Both are fast-medium bowlers who tick two key boxes in being young and locally-born. There is a third box, labelled ‘good enough’, on which the jury so far is out.
Warwickshire Squad: Ian Bell (c), Tim Ambrose (wk), Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke, Sam Hain, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Ateeq Javid, Jeetan Patel, William Porterfield, Josh Poysden, Aaron Thomason, Grant Thornton, Jonathan Trott, Chris Wright
For Durham, there may also be few, if any, changes from the team that played the partial game against Derbyshire. Having recovered from a groin injury, Mark Wood returns to the squad.
Durham Squad: Keaton Jennings (c), Stephen Cook, Graham Clark, Paul Collingwood, Paul Coughlin, Barry McCarthy, Stuart Poynter (wk), Ryan Pringle, Michael Richardson, Chris Rushworth, Cameron Steel, James Weighell, Mark Wood
Form this season
Weather and conditions
The forecast is for a mainly dry, cool day with the possibility of showers and a chilling easterly breeze.
As for the pitch, groundsman Gary Barwell normally prepares a decent strip, though the need to reserve much of the square for pending Champions Trophy matches is testing his skills.
Date: 1st May 2017
Umpires: Steve Gale and Ian Gould
Odds (SkyBet): Warwickshire 4/6, Durham 6/5