Following two innings defeats in their first two games of the season, Warwickshire Sport Director Ashley Giles warned that more pain was ahead for the Edgbaston club. Perhaps this game was in the back of his mind, as the team that inflicted the first of those nightmares on Warwickshire return for a second match.
The Bears are in a chaotic state. They were destroyed by Surrey at the Oval by Mark Stoneman and Mark Footitt, while Ben Coad was their nemesis as Yorkshire romped to victory at Edgbaston in their second match. Their batting looks fragile, and bowling largely ineffective. Warwickshire’s senior players are struggling to make an impact on games while their young guns (only three of their first XI are under 30) are struggling to prove that they are worth their place in a Division One team. The prospect of revenge, along with a few changes of personnel, may yet bring a swift reversal to Warwickshire’s fortunes.
Surrey were widely tipped by those in the know as outside candidates for a title bid. They have recruited well over the winter, pinching Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick from Durham. Footitt, their big signing of the 2015 season, has started the year in destructive fashion. However, their progress was halted by Lancashire, who produced a fine batting display to put a second consecutive victory beyond the wealthy London club’s grasp.
The visitors are clear favourites for this encounter. They are stronger on paper in every department and have been stronger on the pitch so far this season. However, Warwickshire are a proud club with many players who have, at one point or another, shown the capacity to produce match-winning contributions. If they lose again, their red-ball season might be as good as over before April has even finished.
Jeetan Patel and Keith Barker have done a huge amount of work to save Warwickshire’s blushes at the start of the season. Barker has scored two half-centuries while Jeetan Patel’s 49* was all that protected Warwickshire from a risibly pathetic total in their second innings against Yorkshire. Both – Barker especially – have claims to being genuine all-rounders, and given that Warwickshire need all-round improvement, both will be key against Surrey this time around.
Mark Footitt’s booming inswingers and outswingers are likely to have plagued the sleep of Warwickshire’s batsmen over the past couple of weeks. If he has any sort of assistance from the conditions, he could be deadly again in the grudge match. Even if he doesn’t, the memory of his devastation at the Oval could still put doubt in the mind of a few of Warwickshire’s line-up; a moment’s hesitation could be enough to secure another wicket to add to Footitt’s England claims and Surrey’s title bid.
Warwickshire have opted to leave out Sam Hain, the youngest member of the XI who were wiped out by Surrey and Yorkshire, for 34-year-old former Bears skipper Ian Westwood. 25-year-old Alex Mellor may well be the youngest player to feature for Warwickshire in their final XI, as he survives the cut. The only other change is that Sunny Singh misses out for Matt Lamb.
Warwickshire squad: Ian Bell (c), Tim Ambrose (wk), Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Matt Lamb, Alex Mellor, Jeetan Patel, William Porterfield, Grant Thornton, Jonathan Trott, Ian Westwood, Chris Wright
No surprises in the Surrey squad. Everyone is fit and firing and they are prepared to face Warwickshire with an unchanged team.
Surrey squad: Gareth Batty (c), Zafar Ansari, Scott Borthwick, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Jade Dernbach, Ben Foakes (wk), Mark Footitt, Stuart Meaker, Kumar Sangakkara, Dom Sibley, Mark Stoneman
Weather and conditions
If Warwickshire make it to Monday, there is a fair chance of scattered showers. The first three days of the game will be mild and cloudy with some sunny spells. Last season, Surrey emerged with a 226-run victory thanks to an excellent bowling effort from Sam Curran.
Date: 21st – 24th April 2017
Umpires: Russell Evans and Michael Gough
Odds (SkyBet): Warwickshire 6/4, Surrey 8/15