Worcestershire’s exploits with the white-ball last summer were exceptional.
Their thrilling T20 Blast campaign ended with victory at Edgbaston, whilst they also impressed in the One Day Cup, reaching the semi-finals.
However, the same cannot be said about their red-ball efforts, as they were condemned to relegation with just two wins.
Therefore, it will be interesting to see how they perform this summer, and whether the club decides to prioritise one format over another.
If they do, the primary aim will surely be to get back into Division One, a goal they have a good chance of achieving with three sides being promoted from Division Two.
The injury to captain Joe Leach was a major blow in 2018, and his hopefully soon return is a significant boost in their quest to do so.
They look to be one of the stronger batting units in Division Two. Daryl Mitchell remains a fine player, and retaining the services of Callum Ferguson is a superb piece of business.
There is no doubt, however, the loss of Joe Clarke is a big one. Losing their finest young talent is a bitter pill to swallow, but in Riki Wessels, they have a fine replacement.
The Rapids should challenge in both white-ball formats again this year.
Defending their T20 crown would be a superb achievement. Although perhaps greater emphasis will be on reaching a Lord’s final in the One Day Cup. The memory of Heino Kuhn’s knock at New Road in the semi-final last year is one they will want to forget.
They have every chance of doing so if younger players such as Pat Brown can progress again this season. He was simply sensational in the Blast triumph, and another summer of impressive performances will surely make the England selectors take notice.
You cannot discuss Worcestershire without mentioning Moeen Ali. They may not see much of their England star, but he always performs when playing for his county.
There are plenty of reasons for Worcestershire fans to be positive heading into this season and more silverware may well be on the cards.
Ins: Riki Wessels (Nottinghamshire), Wayne Parnell (Kolpak)
Outs: Joe Clarke (Nottinghamshire), Steve Magoffin (Retired), Alex Hepburn (Released)
Wickets in Division Two are often difficult to bat on, so having someone at the top of the order who can consistently churn out the runs is vital. In Daryl Mitchell, Worcestershire certainly do. The club’s former captain scored 957 runs last summer, the fifth highest in Division One.
Such was his excellence at opening the batting, there were even some calling for him to earn international honours. That ship has almost certainly sailed. However, he will want to replicate that good form and help his team forge a promotion challenge.
His medium pace bowling has also proved useful in recent years, particularly in white-ball cricket.
Player to Watch
The loss of Joe Clarke to Nottinghamshire is a disappointing one, but Riki Wessels is an excellent acquisition. As destructive a player as anyone on his day, Wessels will only enhance the Rapids’ already excellent side in the white-ball game.
His 559 runs in the 2017 T20 Blast helped Nottinghamshire to the title, and a similar haul for Worcestershire this summer could see them retain their crown. He will also add stability to the middle order in the County Championship. He is the type of player that every coach wants in their side.
After his heroics last season, bringing back Callum Ferguson was pretty much a no brainer for Worcestershire. The Australian played a series of unbelievable innings, and his match-winning knock in the T20 Blast quarter-final was the perfect example of batting under pressure.
He will play across all formats this summer, while Martin Guptill has also re-signed for T20 cricket. So much of Worcestershire’s success last season was because of their business in the overseas market, and they seem to have recruited well again this year.
How they’ll fare
You would expect Worcestershire to be challenging for an immediate return to Division One. They have become somewhat of a yo-yo side in recent years, and as much as they have struggled in the top division, they often look too good for Division Two. And with three earning promotion this summer, they will fancy their chances.
The Rapids have developed into an excellent white-ball outfit, culminating with their triumph at Finals Day. Do not be surprised if they get back to Edgbaston again, while a Lord’s final will surely be a target after falling in the semi-finals the last two seasons.
SSCC v Leicestershire, Fischer County Ground, 11-14 April
Season Odds (Sky Bet)
Specsavers County Championship Division Two: 13/2
Royal London One-Day Cup: 12/1
Vitality Twenty20 Blast: 14/1