If Kent and Warwickshire players and supporters could believe that Nottinghamshire will be as bad in the second half of the Championship season as they have been so far, they could then approach this clash at Canterbury in a more relaxed frame of mind.
With just one team to be relegated this season, Kent and Warwickshire, in sixth and seventh places in the table, just need to stay ahead of the East Midlands county. But surely Notts will improve on their current record of four defeats and no wins from seven games.
And so both Kent and Warwickshire will undoubtedly be looking anxiously for a win from this clash.
Both teams have won two but lost four games so far. Kent’s most recent outing was a comprehensive 285-run win over that under-performing Notts side, whereas Warwickshire slipped to defeat against Surrey.
Kent have already inflicted an eight-wicket defeat on the Bears back in April so, buoyed by this and their Notts win, they will probably approach the match with a greater degree of confidence than their opponents.
For Kent, 20-year old wicketkeeper Ollie Robinson has just signed a contract extension to keep him with the county until the end of 2021.
Sussex were also interested in him but the chance of regular first-team cricket with Kent seems to have been decisive. Even if Sam Billings re-takes the gloves when he is fit again, Robinson can keep his place with the bat, having scored 463 first-class runs with a best of 143 so far this season.
Warwickshire’s opener Dom Sibley has 678 first-class runs to his name this year. Apart from Sam Hain, averaging 35, everyone else in the Bears’ fragile batting line-up has an average of less than half Sibley’s 56.5.
For Kent, Wiaan Mulder is out with an ankle problem, whilst Sam Billings (shoulder) and Ivan Thomas (knee) are still on the injured list.
Apart from Mulder’s absence, there are no changes from the team that defeated Notts. Veteran Darren Stevens achieved the first hat-trick of his career in a second team match last week and returns to first-team action in place of Mulder.
Kent Squad: Heino Kuhn (Captain), Daniel Bell-Drummond, Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Sean Dickson, Matt Milnes, Harry Podmore, Ollie Rayner, Ollie Robinson (wicketkeeper), Darren Stevens, Grant Stewart
Warwickshire fans have listened with interest to political debates about the over-stretched National Health Service. They suspect that the cause is not so much an ageing population as the queue of Warwickshire fast bowlers awaiting treatment.
Liam Norwell and Ryan Sidebottom are both out for the season with hamstring and shoulder problems respectively. George Panayi has a rib impingement, Henry Brookes a tear in the ligament of his left hip and Olly Stone is continuing his recuperation from a back problem. Now both Oliver-Hannon-Dalby and Craig Miles have been declared unfit and drop out of the squad. And although Chris Woakes is playing for England, it is well known that he needs regular treatment on a chronic knee injury.
As Oscar Wilde might have said, to lose one pace bowler may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose seven looks like carelessness.
As if that was not enough, right at the back of the queue behind the bowlers is Ian Bell, nursing his injured toe and still not fully fit.
Maybe more in hope than expectation and possiblywith a focus on quantity rather than quality, Warwickshire have recruited a quartet of short-term replacements.
Left-arm seamer Toby Lester, 26, has started a one-month loan from Lancashire and played against Surrey last week with mixed success. Joining him are another left arm seamer, James Wainman, also 26, who has come through the Yorkshire pathway plus Leamington Spa-born Bailey Wightman – a right-arm fast bowler aged 20– who has been based in Adelaide, Australia since the age of nine, but returned in 2018 to play Minor Counties cricket for Cheshire. And at the last moment, Leicestershire right-arm seam bowling all-rounder Ben Mike has been brought in on a month’s loan and also goes into the squad.
Warwickshire Squad: Jeetan Patel (captain), Tim Ambrose (wicketkeeper), Liam Banks, Sam Hain, Adam Hose, Matt Lamb, Toby Lester, Ben Mike, Will Rhodes, Dom Sibley, Alex Thomson, James Wainman, Bailey Wightman, Rob Yates
Weather and Conditions
The forecast is for four fine and mainly sunny days with the temperature hovering around 20 degrees.
Kent’s last match at Canterbury ended in less than two days of playing time, with Kent being bowled out for just 59. But the weather had a hand in producing those bowler-friendly conditions so a more even battle between bat and ball can be expected.
Date: 30 June – 3 July 2019
Time: 11.00 am
Odds (SkyBet): Kent 10/11; Warwickshire 10/11