After Friday night wash-outs in the T20 Blast, Warwickshire and Somerset return to what some would say is proper cricket when they meet in the Specsavers County Championship at Edgbaston on Sunday.
There is much at stake for both teams.
Somerset, seeking an historic first ever County Championship title, are just four points behind leaders Essex.
Warwickshire, on the other hand, sit precariously in seventh place in the table, desperately hoping they can avoid relegation by staying above bottom team Nottinghamshire.
A quick look at the averages of the two teams is instructive.
Somerset have five bowlers averaging under 20 whereas the Bears have none.
Somerset rely on batting contributions from half a dozen players, none of whom averages more than 35 or less than 26. They have managed just five Championship hundreds between all of them.
Warwickshire, on the other hand, rely heavily on Dom Sibley and Sam Hain, who each average over 50 and have five hundreds between them. All of the other regular batsmen average under 30.
When the two teams met at Taunton in May, the home team won a low-scoring game by 49 runs.
While a good contest can be expected, the strength of Somerset’s varied attack may just be too much for the brittle Warwickshire batting line-up.
In view of Jason Roy’s travails as an opener, Warwickshire’s Dom Sibley must be close to a Test match call-up. He already has 940 Championship runs in the bank this season, plus a century for MCC in the season opener against Surrey in Dubai and over 100 runs in the match for the England Lions against an Australian XI last month. His strike rate of around 41 runs per 100 balls suggests that he is able to graft for his runs when necessary.
A big score against Somerset might just clinch his selection, which would be good news for him but a bit of a disaster for the Bears who, desperately short of quality batsmen, could ill afford to lose him.
Warwickshire must wish that they had managed to hang on to Somerset’s Tom Banton. He played for the Bears at all levels from under-13 to under-17 as well as for the second XI. But a move to King’s College Taunton at age 16 led to opportunities with Somerset.
Banton may not yet be the finished article at first-class level, either as a batsman or as a wicket keeper; and, unlike Sibley, his England chances look to be best in white-ball cricket. But he is certainly an exciting prospect who, if he gets going with the bat, can transform a match, regardless of the format, in under an hour.
Chris Woakes is playing at Lord’s for England. Ian Bell is out for the season, a foot problem being followed by a knee tendon injury.
Warwickshire’s lengthy list of pace bowlers with injuries has reduced. But Olly Stone, who made his Test debut against Ireland, has exacerbated his back injury and is out for the rest of the season. Liam Norwell and Ryan Sidebottom are two more who are out until next year, with hamstring and shoulder problems respectively.
Fidel Edwards has completed his loan period and returns to Hampshire. He made a stunning initial impact with three wickets in his first over; but after that, was only occasionally effective.
Coach Jim Troughton will confirm the squad for the game after a practice session on Saturday.
Warwickshire Squad: Patel (c), Ambrose, Banks, Brookes, Brookes, Burgess, Garrett, Hain, Hannon-Dalby, Hose, Rhodes, Sibley, Thomson, Yates
Jack Leach is on Test match duty; but fellow spinner Dom Bess is back from his T20 loan spell at Yorkshire.
Somerset will also have to do without Azhar Ali who has returned to Pakistan. They are looking for a replacement overseas player for the final three games; but they will, for the visit to Edgbaston, include Babar Azam, who has played for them in the T20 Blast.
Somerset will also be without key all-rounder Lewis Gregory who is injured.
Somerset Squad: Tom Abell (c), Babar Azam, Tom Banton, George Bartlett Dom Bess, Jack Brooks, Steve Davies, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Tom Lammonby, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Roelof van der Merwe.
Weather and Conditions
The forecast is for four reasonably fine days, which would be gratefully received after the recent downpours.
Groundsman Gary Barwell has had to cope not just with the weather but also with a heavy schedule of international matches at Edgbaston. He usually produces a good surface, though Warwickshire captain Jeetan Patel probably wouldn’t complain if the pitch offered him some spin assistance.
Date: 18-21 August 2019
Odds (SkyBet): Warwickshire 11/8; Somerset 4/7