Snow flurries in many parts if the country are a sure sign that the cricket season is about to begin.
At Edgbaston, sweaters, hand warmers and (possibly) fur-lined jockstraps will be de rigueur as Warwickshire take on Derbyshire.
Although the home side may have the bragging rights in terms of past titles won, it was Derbyshire who shone more brightly in the Bob Willis Trophy last year. Whereas Warwickshire failed to win a match, Derbyshire finished second in their group and almost made it to the final.
Warwickshire have big holes to fill with the retirement of Ian Bell, Jeetan Patel and Tim Ambrose. They had hoped to bolster their batting with South African Pieter Malan as their overseas star. Unfortunately, visa issues and the fact that South Africa is currently on the red list of travel ban countries mean that he will not be available, at least for this match.
Although rumours emanating from India suggest that Hanuma Vihari is on his way to England to fill the gap left by Malan, he won’t arrive in time to face Derbyshire.
Warwickshire have a strong seam bowling squad; and in newcomer Danny Briggs, they possess a spin bowling replacement for Patel. In the unlikely event that they need a second spinner, batsman Matt Lamb has apparently been practising leg spin, though Shane Warne’s reputation as the best leggie ever seems, for the moment at least, to be secure.
Derbyshire look to have a settled batting line-up. A top five of Luis Reece, Billy Godleman, Wayne Madsen, Leus du Plooy and Matt Critchley should deliver plenty of runs. As for the bowling, Tony Palladino and Ravi Rampaul are no longer around, but George Scrimshaw has been added and will soon be joined by giant Australian paceman Billy Stanlake.
Provided the cold weather doesn’t result in too many pulled muscles or back spasms, supporters tuning into the live feed from the warmth and comfort of their homes should witness a close contest.
For Warwickshire, captain Will Rhodes leads from the front. He will resume his partnership with Dom Sibley at the top of the batting order, as well as bowling a few effective fast medium overs. It might just be the case that the biggest threat to Sibley’s England place will prove to be the man with whom he walks out to open.
When it comes to scoring runs as well as delivering with the ball, Derbyshire’s Luis Reece is also right up there. Few can carry off the double role of opening both batting and bowling, but Reece has so far managed to do so with considerable success.
Warwickshire, apart from their missing overseas star, are also without Chris Woakes who is at the IPL. The issue may be who, if anyone, to leave out from the fast bowling group of Tim Bresnan, Henry Brookes, Olly Hannon-Dalby, Craig Miles and Liam Norwell.
Warwickshire squad: WillRhodes (c), Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs, Henry Brookes, Michael Burgess (wk), Olly Hannon-Dalby, Sam Hain, Matt Lamb, Craig Miles, Dan Mousley, Liam Norwell, Dom Sibley, Rob Yates.
Derbyshire also have few injury worries but they are without Stanlake, their overseas signing, due to Queensland still competing in the Marsh Cup in Australia.
Derbyshire squad: Billy Godleman (c), Luis Reece, Anuj Dal, Leus de Plooy, Wayne Madsen, Matt Critchley, Harvey Hosein (wk), Brooke Guest, Fynn Hudson-Prentice, Michael Cohen, Ben Aitchison, Sam Conners, George Scrimshaw
Weather and conditions
The good news is that it should stay dry for the four days. But the temperature will only occasionally touch double figures and, with a strong breeze, it will feel colder.
Director of Sports Paul Farbrace has indicated that, with the departure of Jeetan Patel, surfaces are likely to favour seam rather than spin at Edgbaston so it will be interesting to see if groundsman Gary Barwell can deliver to order.
Date: 8-11 April 2021
Time: 11.00 am