After four rounds of this season’s County Championship, Warwickshire top the table in Group One, and Worcestershire are in third place. With just five points separating top from fifth, that well-used expression “all to play for” needs to be taken off the shelf and dusted down.
The two teams have reached their respective positions in different ways. Warwickshire have won two matches through last day run chases but, most recently, were thoroughly trounced by Durham. Worcestershire, on the other hand, have played out four draws. This makes them the only unbeaten team in the Group; but, truth be told, they have not come close to winning a game.
Whereas Warwickshire’s strength is in bowling, with six of their attack averaging under 30, Worcestershire have no-one with a bowling average under 35. The Pears’ batting is another matter, with seven men averaging over 30, headed by Jake Libby who has scored two centuries and averages over 100.
Given fine weather, a good contest could be expected. But with rain likely during the second half of the game, and with neither side likely to want to risk surrendering bragging rights to their local rivals, it may be that a draw is the most likely result.
For Warwickshire, Tim Bresnan is keen on demonstrating that, at age 36, he still has plenty to offer. He has scored useful runs in the middle order but will so far be dissatisfied with his meagre haul of three wickets in four games. This could just be the match when he puts that to rights.
Worcestershire will be looking for someone to step up and take wickets. The most likely candidate is Ed Barnard. He laboured through 30 overs against Essex as they amassed over 500 in their only innings. He went unrewarded but conceded runs at less than two an over, which enabled Worcestershire to maintain at least a semblance of control. The question now is whether he can add to that control more of a wicket taking threat.
Warwickshire are likely to give a belated debut to South African Pieter Malan, who has now completed his quarantine. He is woefully short of match practice, but should stiffen a batting order that didn’t receive the boost hoped for from India’s Hanuma Vihari. He managed only 100 runs in six innings. Olly Stone comes back into the squad. Although Chris Woakes is wending his way back from India, he will have to quarantine when he arrives so will not be eligible for selection.
Warwickshire squad: Will Rhodes (c); Tim Bresnan; Danny Briggs; Michael Burgess (wk); Oliver Hannon-Dalby; Sam Hain; Matt Lamb; Pieter Malan; Craig Miles; Dan Mousley; Liam Norwell; Olly Stone; RobYates
Worcestershire bring 23 year old paceman Josh Tongue into their squad for the first time this season now that he has recovered from shoulder surgery.
Worcestershire squad: Daryl Mitchell, Jake Libby; Tom Fell; Gareth Roderick; Jack Haynes; Brett D’Oliveira; Riki Wessels; Ben Cox(wk); Ed Barnard; Alzarri Joseph; Joe Leach(c); Dillon Pennington; Charlie Morris; Josh Tongue
Weather and conditions
The prediction is for cloudy but dry weather on the first two days. Saturday looks to be a problem, with steady rain forecast. Sunday is a little better but is unlikely to be completely dry.
With Warwickshire’s attack dominated by seam, groundsman Gary Barwell may well prepare a strip that gives them some help.
Date: 6-9 May 2021
Time: 11.00 am
Ground: Edgbaston Stadium
Odds (Skybet): Warwickshire 8/13; Worcestershire 6/5