Here we are at the sharp end of the Championship season. Four counties are in with a chance of the title. Lancashire and Hampshire will battle head-to-head in Liverpool while the other two counties, Notts and Warwickshire, will respectively take on Yorkshire and Somerset.
Even though they can’t win the title, Yorkshire could finish second and qualify for the Bob Willis Trophy final to be held next week. So only Somerset out of the Division One teams have nothing but pride to play for.
Warwickshire, in second place a mere 3.5 points behind leaders Hampshire, will be hoping for a stalemate in Liverpool so that, if they can force a win at home, they can claim top spot for the first time since 2012.
Warwickshire skipper Will Rhodes is excited by the opportunity. “This is the time to be alive,” he says. In his three years at Edgbaston, he has seen the squad mature. “We were young and naive then. But a lot of the guys have grown up.”
As for Somerset, they have had a tough few weeks, playing poorly in the Championship and failing at the last hurdle in the T20 Blast at the weekend. Head coach Jason Kerr sees this last match as an opportunity for redemption.
“There were a lot of despondent people after Saturday night,” he says, “We need to dust ourselves off and go again. It’s about personal pride now and finishing the season well.”
No doubt Warwickshire will have at least half an eye on events elsewhere. But, despite Somerset’s poor recent four-day form, they would be unwise to lose their focus on the task in hand.
For Warwickshire, Chris Woakes is the key man. Will Rhodes says that the Bears had to persuade the ECB to let the centrally contracted Woakes play in this match, but they eventually succeeded. He could have a vital role to play with the ball as part of a strong seam attack that includes Liam Norwell, Craig Miles and Tim Bresnan. Rhodes himself is also always available as an extra bowler with a knack of taking wickets.
For Somerset, captain Tom Abell carries the same triple responsibilities – skipper, batter, bowler – as his opposite number. In the match against Lancashire at Taunton last week, he looked woefully out of form with the bat and bagged a pair. But some runs in the Blast final may just have restored his batting confidence and he is, like Rhodes, always also likely to come on to bowl and claim valuable wickets.
Warwickshire welcome back Danny Briggs who missed last week’s game against Yorkshire because, bizarrely, he developed a sore neck on the journey up to Leeds. Young opener Rob Yates, who also missed the Yorkshire game, may well return to the side. Dom Sibley, looking for the big innings that might clinch a return to the England squad for the coveted Ashes tour, will no doubt open the batting.
Warwickshire Squad: Will Rhodes, Chris Benjamin, Jacob Bethell, Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs, Michael Burgess, Sam Hain, Chemar Holder, Matt Lamb, Craig Miles, Liam Norwell, Dom Sibley, Chris Woakes, Rob Yates
Somerset have resisted the temptation to play a weakened squad and include all their top players. Craig Overton, who has so far taken 37 Championship wickets at only 13 runs apiece could be a major threat to Warwickshire’s chances of lifting the trophy; and although Tom Lammonby has largely had a forgettable season with the bat in red ball cricket, he scored a hundred last week against Lancashire that reminded many of Marcus Trescothick at his best.
Somerset Squad: Tom Abell, Azhar Ali, Jack Brooks, Josh Davey, Steve Davies, Lewis Goldsworthy, Lewis Gregory, Ben Green, James Hildreth, Tom Lammonby, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Roelof van der Merwe
Weather and Conditions
The forecast is for four dry if cloudy days.
As for the pitch, groundsman Gary Barwell and his team normally produce a good surface, but there is no doubt that the home side will be looking for there to be enough in it for the bowlers to produce a result.
Date: 21-24 September 2021
Time: 10.30 am
Ground: Stadium Edgbaston
Odds (SkyBet): Warwickshire 4/7, Somerset 5/4