The first game of a season always feels important, of course it does. The hard yards of pre-season are done, and we get to see if what we thought of our teams is true. Our expectations, whether high, low or indifferent, are, in reality, never proven or disproven in the first game of the season. But the first game sets the tone.
The County Championship, in its oddly constructed split season, almost exacerbates the importance of a fast start. Start off with a win, build confidence in your key players and you set the tone. Start off with a loss, some low scores and a lack of wickets to celebrate, well, it could be a long season. Not just for the County Championship either, a strong first seven games, and your county heads into new formats and the season becomes possibilities; the other direction and the road ahead resembles a foggy April morning. So, the first game matters.
For Leicestershire, will Lewis Hill and Harry Swindells’ split between batter and wicketkeeper continue to thrive, and provide the foxes with the runs they need to compete, and will Beuran Hendricks provide the additional firepower with the new ball to make them a consistent threat.
For Worcestershire, will Azhar Ali acclimatise to UK temperatures and score the runs required to bring promotion for the Pears and will the bowling attack create the opportunities needed to force games open. Will Brett D’Oliveira’s captaincy be the driving force to allow the Worcestershire squad to challenge on all fronts.
These questions wont all be answered in round one. But we will certainly know more by the end of it.
For the visiting Worcestershire team, Dillon Pennington made significant progress last season, (29 wickets in 10 matches) and has had a strong pre-season. If he can make early inroads against a Leicestershire batting line up shorn of Marcus Harris, then Worcestershire may well create dominance which Leicestershire cannot come back from.
The Foxes need runs to compete. If Lewis Hill scores them then Leicestershire can build competitive totals, and the bowling attack of Wright, Hendricks, Parkinson, Muller et al. can attack. Hill scored 944 runs at just less than 45 last year, and he will need to do the same again if Leicestershire are to compete.
Leicestershire will be looking to see debuts from Beuran Hendricks and Wiann Mulder and need to decide if Harry Swindells will continue to keep wicket with Lewis Hill as specialist batter. Callum Parkinson will again provide the spin balance to the team.
For Worcestershire, all eyes will be on the top of the order. Will Ed Pollock open with Azhar Ali, or will Jake Libby stay at the top of order and Ali find a slot in the middle order. At the other end of the order, Pennington and Leach opening the bowling look like a good test for Division 2 batting line ups.
Leicestershire Squad: Colin Ackerman (c),
Worcestershire Squad: Brett D’Oliveria (c), Jake Libby, Ed Pollock, Azhar Ali, Jack Haynes, Gareth Roderick,, Ed Barnard, Ben Cox +, Josh Baker, Joe Leach, Charlie Morris, Dillon Pennington, Adam Finch
Weather and Conditions
The forecast looks dry for the first three days at least, but with temperatures topping out at 10 degrees we can expect to see some bobble hats on show! If conditions are in their favour bowlers tend to profit at Grace Road, although windy conditions on day one might be a challenge to control.
Date: 7th-10th April 2022
Ground: Upton Steel County Ground, Leicester
Odds (SkyBet): Leicestershire 6/5 Worcestershire 8/13