Week three of the Championship brings an enticing clash between two of the more fancied contenders for the Division One title. Warwickshire come into the game more rested and fresher after having a free week in week two, and Essex are wearied but confident after a thrilling one wicket victory over Somerset where they scraped to a winning target of 84.
The Bears’ only game this year was a high-scoring draw v Surrey at the bowler’s graveyard that is The Oval. Despite posting 531, the top order contributed little and were bailed out by the middle and lower order, particularly with centuries from Matthew Lamb and a career best 178 from keeper Michael Burgess.
England opener Dom Sibley fell for a first ball duck so will be looking for time in the middle to press his case for a test recall. Sam Hain also looked good for 78 and will be seeking make a claim for international honours to fulfil his undoubted talent. New signing from Lancashire Alex Davies will be available to make his debut following an ECB suspension for historic social media comments. It will be interesting to see where he fits into the batting line-up. He regularly opened in red-ball cricket for his old county.
Although the batting appears to be firing, Warwickshire will be looking for more from a talented bowling attack, well led by Oliver Hannon-Dalby, and backed up by left arm spinner Danny Briggs, one of the more underrated spinners in the county game. Overseas signing from Australia Nathan McAndrew has visa problems so will not make his debut to bolster the seam bowling ranks. Liam Norwell is also in contention, and he will be fired up to make his mark after coming close to the Test squad during the West Indies tour.
Essex will be buoyant after getting over the line in Taunton in three days. They will be hoping to find a somewhat friendlier surface for their batters than the green mamba they encountered in the West Country. New signing Adam Rossington already seems to be proving his value with a vital 29 not out to get Essex over the line, but, Alistair Cook aside, they will be looking for more from a talented batting line up.
The addition of overseas Mark Steketee has proved astute so far. He looked a handful at times at Taunton. Shane Snater’s second innings spell shows what an underrated bowler he is as he continues his explosive start to life in first class cricket. Jamie Porter was left out at Taunton but may come back in if Essex look to rotate the seam attack.
For Warwickshire, Dom Sibley will be looking to get his season going to force his way back into England honours under the new regime. He missed out in the season opener against Surrey, but there are many reports that he has made the required technical changes to his game to open up the off-side and to better align his defensive technique against the moving ball. A big score here at a decent scoring rate may well catch the eye of Rob Key, the new England MD.
While the Essex seamers caught the eye at Taunton, Simon Harmer slotted effortlessly back into the side with important runs and wickets in a low-scoring game. On what should be a better pitch for batting, he will be expected to bowl more overs. More will be expected of a talented batting order. Dan Lawrence will be looking to build on the progress he made in the Caribbean as he looks to make up for a poor start to the 2022 season.
Warwickshire squad: Will Rhodes (C), Chris Benjamin, Danny Briggs, Henry Brookes,
Michael Burgess (Wk)Alex Davies, Sam Hain, Olly Hannon-Dalby, Matt Lamb, Craig Miles, Liam Norwell, Dom Sibley, Rob Yates
Essex squad: Tom Westley (C), Nick Browne, Alastair Cook, Sam Cook, Matt Critchley, Simon Harmer, ,Dan Lawrence, Jamie Porter, Adam Rossington’ Shane Snater, Mark Steketee, Paul Walter, Adam Wheater
Weather and conditions:
The forecast for all four days looks mainly cloudy and overcast but with little prospect of rain, so we should get a full game. This may bring the seamers into the game on what is traditionally a good Edgbaston pitch where batters can make big scores, but bowlers have an opportunity.
Date: 21st – 24th April 2022
Odds (Sky Bet): Warwickshire 1/1; Essex 8/11