Warwickshire begin their defence of the County Championship title on home territory. They take on a Surrey team that, unlike the Bears, significantly underperformed in the Championship last year.
With the England team in some disarray after a disastrous winter, there are players on both sides who will be eager to state their credentials.
Some, such as opposing openers Dom Sibley and Rory Burns, will be seeking to re-establish their claims for selection. Both have worked hard on their techniques, the inadequacies of which were exposed at Test level.
Others such as Rob Yates for the Bears and Will Jacks for the visitors will be hoping to make a case for a first step up to full international level.
Both sides are packed with seam bowling so batting will be a challenge. The Edgbaston pitches, even early in the season, don’t tend to offer lavish seam movement. But they do have bounce, so that edges carry to the close fielders.
That means that bowlers get reward for their efforts – provided, of course, that cold hands in the April weather don’t lead to spilt chances.
In the recent West Indies Test series, Surrey wicket keeper Ben Foakes hardly justified his reputation as the best English keeper; and there are those who think that Warwickshire’s Michael Burgess has the ability with both bat and ball to step up to international cricket. It will be fascinating to watch and compare their performances in front of and behind the stumps.
Overall, weather permitting, spectators should enjoy a fascinating contest.
For Warwickshire, captain Will Rhodes excels as batsman, bowler and leader. With Sibley and Yates likely to open, Rhodes will most likely bat at three, dropping further down the order when Alex Davies comes into the side in the second game of the season. Rhodes’ fast medium bowling, used relatively sparingly, often takes valuable wickets. And, though still aged only 27, as a leader, he has the stature and reputation that many more senior captains must envy.
Surrey’s Ollie Pope is another player who needs to re-establish his international credentials. But a first class batting average of 50 suggests that the quality is there. If he can score sufficiently heavily in early season games, further opportunities at the top level will surely materialise.
Warwickshire will be without last year’s star bowler Liam Norwell, who has a minor back problem. New signing from Lancashire Alex Davies is suspended for this game because of inappropriate and offensive tweets from a decade ago. Ollie Stone is still working his way back to fitness after a back operation so is unlikely to be fit before the T20 Blast starts. Overseas signing Nathan McAndrew will not be available until the second game. On a more positive note, young pace bowler Henry Brookes, who missed most of last season with injury, is fit and raring to go.
Warwickshire squad: (tbc)
Surrey have West Indian Kemar Roach and South African Hashim Amla both available. Newly signed fast bowler Dan Worrall has had his arrival in the UK delayed due to family issues so is not available. Because of injury, Sam Curran, if he plays, will bat but not bowl.
Surrey squad: (tbc)
Weather and Conditions
Temperatures will stay in single figures for the first three days. Although it may be warmer after that, the likelihood of some rain will increase. As already mentioned, a true pitch with plenty of carry is pretty well guaranteed.
Date: 7th – 10th April 2022
Time: 11.00 am
Ground: Edgbaston Stadium
Odds (SkyBet): Warwickshire 4/6, Surrey 11/10