Warwickshire will hope they can replicate their red ball successes from the 2021 season in all formats of the game, with last season’s white ball campaign proving disappointing. The 2021 season brought the Edgbaston-based team their first County Championship title since 2012, with victory in the Bob Willis Trophy final providing another addition to their trophy cabinet.
The coming of age of Rob Yates at the top of the order, supported by the experience in the middle order of Sam Hain and captain Will Rhodes, ensured a strong batting order. Craig Miles and Liam Norwell once again proved more than reliable with the ball, providing 97 wickets between them. With these two, England’s loss is certainly Warwickshire’s gain. New signing Danny Briggs added a competent spinner to the line-up, who more than carried his weight with the bat, his performance against Essex at Edgbaston being a prime example. Matthew Lamb and Michael Burgess’ inconsistency at times caused some issues, but both players did prove their worth with match-winning performances.
Warwickshire’s bowling attack will only strengthen by the return of Oliver Hannon-Dalby and Olly Stone from long-term injury. Moreover, the emergence of Manraj Johal, who took four wickets on debut in the Bob Willis Trophy Final, only adds to Paul Farbrace’s selection issues. Finally, the likely lack of England opportunities for Dom Sibley will only play to Warwickshire’s advantage. All this without even mentioning the one who they call ‘the Wizard.’
The team from Edgbaston will be hoping for a change of fortunes in the white ball department. These struggles were exemplified by the team missing out on a third successive T20 Finals Day, falling short with the bat not for the first time in their quarter final against Kent. However, Jake Lintott’s rise from struggling for a professional contract, to taking 15 Blast wickets, was arguably the feel-good story of the season, with Chris Benjamin’s 60* in a 14 run win against Northamptonshire on debut certainly turning a few heads. The Bears will be hoping these foundations, coupled with a few necessary changes, will allow the team to challenge for a first T20 title since 2014.
The Royal London One Day Cup campaign did allow young talents such as England U-19 Internationals Jacob Bethell and Dan Mousley to get a taste of professional cricket for the first time. However, an overwhelmingly disappointing run of results saw Warwickshire fail to reach the quarter finals, finishing 5th in Group 2.
Thus far, there will only be one new face in the dressing room at Edgbaston. The signing of Alex Davies, after it was announced the wicketkeeper batter was to leave Lancashire, was greeted with a great deal of praise from both journalists, and members alike. An all-format player, it is almost certain Davies will slot straight into the side, replacing Michael Burgess behind the stumps in at least some formats.
This will allow Warwickshire to decide between Burgess and Lamb in the middle order, based on form, with both players’ records impacted by long periods of inconsistency. In the recent friendly match against Kent, Davies opened with Dom Sibley. This allowed Rob Yates to move down to number three, a position where it is believed he could flourish. If Sibley, or indeed Yates, does get called up for international duty, Warwickshire won’t need to worry about their opening pair.
This season could be defining for red ball captain, Will Rhodes. He certainly leads by example on the pitch, and will hope to build on his modest record with the bat (he averages 35.42 after 71 games.) Rhodes earned his title of all-rounder in the 2021 season, taking 48 wickets in all formats, proving his additional worth to the team. He will certainly prove key in all three formats, with both bat and ball, alongside his experience.
PLAYER TO WATCH
After making his debut in all three formats in the 2021 season, this could be the breakout season for 18 year old Jacob Bethell. A spin bowling all-rounder, Bethell made headlines over the winter during the England U-19s route to the World Cup final, with his performances including a score of 88 off just 42 balls in a successful run chase. Opportunities may be hard to come by, but be sure that Bethell will certainly make an impact when given the chance.
Two big-hitters will be coming to Edgbaston, not just hoping to entertain the crowd, but to also lead the Bears to finals day. Make sure to ‘remember the name,’ as West Indian all-rounder Carlos Braithwaite returns as captain for Vitality Blast. Moreover, Paul Stirling has been signed for the majority of group stages. It is hoped that the Irish international will also be available for Finals Day, if the Bears qualify.
HOW WILL THEY FARE
The lack of signings for Warwickshire could worry fans. However, given the side lifted two red ball trophies last season, there doesn’t seem much need for change. The shrewd acquisition of Alex Davies strengthens the team in both the batting, and keeping department, with the bowling line-up made even more solid by those returning from injury. If players continue their good form from last season, there is no reason this squad can’t once again challenge for the title.
However, I predict another season of struggle in the white ball department. Improving the opening partnership does not counteract the issues with the middle order and the bowling. The current squad does not allow for a prediction stating the Bears will once again reach Finals Day. It will be more of the same as last season in both white ball competitions for the Bears.
Warwickshire vs Surrey, LV= Insurance County Championship, 7-10 April, Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham.
SEASON ODDS (SKYBET)
LV= Insurance County Championship: 11/2
Royal London One-Day Cup: 16/1
Vitality Blast: 16/1