2021 was a frustrating season for Worcestershire. Six draws and only one win in Group One of the county championship saw them drop down to Division Three, Two later wins ended the season more positively, but failing to reach the quarter finals of the T20 blast was another blow, which meant that positive moves overall for the county didn’t translate into results on the pitch.
The Pears will be back in Division Two of the County Championship for the 2022 season, and would expect to be there or thereabouts in the promotion hunt come the end of the season. As usual, the shorter form gives Worcestershire their best chance of a major trophy.
A new era begins under the captaincy of Brett D’Oliveira. In what looks like an astute captaincy selection, the solid and respected D’Oliveira can take the responsibility while some of the bigger names in the Worcestershire squad can focus on just the cricket.
The signing of Ed Pollock from neighbours Warwickshire is an interesting addition. His explosive hitting at the top of the order in short form cricket is a given, but he’s signed to play all formats, and in this area, Pollock is an unknown quantity. It was interesting to see Head Coach Alex Gidman emphasise him being left handed as a benefit for the batting line up in general and to improve the counties’ bowling at left handers!
With Moeen Ali retained by Chennai Super Kings in the IPL and still a fixture in Eoin Morgan’s short form England squads his availability will be limited throughout the season.
You feel that with batting strength added, a successful season may depend on the seam attack progressing, taking the wickets needed to force victories.
Ins: Azhar Ali (Overseas), Ed Pollock (Warwickshire), Taylor Cornall (Lancashire), Ben Gibbon
Outs: Ross Whiteley (Hampshire), Daryl Mitchell (Retired), Alex Milton
Jake Libby enjoyed a prolific season last year, scoring over 1000 runs in the championship season and averaging over 50. Another strong season from Libby would go a long way towards pushing the Pears towards promotion in the County Championship. Since Libby’s move from Nottinghamshire, he has kicked on and is fulfilling the promise many seasoned watchers saw early in his career. The Devon man could form a key part of an intimidating batting line up with Ed Barnard, Azhar Ali, and Jack Haynes, which would be at home in Division 1 let alone division 2.
Player to watch
Pat Brown burst onto the scene a couple of years back including recognition by the England selectors, in short form cricket. Since then, Brown has suffered a frustrating couple of seasons, marred by injuries and inconsistent form. If Brown can remain injury free and have a solid year of cricket, there’s every chance he will be back in the England frame come the end of the year, and if that does happen, the Pears are likely to have been the major beneficiaries.
With original overseas signing Matthew Wade selected by the Gujarat Titans for the IPL season, the Pears had to look elsewhere, and have arguably upgraded their overseas player, with the signing of former Pakistan captain Azhar Ali. The 37 year old will likely be available for the entire County Championship season, giving Worcestershire a key pillar to their batting. Averaging over 43 across 92 test matches, his pedigree is unquestionable. He has previous experience in county cricket having played for Somerset on and off for three seasons.
How will they fare
A strong start and the batting additions could move Worcestershire towards the promotion hunt in Division Two of the County Championship. Getting wins rather than draws may well depend on the young bowling line up firing, and the exciting Pennington kicking on.
The Royal London One-Day Cup is an unknown quantity, so very hard to predict depending on the squads selected.
In the T20 blast, Worcestershire have a proud record and will hope that contributions when available from Moeen Ali will see them into the final stages.
Thursday 7th April 11:00 vs Leicestershire; Uptonsteel County Ground, Leicester
Odds – Sky Bet
County Championship Division 2: 8/1
Vitality Blast: 10/1
Royal London One Day Cup: 9/1