Both counties held out for draws in the last round, each having conceded significant first innings deficits, before putting in stronger batting performances second time around. A common theme in games this season is for there to be a bit in it for the seam bowlers on day one and then pitches flattening out, with no real problems for batters on day four. This is reflected in the county bowling averages, with just three spinners in the leading thirty so far this season. Top of these is Somerset’s Jack Leach (16th), justifying his England call-up this week.
The Leicestershire overseas pair of Beuran Hendricks and Wiaan Mulder have both failed to produce any significant performances so far, with Hendricks taking just four wickets in his five starts and Mulder one half century and five wickets in his four. This goes someway to explaining their current position at the bottom of Division Two and it is difficult to see how they are going to move upwards.
Worcestershire look a stronger side than their current sixth place would suggest. They only have one overseas player at present, but Azhar Ali seems to be finding his feet, having scored 148 runs in the last game. 21-year-old Jack Haynes looks a strong prospect alongside Ali in the middle order and Brett D’Oliveira seems to be thriving in his new role as county captain. Their only loss has been to the strong Nottinghamshire outfit, and I expect them to start winning some more games, starting this week.
Ed Barnard has been a regular in the Worcestershire side since making his debut at the age of nineteen. A product of Shrewsbury School, with whom the county have strong links, his batting appears to be moving forward, averaging 63.2 this season, while he regularly takes wickets with his fast medium bowling. He will be hoping that Matthew Mott, newly appointed to the England white ball coaching role, is taking note.
Batter Rishi Patel missed Leicestershire’s opening games because of injury, but looked a class above his team mates when scoring 82 in the first innings against Glamorgan and contributed further runs last week. His maiden first class century cannot be far away and Leicestershire will be trying their best to hang onto the 23-year-old.
Worcestershire have signed Yorkshire all-rounder Matthew Waite for a short-term loan spell, following the loss of Joe Leach to a back injury.
Worcestershire squad: TBC
Leicestershire squad: TBC
Weather and Conditions
The forecast is for temperatures in the high teens, light cloud and a chance of a shower on Friday.
In the two games played at New Road this season, the team winning the toss have chosen to bat first, amassing scores of 491 and 580/6d, so I do not expect the bowlers to be licking their lips.
Date: 19th – 22nd May 2022
Ground: New Road
Odds (SkyBet): Worcestershire 4/7; Leicestershire 5/4