Durham make the long journey to New Road this Thursday in search of their first win of the season and the reality is that whatever the stories around this game, and there are quite a few, the return of newly appointed England captain is the only story in town. The all action all-rounder returns this week and Durham and England fans will be delighted in equal measure. Whether Stokes is at full capacity will be interesting to see, but we all know the impact Stokes has on any team he plays for.
The truth is Durham need some help, particularly on the bowling side, and the addition of Stokes, and potentially Brydon Carse who has just scored a century for Durham 2nd XI would be we very welcome given the initial poor returns and subsequent concussion suffered by Chris Rushworth.
After a first innings collapse against Sussex, Durham were rescued initially by Liam Trevaskis’ all round effort, and then centuries from Alex Lees and Sean Dickson. Matthew Potts continued his strong start to the season with the ball and tops the wicket taking charts in Division 2 of the County Championship, but the concussion suffered by Rushworth hampered the bowling attack as Pujara et al piled on the runs.
For Worcester, after an encouraging start to the season, they were put to the sword inside three days by Nottinghamshire. An outstanding effort by Ed Barnard (163*), gave them a chance, but a bowling attack weakened by injuries to Joe Leach and then losing Dillon Pennington during the match meant they never really troubled a strong batting line up.
Worcester will be desperate for Azhar Ali to contribute. The former Pakistan captain hasn’t delivered anything like the runs the New Road outfit would have hoped for yet, and with a weakened bowling attack, Worcester are going to need big runs to compete. Thus far they’ve had good returns from Brett D’Oliveria, Ed Barnard and Ed Pollock.
Sean Dickson’s century in the second innings at Sussex helped rescue a draw for Durham and that was his second century of the season alongside two fifties for over 500 runs at an average of over 74. His opening partnership with Alex Lees’ is going to be crucial, so that Potts, and the rest of the Durham bowling attack have got plenty to bowl at.
Ed Barnard’s runs (303 at 75s) have been important so far this season, but with questions about injuries to Leach and Pennington, it’s Barnard’s bowling which The Pears will be leaning on, and if the all-rounder can add to his seven wickets so far this season, it could make light of the shortages to the bowling attack.
For Durham, with Chris Rushworth suffering concussion against Sussex, who opens the bowling with Matthew Potts will be interesting to see. Oliver Gibson came in as a concussion substitute and could step in, but the return of Ben Stokes Brydon Carse would be real boost to the bowling attack.
Worcester’s bowling resources could be stretched depending on how Leach and Pennington pull up. Pat Brown is expected to start playing second team cricket in the next week or so, but however short they might be they won’t be rushing him back.
Conditions look good for most of the four days in Worcester, with temperatures reaching early 20s, the pitch could well be another belter and set things up for bug rums
Date: 5th – 8th May 2022
Ground: New Road, Worcestershire
Odds (SkyBet): Worcester 11/10 Durham 4/6