At the end of last season, Warwickshire defeated Somerset on the last day of the Championship season and snatched the title away from Lancashire. This year, the two teams meet again to fight out a relegation battle.
At the bottom of the table and without a win in 12 games, Gloucestershire look doomed to go down. But just above them are Warwickshire and Somerset. One of these two or Kent look most likely candidates for the drop. With the possibility that the number of teams in the top division will reduce in 2024, the way back to the top flight next year may not be easy so there will be much at stake at Edgbaston over the next four days.
When the two teams met at the beginning of the season, Somerset gave the Champions a severe beating, winning by an innings and 82 runs. Another victory by a decisive margin would probably guarantee safety from relegation for the West Country side. It would also increase the likelihood that the Bears will follow in the path of Lancashire and Middlesex in recent years in being consigned to the second tier a year after carrying off the title.
Whilst Warwickshire’s batting this year has sometimes looked flaky, with too much reliance on Sam Hain and Michael Burgess, it is the bowling that has let them down much too often. Oliver Hannon-Dalby has taken 46 wickets at 22 runs apiece. The only other bowler to come within half that number is Danny Briggs with 24; but they have cost him 44 runs each. The combined efforts of Henry Brookes, Craig Miles and captain Will Rhodes have produced 29 wickets at an average cost of just under 65 runs each. Such figures do not win matches.
Somerset, too, have their problems, with 68 of their wickets being taken by three players, Craig Overton, Peter Siddle and Jack Leach, who will not be at Edgbaston. In addition, the retirement of James Hildreth has left a gap that is virtually impossible to fill; and the indifferent all-round form and fitness of Lewis Gregory have not helped. The fact that Somerset have fielded 23 different players in their 11 games and only the two Toms, Abell and Lammonby, have played in more than eight games tells its own story.
Warwickshire’s Sam Hain has scored over 950 first class runs at an average of 73. Those who claim that English cricketers play too much cricket may wish to ponder on the fact that he has spent the last six weeks playing just three innings for Welsh Fire in The Hundred. Warwickshire will hope that he can pick up where he left off in July.
For Somerset, Josh Davey has in recent years often been a support act to the likes of the Overton brothers and Jack Brooks. But he has, overall, more than 150 first-class wickets at an average of 22. He took five against Gloucestershire last week and Somerset would love to see a strong end to the season from the Scottish fast-medium bowler.
It is perhaps not surprising that both teams have made efforts to strengthen their squads.
Warwickshire have signed Indian stars Jayant Yadav and Mohammed Siraj and Somerset have brought in Pakistani players Sajid Khan and Imam ul-Haq. Imam scored 90 on his debut innings against Gloucestershire and more will be hoped for from him. For Warwickshire, Matt Lamb, Craig Miles and Liam Norwell are all missing from their squad.
Warwickshire squad: Will Rhodes (c), Danny Briggs, Henry Brookes, Michael Burgess (WK), Alex Davies, George Garrett, Sam Hain, Olly Hannon-Dalby, Manraj Johal, Dom Sibley, Mohammed Siraj, Jayant Yadav, Rob Yates
With Jack Leach unavailable and Craig Overton not fully fit, Somerset’s squad is the same as for the Gloucestershire game.
Somerset squad: Tom Abell (c), Kasey Aldridge, Tom Banton, George Bartlett, Jack Brooks, Josh Davey, Lewis Goldsworthy, Lewis Gregory, Imam-ul-Haq, Tom Lammonby, James Rew, Sajid Khan and Roelof van der Merwe.
Weather and Conditions
Four fine days are forecast, with temperatures dropping from a summery 23 degrees on day one to a more autumnal 18 degrees by the end of the game.
It has been a tough season for Head of Sports Turf (groundsman to you and me) Gary Barwell and his team. By the end of the month, the Edgbaston square will have hosted 49 games delivering 65 match days including two or three games on some days. The quality of pitches has been outstanding and there is no reason to doubt that this week we will see another pitch with bounce and carry, giving hope to batters and bowlers alike.
Date: Monday 12 September to Thursday 15 September 2022
Time: 10.30 am
Ground: Edgbaston Stadium