In the reverse fixture at New Road, back at the end of June, it was Glamorgan who enjoyed the spoils in a game that, until the final day, had been dominated by Worcestershire.
The main threats for Glamorgan with the ball were Michael Hogan and Michael Neser, who shared 12 wickets in the game. That has been the story of the season so far, with the Australian duo taking 37 wickets each; just under half of the total for Glamorgan. Michael Neser has since returned to Australia and Glamorgan have also lost the services of Marnus Labuschagne and Colin Ingram, the latter scoring 596 runs at 66.22 when he stepped up to fill the gap left by the number two ranked Test batter.
Glamorgan currently sit in third place in Division Two, five points behind Middlesex and ten points ahead of Derbyshire, but with a game in hand over both counties. With the loss of these key performers, Glamorgan are going to have their work cut out gaining a promotion slot, but they have recruited New Zealand left arm spinner, Ajaz Patel and 22-year-old Indian opener, Shubman Gill. Off-spinner Andrew Salter is third in the wicket-taking rankings for Glamorgan and one would expect that the pitches for the remaining two home fixtures will favour spin.
This will be Gill’s first experience of county cricket. He has played just the two Tests in England, one against New Zealand in the final of the ICC World Test Championship, scoring 28 and 8 and the rearranged Test this year in which he scored 17 and 4. Since that Test he has a fruitful period, playing in six ODIs, against West Indies and Zimbabwe, scoring 450 runs at 112.5. It will be interesting to see how quickly he can get accustomed to the unfamiliar English conditions. He will likely open the batting with Eddie Byrom, who is having an excellent season, with 436 runs from the four Championship matches he has played since returning from injury. That will allow captain, David Lloyd to drop to his preferred position in the middle order. Gill will also be able to tap into the experience of Sam Northeast, who is the leading run scorer in the Championship with 1127 at 75.13.
Worcestershire are currently 30 points behind Glamorgan and their chances of promotion now look slim, although like Glamorgan, they have played one game less than Middlesex and Derbyshire. They have their two Pakistani overseas players, batter Azhar Ali and fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain. Ali took a few games to get settled, but has scored 607 Championship runs at 46.69. He suffered a hamstring injury in the latter stages of his century in the Royal London Cup win over Northamptonshire on 17th August, but is said to be fit to take the field in this game. It was also announced this week that he will return to New Road for the 2023 season. Hasnain took two wickets in his one Championship game so far this season and more recently has been turning out for the Oval Invincibles. Dillon Pennington and Joe Leach have been the main Worcestershire wicket takers with 28 and 27 respectively, while slow left armer Josh Baker may find himself busy in this game, having taken 23 wickets at 44.6. Worcestershire will be hoping their batting continues to produce, with Brett D’Oliveira, Ed Barnard and Jack Haynes each averaging over 50.
More recently the two teams have been involved in the same Group in the Royal London One-Day cup. Glamorgan narrowly missed out on a quarter-final spot, defeating Worcestershire in the final game, while Worcestershire continued their poor white ball form, finishing bottom of the group. It has not been a good period for the Pears, with the announcement that Ed Barnard and Moeen Ali are both moving to Warwickshire. Barnard will be the bigger loss given that he is a fixture in their line up in all formats and his association with the club goes back to age group cricket. Ali’s appearances have been limited to the Blast, not having played any red ball cricket since his last Test match in September 2021.
Glamorgan are likely to go into this game with two spinners and they will be hoping they can produce a pitch to fully utilise the skills of Ajaz Patel. Patel played in two Championship games for Yorkshire at the end of the 2019 season, one rained off and in the other he had the unflattering figures of 2/231 from 35 overs. He does have the distinction of being the third Test bowler to take all 10 wickets in an innings, against India at the Wankhede Stadium, in December last year. However, in New Zealand’s recent tour of England, Kane Richardson seemed reluctant to utilise Patel, as he bowled just two overs in the first Test, conceding 22 runs and was then dropped for the last two matches. He does have a good record in the Plunket Shield (New Zealand’s first class competition) having played 74 first class matches, taking 273 wickets at 32.08.
Joe Leach was absent from the first four Championship fixtures, but since his return he has given the Worcestershire attack more bite, taking 27 wickets at 22.29. Glamorgan have first-hand experience of his capabilities as he took 6/44 in their first innings back in June. While Leach may have been born in neighbouring Staffordshire, he is a Worcestershire stalwart and will be intent on helping them get their season back on track, with the return to red ball cricket. It is now ten years since he made his Worcestershire debut, when he was a batter that bowled a bit and the 31-year-old will be keen to add to both his runs and wickets tally.
Even with the loss of Ingram, the form of Northeast and Byrom should help Glamorgan post a competitive total. It remains to be seen how quickly Gill can adapt to English conditions, albeit that Glamorgan might be hoping the pitch has more of a sub-continent feel. Hogan and Timm van der Gugten will lead the attack with spin from Patel and Salter.
Glamorgan squad: TBC
On paper, Worcestershire have a side that should be able to match Glamorgan. Their attack may also be bolstered by the return of Josh Tongue, who has been out with a shoulder injury for the last 12 months. He played in the last two One-Day cup games and bowled 21 overs in a second XI Championship game this week. With 138 first class wickets at 24.6, his pace would certainly strengthen the attack.
Worcestershire squad: TBC
Weather and Conditions
The long period of dry weather has come to an end with weather fronts bringing bouts of heavy rain and wind from Saturday onwards. Showers may impact on whether this game can reach a positive conclusion.
Pitches at Sophia Gardens are not the quickest and the home team will likely be looking for something to help their spinners. Those plans may be upset by the wet weather that is forecast, but the expectation is that whoever wins the toss will want to bat first.
Date: 5th – 8th September 2022
Ground: Sophia Gardens