After a relatively rain affected week of fixtures last week, this week brings with us an enticing clash between two of the more storied clubs in Division One. Both sides come into this fixture in good spirits, especially the home side thanks to their Chris Rushworth inspired demolition job of fellow title chasers Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl; and Essex who had much the better of a draw against Surrey at Chelmsford. As a result, the sides sit second and third respectively in the table as it starts to take shape.
The Bears win last time was an overall team effort with the batters sharing the runs around with half-centuries for new signing Ed Barnard, Michael Burgess, Alex Davies, and Sam Hain who continued his strong early season form. With the ball Christ Rushworth will rightly take the plaudits with 7-38 in the second innings and 10 wickets in the match, ably supported by England seamer Chris Woakes who took five wickets in the game and got valuable overs in his legs as he pushes for his case for a recall to the test side ahead of the Ashes. Heading into Thursday’s game, the home side are reporting no major injury concerns and should be relatively unchanged.
For Essex, they will be buoyant after getting the better of a draw against reigning champions Surrey at Chelmsford as the visitors held on with three wickets remaining. With only 54 overs to bowl, they will be happy with their performance but bemoaning the rain delays which may have given them a better opportunity to force the win. The runs were spread around with no batter making a big score, but plenty of useful contributions from the top six. Matt Critchley in particular has continued his consistent start to the season with another half century, as did skipper Tom Westley. The wickets were shared around as a potent bowling line up continues to do its thing.
The addition of overseas New Zealand all-rounder has looked reasonably astute so far as he contributed some important wickets in conditions which have generally suited his bustling style of seam bowling. The only potential change may be the return of keeper-batter Adam Rossington who may return from a hand injury which has kept him out of the previous two championship games. Michael Pepper performed capably in those two games, especially with gloves, without nailing the place down with a big score to give him a potentially longer run in the red ball side.
If the weather plays nice and stays away, then this should be a fascinating encounter between two in form and confident sides, however if the weather intervenes, then a draw looks likely.
For Warwickshire, Chris Woakes is a proven high-class performer with bat and ball. The addition of Chris Rushworth who made a surprise move from Durham in the winter has proved an inspired signing with 22 wickets at 15.27 in the first four games of the championship season. With the bat, Sam Hain has been one of the leading batters in the country with 382 runs at 95.50 in just five innings so far.
The visitors will be looking to their high-quality seam attack to make inroads, alongside the erstwhile Simon Harmer. Such a high-quality attack will ensure that they will always be competitive. The batting has improved upon last season, with the likes of Nick Browne and Tom Westley having much more consistent seasons than 2022 so far, but all-rounder Matt Critchley has held the middle order together with four 50+ scores in 7 innings so far, with 300 runs at an average of 50. He is an underrated cricketer who has flown under the radar, and his proven his worth to Essex significantly.
Warwickshire squad: tbc
Essex squad: tbc
Weather and conditions:
The forecast for day one looks cloudy and overcast but with prospects of rain throughout the day as it currently stands. Days two and three should be uninterrupted, but the rain threatens to return on Sunday which may threaten any realistic prospect of a decisive result either way.
Date: 11th – 14th May 2023
Odds (Sky Bet): Warwickshire 5/6; Essex 11/5 (Betfair)