Second play third as the battle for promotion intensifies
Worcestershire have the edge when it comes to the second promotion slot following wins against Leicestershire and Gloucestershire in the last two rounds of matches. However, it was Glamorgan who were dominant when the two sides met in Cardiff back in May, defeating the visitors by 10 wickets. The Glamorgan seam attack took full advantage of helpful conditions after winning the toss and dismissed Worcestershire for 109, Michael Neser and James Harris both taking four wickets. 86 runs from Neser then helped Glamorgan to 258 and despite a better batting effort from Worcestershire second time around as the pitch flattened out, the final target of 79 was reached with ease.
Since that game Glamorgan have gone winless, while Worcestershire have added three more to their victory against Gloucestershire in the opening round. These results reflect the balance between batting and bowling in the two squads. Glamorgan’s batters have accumulated almost twice as many batting bonus points as Worcestershire’s, but their bowlers have not been able to get them over the line. Meanwhile despite two losses, the Worcestershire bowlers have been able to dismiss the opposition twice on four occasions to set up wins. Joe Leach leads the attack with 41 wickets so far this season, alongside Adam Finch, Matthew Waite, Dillon Pennington and Ben Gibbon. They will be without Josh Tongue, who was due to be playing for England until he picked up a pectoral muscle injury, but do have the services of Dutch international seamer, Logan van Beek for the next two championship games. Finch did not play during the One-Day cup because of concerns about his back and it is not clear when he will return.
Following the departure of Neser the Glamorgan attack is heavily reliant on Timm van der Gugten, who has taken 37 championship wickets this season. Glamorgan have stated that they want to sign an overseas replacement for Neser, but nothing has been put in place for this match. Mitchell Swepson was recruited for the last four championship games. Jamie McIlroy and James Harris will make up the other front line bowling options, with Andy Gorvin and Zain ul-Hassan providing additional seam options. Neither side have a significant spin threat, with Worcestershire’s Josh Baker taking just one championship wicket this season. Baker did take 17 wickets in the One-Day cup, but given the current damp spell of weather, seam will likely be the main threat despite the forecast for the duration of the match being dry. For Glamorgan, all-rounder Ben Kellaway also had a productive One-Day competition, taking 13 wickets with his off-spin. However, the 19-year-old has not played any first class cricket and while he has demonstrated he can turn the ball, he has only taken six wickets in four second eleven championship appearances this season.
Carlson will be captaining Glamorgan in the absence of David Lloyd, who picked up a rib fracture while on loan to his future county Derbyshire for the One-Day cup. His place at the top of the order will be taken by ul-Hassan, who is one of a number of players pressed into service as an opener in recent years. He has been more successful than the others, making a very creditable 349 runs at 38.77 so far, with one half century. Carlson, Billy Root and Chris Cooke have been in the runs, while Colin Ingram and Sam Northeast have shown form in the One-Day cup. For Worcestershire Jake Libby has been the main contributor with the bat, with 909 runs at 56.81. Support has come from Gareth Roderick and Waite, who has made an excellent job of filling Ed Barnard’s shoes with his runs and wickets this season. Unfortunately Waite picked up a groin injury during the One-Day cup and is unlikely to be available, but Worcestershire are boosted by the return of their skipper, Brett D’Oliveira who has recovered from his shoulder dislocation three weeks ago.
A full strength Worcestershire attack would make them favourites, but with Waite injured and no news about Finch’s fitness, the sides are more evenly balanced and if Glamorgan’s strong batting line up can post a significant first innings total, their bowlers might be able to put the Worcestershire batting under pressure.
Gareth Roderick has taken over responsibilities as opener following Ed Pollock’s movement down the order and was successful in his second game in the role when he scored 40 and 123 against Derbyshire. It is always a tough ask when keeping wicket, but he has a creditable 596 runs at 33.11 so far this season. Much will depend on him and Jake Libby at the top of the order, especially with the disappointing form of Azhar Ali and the possible absence of Brett D’Oliveira.
At 37, Chris Cooke is the elder statesman at Glamorgan, but his performances on the field would suggest he has a few more years left in the tank. He is one of the best glove men in the country, seemingly improving year-on-year and he has had one of his best seasons with the bat, scoring 610 championship runs at 46.92 (including two centuries) as well as 419 runs in the Blast with a strike rate of 171.02. When he first came into the side he was renowned as a fast scoring white ball player, but in recent years has appeared more comfortable in the longer format. He tends to bat at seven, with Glamorgan opting for just four front line bowlers, but if they are to win games a more aggressive approach may be needed and Cooke is very capable of batting at six.
Worcestershire have a number of players who have been out with injuries, primarily Waite and Finch, with Tongue also missing.
Worcestershire squad: TBC
Lloyd looks to be the only injury problem, with Ingram the one overseas player. Kellaway could be in line for a first class debut.
Glamorgan squad: Kiran Carlson (c), Eddie Byromn, Chris Cooke (wk), Andy Gorvin, James Harris, Colin Ingram, Ben Kellaway, Jamie McIlroy, Sam Northeast, Billy Root, Zain ul Hassan, Timm van der Gugten
Weather and Conditions
The current forecast is for some cloud on day one and then three days of sunshine and warm temperatures.
Of the five championship games played at New Road this summer four have been drawn, but in three of those rain had a major impact. In two of the five games the captain winning the toss has chosen to bat first and the average first innings score has been 262, although Yorkshire scored 407 when put into bat in the last game, at the beginning of July.
Date: 3rd September 2023
Ground: County Ground, New Road, Worcester
Odds (SkyBet): Worcestershire 8/13; Glamorgan 5/4