Vitality County Championship Division One – Match Preview: Warwickshire v Worcestershire

Vitality County Championship Division One – Match Preview: Warwickshire v Worcestershire

Ed Barnard
Ed Barnard

Midlands rivals Warwickshire and Worcestershire begin their 2024 campaigns at Edgbaston on Friday.

Most players and supporters would almost certainly prefer for this local derby to be played in warm mid-summer sunshine.  Instead it will take place in chilly April.  It may be the case that British Summer Time has officially begun but tell that to the loyal spectators huddled in the Hollies Stand this weekend.

Even so, an excellent contest could ensue.  Warwickshire were safely installed in the middle of the Championship table last year but will be looking to improve on that and make a real challenge to top dogs Surrey.  Newly promoted Worcestershire will want to establish their top tier credentials as early as possible.

So let battle commence!

Warwickshire’s pre-season went well in that they won the T20 Abu Dhabi Counties Super Cup.  But they have had little chance to acclimatise to home conditions, a two day match against Leicestershire being curtailed by rain.  One positive sight however, was to see Liam Norwell return to the bowling crease, having failed to bowl a ball last year. Two bowlers who will be absent are Hasan Ali and Craig Miles.  Hasan was a popular overseas signing last year and was expected to be back for a second season, but instead he has joined the Pakistan team training camp.  He will be much missed.  Miles on the other hand, heads off on loan to Glamorgan, surplus to the Bears’ requirements for the first month.

Last year, Warwickshire’s top order batters were woefully inconsistent, the only exception being Sam Hain. Not one out of Rob Yates, Will Rhodes, Alex Davies and Dan Mousley can feel happy about their contributions in the Championship.  They collectively averaged just about 30 and must have “could do better” on their report cards.

The Bears’ bowling was a different matter. Olly Hannon-Dalby, Chris Rushworth and the aforementioned Hasan Ali were a formidable pace attack, with Ed Barnard in support.  Danny Briggs supplied the spin but didn’t quite match the seamers and may find the renewed fitness of young left arm spinner Jacob Bethell a challenge.

Worcestershire’s prospects have not been helped by an outflow of players in the close season, Josh Tongue, Jack Haynes, Dillon Pennington, Pat Brown and Ben Cox having all moved on. Although they were promoted, the Pears struggled with their batting last year.  Jake Libby, with well over 1100 runs at an average approaching 60, was outstanding.  All of the rest struggled to get much beyond half his aggregate or average. Whether they can do better at a higher level remains to be seen.  The introduction of batter Rob Jones and all-rounder Ethan Brookes may help to shore up the batting.

As for bowling, Joe Leach remains a stalwart performer.  He will hope for good support to start this season from overseas stars Nathan Smith (New Zealand) and Jason Holder (West Indies), but pace bowler Ben Gibbon and all rounder Tom Taylor are both injured and miss out. Conditions at Edgbaston are unlikely to favour spin, which is just as well because the Pears’ cupboard is pretty bare in that respect.

Overall, if the weather allows, the home team should come out on top and take the local bragging rights until the sides clash again later in the season.

Key Players

For Warwickshire, Ed Barnard is a key all-rounder, able to prop up that vulnerable batting order and, with the ball, to exploit seam friendly conditions.  The fact that he will be playing against his former county is bound to be an added incentive.

Worcestershire welcome West Indies all-rounder Jason Holder who will play five matches.  He is not only a star performer with bat and ball but also a strong and positive character who could have a big influence both on and off the field.

Team news:

New skipper Alex Davies will, as already mentioned, be without Hasan Ali and Craig Miles.  In addition, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali are unlikely to be available, but without any injury problems, he has a strong squad at his disposal.

Warwickshire squad (probable): Alex Davies (c), Chris Benjamin, Jacob Bethell, Danny Briggs, Michael Burgess (wk), Sam Hain, Olly Hannon-Dalby, Will Rhodes, Dan Mousley, Liam Norwell, Chris Rushworth, Hamza Shaikh, Rob Yates

With so many comings and goings in the close season, the Worcestershire team will have a new look to it, though Brett D’Oliveira, Jake Libby, Garth Roderick and Joe Leach form an experienced core.

Worcestershire squad: Brett D’Oliveira (c), Kashif Ali, Josh Baker, Ethan Brookes, Harry Darley, Adam Finch, Jason Holder, Adam Hose, Joe Leach, Rob Jones, Jake Libby, Ed Pollock, Gareth Roderick (wk), Nathan Smith, Matthew Waite

Weather and conditions:

Anyone headed for Edgbaston would be well advised to take a raincoat because there are likely to be showers on all four days.  The recent heavy rainfalls will not have made pitch preparation easy for groundsman Gary Barwell. He has pointed out that Edgbaston has had 30 inches of rain since last October. Hopefully, despite that, he will somehow have managed to produce a decent surface for this game.

Date: 5-8 April 2024

Time: 11am

Ground: Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham


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