Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Worcestershire v Durham

Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Worcestershire v Durham

The two promoted clubs meet at Kidderminster

Durham travel to the Pears’ temporary home in Kidderminster this week. This is Worcestershire’s first home game as they traditionally play their first two matches away, to give the staff extra time to work on the ground, because of the recurrent issues with flooding at New Road, but this year they are set to be away from their headquarters until the end of May. The severity of the problem, which is clearly worsening year on year, has led to the club announcing that they will give serious consideration to a permanent move.

When these two teams met last year in Division Two, Durham won at Chester le Street in the second week of the season, Worcestershire bowled out for 192 chasing 314, Matthew Kuhnemann taking a fifer and Matty Potts taking six wickets in the match. The return fixture was badly affected by rain, with only 154 overs possible.

On the field this summer, Worcestershire have made a positive start. They had the upper hand against Nottinghamshire in the last round, only prevented from a victory bid by a washout on the final day. In the first round they had a comfortable draw against Warwickshire, marked by two centuries from Kashif Ali. All the batters have scored runs and their Kiwi overseas quick Nathan Smith has made a strong start, taking 10 wickets in three innings bowled. They have also recruited West Indian all rounder Jason Holder for the first five matches, although he is yet to make a mark. Slow left armer Josh Baker came in for the last round and took four wickets, but it remains to be seen what selection changes are made with the change to the Dukes ball.

Durham have been less fortunate, primarily with the weather. Their first match against Hampshire was washed out without a ball bowled and last week Scott Borthwick made the mistake of putting Warwickshire in only to watch them score 698/3 declared. In that game, Scott Boland went off the field with a heel injury after bowling just 13 overs. The Durham batters were unable to avoid the follow on, despite a century from Alex Lees and it was Matty Potts who spared their blushes in the second innings, coming in as nightwatchman and ending up on 149 not out. Borthwick has moved to open to accommodate Colin Ackerman, although Michael Jones scored 194 in a second XI game this week. Callum Parkinson bowled 40 overs for his new county in the Warwickshire innings, but unfortunately his two wickets cost 206 runs.

Worcestershire last played Championship games in Kidderminster in the summer of 2019, again because of flooding at New Road. The first took place in June and ended in a draw, with Worcestershire making 383 in their first innings and Sussex 424 in their second. Three weeks later Worcestershire played Derbyshire and this time the visitors chose to bat first and were dismissed for 108. Worcestershire made 113 in reply, but batting became easier as Derbyshire made 377 in their second innings and then bowled Worcestershire out for 290.

Despite Durham having the upper hand in 2023, we would put Worcestershire as slight favourites this time round, given their performances over the first two weeks.

Key players:

Nathan Smith will be a new name to most, but the 25-year-old Kiwi has made an immediate impact at Worcestershire. He has so far taken 10 wickets at 14.5 and also chipped in with a half century at Trent Bridge. He played for New Zealand A against India back in 2020, but will undoubtedly be attracting the attention of the New Zealand selectors having recently picked up their men’s Domestic Player of the Year award.

Matty Potts racked up two centuries last week, one with the bat and another with the ball. He will be keen to get his wickets tally up and running. He has taken 23 wickets in the four Tests he has played, the last against Ireland. He may have slipped down the pecking order, but will want to make sure he is in the mix for the Tests coming up later this summer.

Team News:

There may need to be some rotation of the Worcestershire pace bowlers in light of the workload, spinner Josh Baker having come in for Matthew Waite in the last round.

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

Scott Boland is almost certainly ruled out by his heel injury.

Durham squad (probable): Scott Borthwick (c), Colin Ackerman, David Bedingham, Brydon Carse, Graham Clark, Paul Coughlin, Bas de Leede, Michael Jones, Alex Lees, Callum Parkinson, Matty Potts, Ben Raine, Ollie Robinson (wk)

Weather and Conditions

There is some light rain forecast for the morning of day one, but it is supposedly fine from then onwards. A delayed start looks possible.

The rain has created significant delays in the preparation of club grounds, but they will have been hard at work in Kidderminster. With damp conditions forecast running up to the start of the game, the bowlers may have the edge early on.

Date: 19th April 2024

Time: 11:00

Ground: Chester Road North Ground, Kidderminster

Odds (Skybet): Worcestershire 11/10; Durham 8/11


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