By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Beers in the coolbox? Check. Cheese and pickle sandwiches? Check. Water? Check. Sun cream? Check. The summer has finally arrived with game week two set to be played in scorching April conditions.
After last weeks rain ruled the opening fixtures, spectators, umpires, players and pitches alike will all be grateful for some springtime sunshine. Particularly in Yorkshire eh Colin Graves?
Talking of Yorkshire, they will hope to put their rather farcical start to the season behind them when they host Nottinghamshire at Headingley on Friday. Against Essex, they were left frustrated by ‘unprescedented levels of rain’ in the north of England seeing all four days wiped out. They do welcome back Ben Coad to the squad after the impressive young seamer missed out on sitting in the sun watching umpires traipsed in and out the pavilion to inspect the outfield. Coad will be a welcome returnee to the squad after racking up the wickets last season for the White Rose. The Tykes will have to wait to have England Skipper Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow for another week or two but I am sure their presence around the place will play a big role.
Ahead of the clash Yorkshire bowler, Jack Brooks seemed in confident mood, the former Northants seamer stated that despite the strength of the Nottinghamshire side he remains confident his side will come out on top.
“We’ve got a good recent record against Notts, and we tend to play some pretty good cricket at home. We know how to play to these conditions. He told the Yorkshire official site.
“They’ve got some decent internationals and a good solid overseas batsman in Ross Taylor. I’d imagine they are still on a high after the summer they had last year, winning a couple of trophies.
“They did well against Lancashire and will be a tough test.” He added.
Nottinghamshire meanwhile managed to dodge the rain to claim a good win against hotly fancied Lancashire at Old Trafford in game week one. In a low-scoring affair, their bowling strength shone through with the likes of Jake Ball and Harry Gurney starring for the Outlaws. The pace duo will once again play a key role in this encounter with the Headingley wicket sure to offer plenty of seam movement early on in the encounter.
Ross Taylor will look to improve on what was a pretty disappointing opening match for the Outlaws. Taylor could only muster nine runs in the match including a golden duck during the shakey chase of just 10.
Jake Libby though is keen to show that their Lancashire success wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
“It’s a long winter and there were a few questions thrown at us with regards to our signing and us going back into Division One and no-one knew how we were going to get on,’ Libby told Trentbridge.co.uk.
“So it’s nice to get that first win to settle us down and show our intentions of finishing at the top end of the table.’ He added.
Yorkshire will be chomping at the bit to get underway and forget the disappointment of last weeks embarrassing episode and they will want to prove a point and make up for potentially lost ground. They’ve got a decent side on paper and will be hoping that they can catch a complacent Nottinghamshire team.
How the line up:
Yorkshire: Ballance ©, Bresnan, Brook, Brooks, Coad, Hodd (w/k), Leaning, Lees, Lyth, Pujara, Shaw and Waite
Nottinghamshire: Mullaney ©, Libby, Nash, Footitt, Wessels, Gurney, Wood, Milnes, Fletcher, Patel, Moores (w/k), Taylor, Ball and Root
Day One: Sunny with highs of 19.
Day Two: light rain with highs of 19.
Day Three: Cloudy with highs of 15.
Day Four: Cloudy with highs of 13.
Essex vs Lancashire:
Elsewhere, two of the early season title favourites meet at Chelmsford with reigning Champions Essex looking to finally get their season underway against Lancashire. The Eagles were left frustrated by the weather last week at Leeds, but have come home to Essex basked in sunshine ready for their home opener.
Peter Siddle will make his long-awaited debut for the club after being made to wait a week by the English weather and will join up with the ever-impressive young seam attack of Jamie Porter, Sam Cook and Paul Walter. Sam’s namesake Alastair will be missing though as he has been made to wait a further week by the England selectors. There is also no place in the side for winter signing Matt Coles, who despite impressing for the second still seems to struggle to break his way into the four-day side. One man who will be pleased to see the baking sun basking down to the wicket is Simon Harmer. The South African spinner impressed in his maiden season and will be hoping to show it wasn’t just a fluke. As for the batsmen, they will hope an extra week in the nets will mean they will be fresh and ready for anything bowled down to them from a strong looking Lancashire attack. Nick Browne entered the season in decent touch having hit a century in the university clash against Oxford and a fifty in the MCC Champions tour match. The opener will act as the anchor whilst others will look to score their runs a little quicker. The Champions will look to get off to a winning home start after only picking up the five points thanks to the Yorkshire weather last week as they bid to retain their title.
Lancashire meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back from their opening game defeat to prove their title backers right. Much will rely on their talented looking bowling unit to utilize Essex’s main weakness. In Graham Onions, Joe Mennie and Tom Bailey they have a terrifying trio of bowlers that will dent even the strongest of batting line-ups. If they can get some early wickets on day one and skittle Essex out cheaply they will back their batsmen to fair far better than they did last week against Nottinghamshire. The likes of Hameed, Livingstone and Jennings all have a point to prove and will hope to make use of a usually very good batting track at Chelmsford.
How they line up:
Essex: Ten Doeschate ©, Foster (w/k), Bopara, Browne, Chopra, S. Cook, Harmer, Lawrence, Siddle, Porter, Walter, Westley and Wheater
Lancashire: Liam Livingstone (C), Tom Bailey, Shiv Chanderpaul, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Alex Davies, Haseeb Hameed, Keaton Jennings, Danny Lamb, Joe Mennie, Graham Onions, Stephen Parry, Matt Parkinson, Dane Vilas
Day One: Sunny intervals with highs of 25
Day Two: Sunny intervals with highs of 20
Day Three: Sunny intervals with highs of 20
Day Four: Cloudy with highs of 15.
Somerset vs Worcestershire:
At Taunton, two teams tipped for the drop meet at Somerset meet Worcestershire. The Pears suffered a baptism of fire on their return to the top flight having been smashed by Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl last week. It was their batting that let them down badly as they fell to a 196-run defeat in Southampton, indeed only Ben Cox, Travis Head and Ed Barnard offered any real resistance to a talented looking Hampshire attack. Their bowling, however, showed promise with Joe Leach, Steve Magoffin and Josh Tongue all showing they can be a danger in the top flight.
They do add two names to the squad though ahead of the trip west with Ben Twohig and Charlie Morris coming into the matchday thirteen.
Ahead of the clash, head coach Kevin Sharp told WCCC.co.uk that his side learnt a lot from their defeat on the south coast.
“There were a couple of things in the game that we will really learn from. There was one point in the game where we go back in it from a batting perspective.
“We made 200-7 (in reply to 290) and it looked as though we might nearly get up to their score. But they set the short ball trap and we fell into it a little bit which was a little naïve from out perspective. “ Sharp said.
Somerset enter their season opener a little cold after their university tour game against Oxford completely washed out. Matthew Renshaw becomes the latest Australian to join the West Countrymen replacing Chris Rogers as their overseas player for the season. He will add some vital stability to the batting line-up after Tom Abell and Eddie Byrom endured a difficult time of things last summer. Their skill is with the ball though, with Lewis Gregory, the Overton twins and the spin duo of Dom Bess and Jack Leach offering a mean looking fivesome. I predict they will be too much for Worcestershire, and it is vital they pick up points against their potential relegation rivals early on.
How they line up:
Somerset: Trescothick, Byrom, Renshaw, Hildreth, Abell ©, Davies, Gregory, Davey, C.Overton, J.Overton, Bess, Leach and Groenewald
Worcestershire: Mitchell ©, D’Oliveira, Fell, Clarke, Head, Rhodes, Cox, Barnard, Leach, Magoffin, Tongue, Twohig, Morris
Day One: Sunshine with highs of 19.
Day Two: Sunshine with a threat of thunderstorms with highs of 20
Day three: Cloudy with highs of 15
Day four: Cloudy with highs of 14.
Surrey vs Hampshire:
Lastly, the two southern powerhouses clash at the Oval as the South Coast derby takes place in South London. Excitement is high around the Oval as a number of high profile players have once again come through the revolving door. Dean Elgar – who has impressed during the winter for South Africa has the rather big shoes of Kumar Sangakkara to fill whilst Morne Morkel has signed a two-year kolpak contract with the Rey. Mercifully for Hampshire, Morkel misses out this particular encounter through injury but there will be a first start for Elgar. Perhaps the most intriguing name on the Surrey team sheet is Amir Virdi. The young Englishman was one of the only bright sparks in an otherwise disappointing with the Lions tour in the Caribbean this winter and will hope to flourish on a wicket that usually turns in this, his breakthrough season. Of course, you have the magic stardust of Sam Curran and the wise old heads of Rikki Clarke and Gareth Batty. It is an attack to be feared and that is without mentioning the missing Tom Curran (on IPL duty) and the box of tricks that is Jade Dernbach. England’s Mark Stoneman, keeper Ben Foakes, Scott Borthwick and skipper Rory Burns make up a formidable batting line-up bolstered by the aforementioned Dean Elgar. It is a team that, should it click has every chance to mount a title charge come September.
Hampshire will look to build on an impressive start to their season by bagging back-to-back wins during the course of the match in London. They also boast a decent looking bowling line-up with the likes of Kyle Abbott, Fidel Edwards, Brad Wheal and the evergreen Gareth Berg all amongst the wickets last week. The Southampton based club will also add another South African to their ranks in Dale Steyn soon too. Chris Sole, Chris Wood and Joe Weatherley add the youthful local look to the matchday squad whilst they also have England class in James Vince and Liam Dawson. But it is their overseas signing Hashim Amla who surely holds the key in this encounter; I witnessed an Amla masterclass a number of years ago as South Africa battered England at the Oval. He will have very fond memories of playing in South London and will want to repay the faith Hampshire have shown in him.
It will be a tight intriguing encounter packed full of internationals on display if you have a spare day over the next four, and you are in the proximity this would be one game I’d urge you to get down and watch it has the potential to be a real humdinger.
How they line-up:
Surrey: Burns ©, Batty, Borthwick, Clarke, Curran S, Dernbach, Dunn, Elgar, Foakes, Pope, Stoneman, Virdi
Hampshire: Adams, Wood, Dawson, Berg, Vince ©, Amla, Northeast, McManus (w.k) Roussouw, Weatherley, Wheal, Edwards, Abbot, Sole
Day One: Sunshine – highs of 26c
Day Two: Sunny intervals – highs of 23c
Day three: Sunny intervals – highs of 20c
Day Four: Cloudy with highs of 16c
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