Looking out of the window over the past couple of days it has been hard to believe that the domestic cricket season is just a week away. After a couple of weeks of mild, pleasant weather, there have been strong winds and heavy rain – a groundsman’s nightmare.
I’m not sure how the weather has been down in Bristol but I would think few people are expecting a batting paradise for the opening Championship match, certainly not after last year’s fun and frolics there. Conditions are likely to be as far removed from Sydney as possible and it should be a culture shock for Usman Khawaja, who is set to make his county debut.
I’m sure that John Morris has his line-up for the opening game in his head, pending a late change through injury or illness.While a lot of the side effectively picks itself, the big decisions are likely to be over the seamers involved and the opening batsmen. Maybe the 40-over friendly against Surrey on Monday might offer people a late chance to stake a claim, though I think the one-day and Championship sides could be quite different this season.
To be honest, I think there are seven of the team for Bristol that you could pick right now. Luke Sutton as skipper and wicket-keeper, Madsen and Hughes as batsmen, Smith and Clare as all-rounders, Tim Groenewald as the most reliable of seamers and Khawaja as overseas player. Then the fun starts…
Borrington to open with Madsen or do you go with Hughes? If you go with the former and have Khawaja at three, Hughes at four and Smith at six, is it Durston, Redfern, Park or Lineker for number five?
Then there would be Sutton at seven, Clare at eight and Groenewald at nine, so the remaining places would be up for grabs between Palladino, Turner, Footitt, Sheikh and Needham. I don’t think Bristol in April will warrant a specialist spinner and Sheikh isn’t yet an automatic pick, so that rules out the last two. I also think Palladino’s lesser pace and greater movement of the ball would be well suited to a typical Bristol track where Jon Lewis usually does well, so that leaves the final place (logically) between Footitt and Turner. I can’t call that one, as I’ve not seen them bowl pre-season.
As for Gloucestershire, they have lost a lot of players over the winter. Their first choice attack from last year – Franklin, Kirby and Hussain - has gone, as well as Kadeer Ali and William Porterfield. They should have Kiwi batsman Kane Williamson making his debut and it will be interesting to see who makes the best of English early-season conditions between him and Khawaja.
Gloucestershire have now heard that Hamish Marshall, the former New Zealand international batsman, will not be back in time to play due to the marriages of his brothers.
Shame, that…just need to get Alex Gidman an invitation and we’re sorted!
More next week – have a good one.