Are you ready for another amazing season of Cricket?
White ball cricket gets underway tomorrow with the return of the Royal London One Day Cup, with the Warwickshire Bears looking to retain their crown after a thumping win over Surrey last September at Lords. The tournament typically held throughout the summer, has a different setting on the calendar this year, with all of the group fixtures being throughout April and May with the final on July 1st as opposed to its usual date in September.
It is not just its place on the calendar that is different this time around, with only three teams from each of the two groups progressing to the knockout stages. The first placed side in each will head straight through to the Semi Finals whilst second and third will have to play-off to see who joins them. The move should provide extra incentive to finish top of your group as you will only have to win one more match to reach the final.
The one thing that has not changed this year is the groups themselves, with the 18 first class counties being split into a North and South Group, with each side playing each other once. Four games at home and four away.
27th April – Opening fixtures
16th May – North Group Final Round
17th May – South Group Final Round
13th June – Play Offs
16th & 17th June – Semi Finals
1st July – Final at Lords
Can Warwickshire retain their crown?
Last year’s winners start their campaign with a tricky away trip to 2016 T20 Blast winners Northamptonshire, hoping get their season back on track. They have endured a torrid start to their County Championship campaign, losing heavily to Surrey and Yorkshire before a morale boosting draw against the former in the return fixture at Edgbaston. However the change of competition should suit a side desperately in need of win. Sam Hain and Jonathan Trott will likely resume their opening partnership that proved so fruitful last year. The two finished as the top two run scorers in the entire competition in 2016 with Trott playing an excellent innings to see them over the line in the final, and with Ian Bell in at three you will struggle find a better top three in the entire competition.
Jeetan Patel will once again be expected shine with the ball after taking 22 wickets last year, including a match winning spell of 5/43 in the semi-final against Somerset. The Kiwi spinners form for the bears saw him earn recall to the national side over the winter, and he holds the key if they are to retain their crown. With Chris Woakes likely to be unavailable for most of the competition, responsibility will fall on the likes of Oliver Hannon-Dalby who impressed in last year’s final, to once again be successful.
Whether or not the Bears can win this title for the second year in a row remains to be seen. However the loss of Laurie Evans in middle order will harm their chances, meaning more responsibility falls on a top four that have struggled so far this season in red ball cricket. The competition moving to the early part of the season may also have a negative impact on a bowling attack that quite often relies on its spinners to be successful. However with experienced internationals such a Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell in their ranks, if they can make it out of the group stages again, they have every chance.
Who are the other contenders?
Yorkshire have been placed favourites by the bookies for this year’s competition, and with their plethora of stars it is easy to understand why. However with England’s first match of the summer on the 5th May, a bowling attack that is already struggling with injuries will lose the likes of Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett and may not take enough wickets to see them further than their two previous semi- final appearances.
Expect to see Nottinghamshire do well this year with a likely new ball attack of Stuart Broad and James Pattinson, the latter has been called up to the Australian champions trophy squad and has already impressed with the red ball so far this season. The 2014 winners Durham are always strong in the shorter formats but a two point deduction in place for the start of the tournament may well be too much for them to overcome.
Elsewhere in the North group, limited overs specialists Northamptonshire will be looking to transform their T20 success into the longer of the white ball formats. Lancashire who finished bottom last year, will surely be better this time around. Worcestershire may well be dark horses with Australian all-rounder John Hasting’s in their ranks. Whilst Leicestershire and Derbyshire will do very well to get out of the group.
Looking at the South Group it is hard not to look past Surrey. They have been the most consistent side in this competition in recent years. Having lost the last two finals, do not be surprised to see them at Lords once again this year. A batting line up that already included Kumar Sangakarra, has been boosted by Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick who both will score plenty of runs, and with the Curran brothers they possess two of England’s finest young bowlers.
The side that beat them in 2015, Gloucestershire will be looking to improve on last season’s dreadful campaign. Though much will depend on the performances of their captain Michael Klinger. Their West Country rivals Somerset reached the semi- finals last year but may struggle to repeat that feat this time around.
Kent and Glamorgan are two sides that could do very well in this year’s competition. The former have
reached the knockout stages in the last three years, and an appearance at Lords is not out of the question. They have strong top order with the likes of Daniel Bell Drummond and Joe Denly, and in Darren Stevens one of the most experienced bowlers on the circuit. Whilst Glamorgan who have very much struggled in red ball in recent seasons, are always a strong one day side with a batting line up including Colin Ingram.
The County Champions Middlesex will be looking to convert their success in the four day game into the shorter format. Whilst Sussex, Hampshire and Essex are all sides that do well in the limited overs competitions, so could very well be in the knockout stages again.
North Group: 1st – Nottinghamshire 2nd – Northamptonshire 3rd – Warwickshire
South Group: 1st – Kent 2nd – Surrey 3rd – Glamorgan
Be sure to check out Burn FM Sport on Twitter for coverage of Warwickshire’s 2017 campaign, starting with their match against Durham on the 1st May.