April is only 10 days old, Spring has seemingly only just begun, but fear not, it’s never too early for the county cricket to get back underway.
Yes, that’s right, the County Championship Cricket season is back today for the first time since Yorkshire were named Division One champions for the second year running back in September. Our focus here at Burn FM however will of course be with Warwickshire, who get their season underway this morning with a journey south to face Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl over the next four days.
Head of Sport Matt Bullin, and Jack Simpkin, spoke to a number of the Warwickshire players at Edgbaston on Monday for this year’s Media Day, here’s what they had to say ahead of the new season…
Ian Bell, who was sidelined by England over the winter, has been named as the new captain for the season ahead, replacing Varun Chopra, and he’s looking forward to his new challenge as skipper:
“I always feel responsibility as a Warwickshire player, and now as a Warwickshire captain – it doesn’t feel any different when you put on the shirt.”
It was a disappointing season last time out in the four-day, and 50 over formats, but Bell is confident his side can compete on all three fronts this time around:
“Our goal at the start of the year is to be involved in all three (competitions), we don’t prioritise one tournament, so you need to have a strong squad which can deal with all three – The squad we have is a fantastic squad.”
Former England colleague, Jonathan Trott, echoed the optimism of the captain:
“We want to challenge in all three competitions, and we’ve got the squad to do that.
“I think with a club like Warwickshire, that’s what its got to be, you don’t play for seconds and thirds, you play for trophies.
“I think we’re a well balanced side, Rikki Clarke adds that with his bowling and batting, and we’ve got Chris Woakes from the start of the season, so we’re a well rounded side. When Jeetan Patel arrives, he finishes the team off with the arrival of a world class spinner.”
Fast bowler Chris Woakes, who has represented England in all three formats, seemed pleased with Bell’s appointment, and was also confident success will be on its way this year.
“To have his (Bell’s) experience in the team will be crucial, not only for his runs, but for his experience and voice in the dressing room.
“When you’re at a club like Warwickshire you’re always expected to win trophies, and we’ve certainly got the team to do that, so its a matter of putting those performances out on the pitch.
“If we didn’t bring a trophy back to Edgbaston we’d be disappointed.”
It’s inevitable that Woakes, with all his international experience, will be looked upon to lead the line especially in one-day cricket, and he is under no illusion of what will be expected of him, especially in the Royal London One Day Cup:
“Hopefully I can be a leading figure for us in that tournament.”
This year’s T20 Blast will once again be keenly contested with a lot of strong players and teams on the circuit this season, but having reached the semis last year, the Birmingham Bears are looking to go one better this time around. The club was boosted by the news this week that New Zealand’s wicket-keeper, Luke Ronchi, will be joining the squad for the campaign, and man with heaps of experience in the game, and he seemed delighted to be joining such a big club:
“Birmingham Bears have been one of the top teams in T20 over the last two years and I’m very excited to join such a great club that boasts several internationals.
“The club has a great fan base and I’m looking forward to making Edgbaston my home and experiencing its electric atmosphere as a Bear.”
One of the Bears’ rising stars in the shortest format is 28-year-old batsman Laurie Evans. He was the club’s leading run scorer over all formats last season, and he’ll be looking to impress in the white ball cricket this term as he looks to follow in the footsteps of former team-mate Jason Roy, who made the transition from county cricket, to the international game, last summer. Here’s what he had to say when asked whether he’ll be looking make the step up himself:
“I certainly hope so. My dream is still to play for England in Twenty20, or 50 over cricket. There are places up for grabs in all formats really, so I’m looking forward to having a good season.”
Lastly, young leg-spinner Josh Poysden believes the side can go into the T20 campaign full of confidence having played now T20 world champions, the West Indies, twice, during their recent pre-season tour to Dubai:
“We played two T20s against the West Indies, and they were probably the highlight of the trip. To play against the team that’s just won the World T20 was a brilliant experience. We actually ran them quite close in both games, it was a shame we couldn’t quite get over the line.”
Warwickshire’s home season gets underway in two weeks’ time when they host the champions Yorkshire in the Specsavers County Championship Division One, with the home T20 Blast campaign kicking off at Edgbaston against Worcestershire Rapids on Friday 27 May.
Tickets for the game are available at the Early Bird price of £15 if purchasing before midnight on Sunday 17 April, but are then increased to £19 thereafter and £23 on the day of the match. To purchase tickets or a Season Pass, visit www.edgbaston.com or call 0844 847 1902.
Thanks to Warwickshire CCC for the images used.