Worcestershire Royals are capable of combining style with substance in the FP Trophy, says Ian Ward.
Last Updated: 03/05/09 1:39pm
Everything is in place for a great contest on Bank Holiday Monday when Nottinghamshire visit New Road in Group A of the FP Trophy.
The Royals will be aiming to go three-from-three in the competition which, regardless of their stuttering in the County Championship, will represent a reasonable start to the season while Nottinghamshire can call on some explosive batters and have quality in depth in their bowling.
I imagine the retirement of the mighty Graeme Hick would have been discussed at length at New Road at the start of the year but Steve Rhodes and Vikram Solanki are no fools.
They knew he was going and would have planned accordingly and their subsequent form in the FP Trophy has suggested they can live without him in the one-day game; they scored 320-8 against Hampshire to win at the Rose Bowl and then they overcame Ireland.
But they are finding life very tough in division one of the County Championship because their bowling is a little bit light. Simon Jones is injured and, probably more importantly, Kabir Ali is now sidelined. Losing him is a big blow; you are grateful for whatever you can get out of Jones, but Steve and Vikram will have been depending on Kabir to deliver week-in, week-out.
I'm sure Worcestershire will be happy to see Stephen Moore go and play for the Lions because that represents career advancement for him; it doesn't help their cause much but look at Durham - they are producing England cricketers and winning trophies. That's what everyone aspires to achieve.
The same might be said of wicketkeeper Steven Davies: they might not see much of him in years to come and full marks to Worcestershire if that happens because they are the ones that have nurtured him and brought him through.
I like the way the Royals play their one-day cricket by and large; over the years they have always been a very competitive side. You can go all the way back to Ian Botham and Graham Dilley, then you had people like Stuart Lampitt, David Leatherdale and now Solanki and Ben Smith have taken up the mantle.
Just because they got thumped by Notts in the Championship last week, it doesn't mean they are going to get thumped again on Monday.
Ashley Noffke is a very good bowler and more to the point he is a very good bowler in English conditions after his various spells with Durham, Gloucestershire and Middlesex.
And, so long as he doesn't get called up for the Ashes which is unlikely, he'll be available throughout the season. I don't think you can overestimate how important that is if you can get an overseas player that is there for pretty much the duration of the season these days because they are few and far between.
If you get those three - Noffke, Kabir Ali and Jones bowling together they have a very good attack. Throw in Matthew Mason and the spin pairing of Gareth Batty and Ian Fisher, who are an important contributors in one-day cricket in particular, and the Royals have one of the most potent one-day units around.
The batting is solid too. Both Moeen Ali and Vikram are very attractive on the eye at the crease; I do enjoy watching Solanki bat, particularly when he is in full flow with his high, elaborate back-lift.
There are lots of moving parts in his body and his hands but when it all comes together he is one of the most elegant players around and Moeen Ali is cut from very similar cloth in terms of his batting style.
I'm sure Martin Newton, the county's chief executive, will be keeping his fingers crossed for the sun to shine all summer so there is no repetition of the sorry events of recent seasons when the rivers Teme and Severn have burst their banks.
I imagine a lot of the club's focus drains away every time New Road floods because they have to dry it out, clear everything up and then wait for the pitch to settle down again.
Glamorgan were in a similar situation when Sophia Gardens, now the SWALEC Stadium, was being redone, in the sense that they had to play all of their home games 'away' at out-grounds and they had a really tough season. Don't underestimate how important playing at home is; you know the ground, you know the facilities and you create an atmosphere that is your own.
Everyone will be keeping an especially close eye on Monday's game if Ryan Sidebottom is running in and bowling, not least Geoff Miller, Ashley Giles and James Whittaker because with Andrew Flintoff struggling with injury and Steve Harmison out of favour some untried seamers in Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan look like playing at Lord's.
With the Ashes coming up you want as many options as possible in form in case there are injuries; I'm sure that if Ryan gets back to full fitness and bowls like he has done for England in the past I'm sure he'll get back in the Test side, which won't help Notts much, but for the moment he has got to prove his fitness and that can only benefit them.
Notts will do very well in the County Championship and one-day cricket because there is a lovely balance to their side; the only downside for them at the moment is that I don't think Graham Swann will play on Monday because he'll be at Lord's getting ready for the first Test, but Samit Patel will be out to prove a point after having his knuckles wrapped for his lack of fitness.
The evergreen Mark Ealham and Andre Adams are more than useful bowlers too; they are both canny; they send it down stump-to-stump and could both prove a handful if they get a bit of early season movement.
On the batting front, the Outlaws have got plenty of people who can whack it - Mark Wagh, Patel, Adam Voges and Ali Brown to name a few plus Ealham down the order. It will be particularly interesting to see how Brownie gets on at Trent Bridge after spending so long at Surrey.
He's an amazing player to watch, I can vouch for that. I had the best seat in the house for a number of years, opening the batting with him at Surrey; I was at the other end when he smashed 268 against Glamorgan in 2002. When he gets going he is unstoppable, so if Worcestershire's seam attack is a little bit depleted, look out!