Chris Adams has named a fourteen man squad for the first two Twenty20 matches against Gloucestershire tomorrow and Hampshire on Friday. If fourteen seems a little on the large side, I suspect that is because Matt Dunn was a late inclusion after his spectacular Championship debut. There is no Mark Ramprakash who it now seems is focusing if not solely then largely on Championship cricket. The squad and the XI that I expect Adams to field is as follows:
Bench: Jewell, Wilson, Dunn
It is more or less the same formula Adams has employed for some time in the CB40 games and I have made my feelings about the surfeit of bowling options it provides clear. I cannot argue with the top five above, but the lack of out and out batsmen in the lower middle order worries me. As I said yesterday Spriegel has earned his place but I think number six is a place too high in the order. Schofield has been in good form with the bat, including a fifty yesterday against a very strong Hampshire 2nd XI, but his bowling has been off-colour this season. Batty has hit a rough patch of form after an excellent start to the season. If it was down to me I would be tempted to go with one of the three, probably Spriegel, treat de Bruyn as a genuine allrounder too and significantly strengthen the batting by bringing in Burns or Lancefield. The lack of in-form batsmen in the squad may be forcing Adams' hand here somewhat.
Arafat and Nannes will almost certainly play given their pedigree in this form of the game, hopefully both will hit the ground running. The last bowling slot will probably come down to Linley or Dunn, Linley being a bit more of a known quantity will probably give him the nod.
There will be significant pressure on the top five who will have to face no less a bowler than Muttiah Muralitharan. They are a talented bunch but they must also bat with a degree of responsibility. Gloucestershire are not a one man band either, Kane Williamson, the young Kiwi is a very promising batsman, the Gidmans have been in good form and who knows what Kevin O'Brien might do.
As for Hampshire on Friday, it looks like Shahid Afridi will be unavailable after the PCB revoked his clearance. While this is a boon for us as he is such a quality performer, it's hugely disappointing from a cricketing point of view. They nonetheless have Danny Briggs and Imran Tahir to do the spinning, that pair along with Cork, Mascarenhas and Jones make Hampshire one of the stronger bowling sides. Their batting is powerful too; Vince, Adams, Lumb and Mackenzie are all quality performers.
A repeat of last year's disaster is out of the question tomorrow. We are a much better side than we were 12 months ago and we should be able to beat Gloucestershire, Hampshire will be a much tougher prospect, Afridi or no Afridi. Our limited overs form has been impressive so far in 2011 and these two games present an ideal chance to continue that.