Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Spriegel finally called to Championship action

After being roundly trounced by Nottinghamshire in the CB40 on Sunday we now face the prospect of the same opposition in the Championship. As with all the remaining games, this is a pretty crucial fixture, not to mention a demanding one.

Chris Adams has named a 13 man squad, the names and a possible XI are as follows:

Zafar Ansari
Rory Burns
Zander de Bruyn
Steven Davies
Jason Roy
Matthew Spriegel
Gareth Batty
Jon Lewis
Murali Kartik
Stuart Meaker
Chris Tremlett

12th men: Tim Linley, Chris Jordan

Broadly the same side then that faced Lancashire last week, the one big (huge) omission being Kevin Pietersen who will be with England for the first test starting on Thursday. This is an especially big game for the man chosen to replace Pietersen, Matthew Spriegel, who last played Championship cricket in August 2010. In the meantime he has performed excellently in the limited overs games, and for the Second XI, now it is time for him to show his ability against the best. Gary Wilson also misses out thanks to some more Ireland duty.

I think the batting looks very frail, notwithstanding de Bruyn's tentative return to form last week. Rory Hamilton-Brown's indefinite compassionate leave continues, with the expectation now edging towards him not playing again this season. Against a strong Nottinghamshire bowling outfit Adams may yet elect to start with Jordan ahead of Murali Kartik to bolster the batting somewhat, and also offer a fourth seam bowling option at a ground where spin bowlers often take a back seat.

The opening partnership will continue to be a source of debate. Presumably Arun Harinath is still suffering with his thumb injury so the question is, will Ansari and Burns continue, or will Spriegel step up? Spriegel seems to me the most natural choice, but if they wanted him to open why not select him in the Lancashire squad? I suspect Ansari and Burns will be persisted with. Ansari showed a good deal of application and although Burns shouldered arms to a good delivery, it was simply a mis-judgement and it would be harsh to discount him as a possible opener on the basis of that one ball.

Meaker, Tremlett and Lewis toiled away on a flat wicket at a small ground in Guildford so it is tough to say whether they bowled especially well or badly. Meaker was apparently struggling a touch with a sore back and Tremlett is still feeling his way back in from injury. Trent Bridge is historically good to seamers so our threesome should be licking their lips. Jade Dernbach is still absent with a side injury.

Nottinghamshire have the significant psychological advantage of having brushed us aside, albeit in a different format, just a couple of days ago. They are unbeaten at Trent Bridge this season and although they have only won one of four fixtures there, they've been unlucky with the weather on occasion. Indeed the weather will probably play a role over the next four days as well as showers are forecast for much of that period.

Their bowling is strong, led by the evergreen Andre Adams who has a remarkable 46 wickets at 15 apiece this season (though only 15 of those have come at home, at a slightly worse average of 20). Equally they are not found wanting in the batting, Voges, Wessels, Read and Lumb (who was absent from the CB40 game this evening with a back problem) have all stood up this season, and worryingly Hales and Taylor have yet to really fire in the Championship. Across the last five years they have probably been the best county in terms of results, that doesn't happen by accident.

Make no mistake, tests this season won't come much bigger. Our depleted batting should look at this as an opportunity to put down a marker and show Chris Adams that they deserve a run in the side. Before the last game Adams said he wanted to win four from the last eight matches. Presumably that calculation is now four from seven, including this trip to Trent Bridge, and trips to Old Trafford, Edgbaston and Taunton. This isn't going to be a walk in the park.

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