International duty hits counties
Ireland’s Twenty20 international series with Bangladesh this week has left an added strain on several of the counties in LV= County Championship action, many of whom are also without England Test players.
Ireland have three T20s versus the Tigers in Belfast, starting tomorrow when six championship matches begin, and England face South Africa at the Kia Oval in the first Investec Test from Thursday.
Division One leaders Warwickshire are hardest hit, being without England batsmen Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott plus Ireland duo Will Porterfield and Boyd Rankin against Somerset at Taunton.
Somerset are missing Ireland’s George Dockrell as well as Marcus Trescothick, who is set to continue his recovery from ankle surgery by playing for the second XI this week.
Injured bowlers Steve Kirby and Adam Dibble are out, while the Overton twins - Jamie and Craig - are on England Under-19 duty.
Rikki Clarke, who scored an unbeaten century and took three wickets as Warwickshire gained maximum bonus points in Sunday’s draw with Sussex to go top, told ecb.co.uk: “We’ve got to be on our game the next four days against Somerset, a dangerous side who are always up there or thereabouts. It’ll be a good contest down at Taunton.”
Last season’s corresponding fixture was memorable for Clarke, who returned 5-10 as the hosts were skittled for 50 in their second innings en route to a 382-run defeat.
“You don’t get too many games like that. We’d be delighted if it turned out that way again,” he said before recalling April’s two-wicket win at Edgbaston.
“When you play sides that you’ve done well against recently, it almost give you a bit of an upper hand,” he added. “But we’re not going to take them lightly. They’ve got some wonderful cricketers - they missing a couple of people as well - but the people who are coming in are equally strong.”
Second-placed Nottinghamshire, who face Hampshire today in the Clydesdale Bank 40, are without England bowlers Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann for the visit of Surrey - themselves minus Kevin Pietersen - to Trent Bridge.
Surrey have Matthew Spriegel in their championship squad for the first time this year but are missing Gary Wilson, who is on Ireland duty, and Rory Hamilton-Brown, who is on compassionate leave.
Bottom side Durham include captain Paul Collingwood, who missed last week’s draw with Worcestershire as he stepped up his recovery from a broken hand, for the trip to Arundel to face Sussex. Graham Onions and Matt Prior are with England and Ed Joyce with Ireland.
Lancashire must make do without James Anderson versus winless Worcestershire, who are in CB40 action against Gloucestershire today, at Old Trafford.
Division Two leaders Derbyshire host second-placed Yorkshire at Chesterfield with Jonny Bairstow set to keep wicket for visitors after he was dropped from England’s Test squad.
Tim Bresnan, who made the England cut, is absent - as is Andrew Gale; the White Rose skipper is not quite ready to return from a hip injury.
In-form Derbyshire batsman Dan Redfern told ecb.co.uk: “They’re a good side, we know that, but so are we at the moment. We know that if we play our best cricket, we can beat them.
“We’re going to play positive cricket, depending on how much we get in - I’m not sure about the weather - our goal is to go out there and win it.”
He added: “From now on, with us being at the top, teams are trying to chase us and are targeting us.
“Whether it’s Yorkshire, Kent or anyone we play now, it’s going to be a massive game. We’ve just going to treat it like another game, try to carry on from where we started when we left off in the first half of the season and try not to ‘big up the game’ too much.
Gloucestershire - who are in CB40 action today - host Leicestershire at Cheltenham.