Preview: Middlesex v Warwickshire Specsavers County Championship

Warwickshire will face Middlesex at Lord’s in the Specsavers County Championship on Sunday “full of confidence” after dominating their rain-affected draw with Hampshire, says captain Ian Bell.

The loss of more than a day to the weather meant the Bears had to settle for a draw but there was much encouragement to take from their season-opener at the Ageas Bowl.

Not least the batting of Bell whose 174, his 51st first-class century, means he will walk out to bat at Lord’s within a boundary hit of 18,000 first class runs.

"it was especially good to play that sort of innings under pressure"

Ian Bell, Captain

"I scored a few runs in the UAE pre-season and then a couple of 20s in the warm-up games at Edgbaston and felt that the rhythm was pretty good, so I was hoping that runs could be just around the corner,” said the Bears skipper. “And it was especially good to play that sort of innings under pressure, when the team needed it after we were ten for two.

“But as a team overall, I thought we played some really good cricket with bat and ball. If you are going to be picky you could say we dropped a couple of catches that should have stuck, but we dominated the game and will go down to Lord's with a lot of confidence.”

Middlesex, for whom it will be the first championship match of 2016, have a strong squad including England paceman Steve Finn and Australian batsman Adam Voges who Test match batting average stands at the little matter of 95.50.

“Middlesex are a good side and we have had a look at them but really it's a question of what we do and the lads will go down there full of confidence from the Hampshire game.

"We have got the toss again, of course. It was very strange going out there last Sunday morning at the Ageas knowing we had the choice to bowl. Lord's pitches tend to get flatter and slower these days so we will have to see.

“We will probably make a very late decision on Chris Woakes when we see how his knee is on Sunday morning, but if he doesn’t make it we have Chris Wright, who was unlucky not to play at Hampshire, to come in. We’ve got good options.”

"They have got one of the best bowling attacks in the country with a seriously good spinner and seamers that bowl good pace and swing it both ways."

Ian Bell, Captain

And when it comes to effective swing-bowling at Lord’s, there is always I.R.Bell whose first class career-best figures of 4-1-4-4 arrived there in 2004 when he swung the ball round corners to help the Bears to an innings victory.

"Yes, it came out okay that day,” he recalled with a smile. “But that was a long time ago. If I come on to bowl in this match we will be in a bad way!"

It will be a fascinating clash between two sides with aspirations of wresting the title off Yorkshire. And Middlesex batsman Dawid Malan expects the Bears to provide a stern opening fixture for his side.

“Warwickshire have got a fantastic team when they are at full strength, with Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell and young players coming through like San Hain,” he said. “They have got one of the best bowling attacks in the country with a seriously good spinner and seamers that bowl good pace and swing it both ways.

“It’s going to be a tough test for us first up, but we like playing at Lord’s, we believe we can beat every single team in the country and I think we have done at some point in the last few years.”

Warwickshire Squad v Middlesex

I.Bell, T.Ambrose, K.Barker, R.Clarke, V.Chopra, L.Evans, S.Hain, O.Hannon-Dalby, J.Patel, B.Rankin, J.Trott, I.Westwood, C.Woakes and C.Wright

Brian Halford

Brian is Warwickshire's Club Journalist and has reported on the Bears since 2000.