WORCESTERSHIRE will be gunning for a derby-day victory over Birmingham Bears in tonight’s sold-out NatWest T20 Blast clash at New Road to further underline their qualification credentials.
Historically, the County have underwhelmed in 20-over cricket, but this season’s relaunch as the Rapids has coincided with a sharp up-turn in results in the shortest format.
Daryl Mitchell’s men have won five of their seven outings so far this term and proudly sit top of the North Group standings ahead of tonight’s much-anticipated meeting with their fourth-placed near-neighbours (5.30pm).
With a quarter-finals berth within touching distance, the importance of tonight’s game is not lost on director of cricket Steve Rhodes.
He said: “The Yorkshire-Lancashire games when I was a youngster were big but, to me, when I was playing against Warwickshire, it was always a side I wanted to beat.
“It’s mainly through respect. They are a terrific outfit and they will be difficult opposition.
“But what I am enjoying about the T20 and the four-day stuff is that we’ve got four or five different personnel coming and going from the two teams.
“What that is doing is keeping people fresh and keeping interest levels really high.
“I hope the weather is good and everyone turns up because it’s a great occasion.”
Meanwhile, after tonight’s game, Rhodes will give his players a four-day break in recognition of their efforts and work-rate during the first part of the season.
The County will have a rare week off from first team action after a demanding recent schedule which has seen them top the T20 Blast North Group and hold down a top-two spot in Division Two of the LV= County Championship.
Rhodes added: “The bulk of the squad have been playing quite a lot of games are going to have a decent break.
“They will probably get four full days rest, which in the middle of the season is a rarity, but they thoroughly deserve it. I’m really proud of the efforts levels that this team have been putting in.
“You might say that talent is really important and it’s the way people work hard for each other and themselves that really is something to admire. They thoroughly deserve some time off.”
Paceman Charlie Morris has played all nine Championship matches in his first full season of professional cricket and a three-day game for Oxford University against Nottinghamshire.
Rhodes said: “Charlie has played every game and it’s going to be a hard season for him to go all the way through.
“But to his credit, even though this is all new to him, he is as fit as a flea and has worked very hard on his fitness even before he was full-time with us. If anyone can do it, he can.”
Worcestershire (from): Mitchell, Oliver, Kohler-Cadmore, Munro, Kervezee, Whiteley, Cox, D’Oliveira, Shantry, Saeed, Russell, Andrew.