County previews April 6, 2013

Warwickshire eye dominant legacy

The champions' settled squad has a new leader in Dougie Brown but signs are that their success will continue

Last year: Champions, CC Div 1; Group stages, T20; Finalists, CB40

2012 in a nutshell: Warwickshire looked the strongest team in Championship cricket by some distance in 2012. A stable squad balanced by several allrounders, a potent seam attack and a batting line-up that stretched beyond the horizon lost only once in the Championship and deservedly won the title. And they did it despite the long-term absence through injury of the two men, Boyd Rankin and Chris Woakes, who were expected to make most impression with the ball. Three bowlers - Chris Wright, Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel, a sound if unglamorous choice of overseas player - claimed over 50 wickets and Varun Chopra was one of only two England-qualified batsmen to score 1,000 Division One runs. They were a force in List A cricket, too, reaching the final of the CB40. While the T20 campaign was a disappointment, the level of rain disruption provided some mitigation.

2013 prospects: There seems little reason to doubt Warwickshire will again feature prominently in this year's Championship title race. Most of the architects of last year's success remain, with youth on their side and the added incentive of international ambitions to fulfil. The attack is impressively well balanced, with pace, swing and left-arm variety and the batting, despite a fragility towards the top, is so deep (15 players on the staff have first-class centuries to their name) that it affords the opportunity to fight back from poor starts. If all the key seamers - Woakes, Wright, Barker, Rankin and Rikki Clarke - are available, Warwickshire will have an enviable opportunity to rest and rotate. If there is a weakness, it could be the top-order batting. More will be required from the likes of William Porterfield, Jim Troughton and Darren Maddy if Warwickshire are to fulfil their talk of creating a new legacy at Edgbaston to match that achieved by the team of the mid-1990s. Warwickshire have often looked the fittest squad in the county game in recent years, with their minimum fitness levels 10% above that of the England sides.

Perhaps Warwickshire's biggest threat is becoming a victim of their own success. Apart from losing their director of cricket, Ashley Giles, to England, they could also be without up to six players at times this summer as England and Lions call-ups bite into their resources. The other possible weakness is the overreliance on Tim Ambrose, who has a history of hip trouble, as the only other keeper on the staff is 18-year-old Peter McKay. They remain favourites to retain the Championship title, though, and should remain dangerous in the limited-overs competitions.

Key player: Clarke balances this side. A fast bowler, middle-order batsman and irreplaceable slip fielder, Clarke has finally developed into the allrounder his talent always suggested he could be. It should be of some concern to Warwickshire that he is out of contract at the end of the season.

Bright young thing: Keith Barker played his first full season in 2012 but he ended it with a reputation as arguably the best left-arm new-ball bowler in the county game. If he can find some extra pace - and his physique suggests he can - he will be of interest to England. The 17-year-old batsman Sam Hain is unlikely to play in the first team this year but looks to be a young man with a bright future.

Captain/coach: Dougie Brown has replaced Giles as director of cricket and, alongside the captain, Troughton, forms a leadership that is steeped in the history of the club. It surely bodes well that they will understand one another and have shared goals and values. It is worth noting that Brown was not the first choice of many in the dressing room, though. Many of the players would have plumped for Graeme Welch, who remains as assistant coach and bowling coach.

ESPNcricinfo verdict: Justifiably favourites to retain the Championship title. Such is the depth and age-profile of this squad that they should challenge consistently for the foreseeable future.

Read our supporters' network preview on Warwickshire. ESPNcricinfo will be publishing a fan blog for each of the 18 counties as we build up to the 2013 season

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Carl on April 11, 2013, 21:37 GMT

    No comment from @TripleCenturian, good to see that he/she stays quiet when proved very, very wrong....

  • Carl on April 7, 2013, 22:44 GMT

    Oh and I forgot to mention England looking at Chopra as well (who I think could be good enough).

    Could you also credit me with Trott who Warwicks also helped develop when he came over here as a young man!!

  • Carl on April 7, 2013, 17:23 GMT

    Bell, Trott, Woakes, Barker, Evans have only been at Warwicks, three of them are current internationals and Barker has a chance of joining them. The others you mention were doing nothing at their previous clubs so that still classes as developing players.

    Rankin, Wright and Clarke are also being looked at by England (although I don't think any of them are really good enough).

    Don't know of another county that is providing as many potential England players as Warwicks.

  • Mark on April 7, 2013, 7:20 GMT

    Who are these young cricketers that Warwickshire are developing then? From the article above Chopra, Wright, Porterfield, Rankin, Clarke, Ambrose have all joined from other counties. Clever recruitment of good solid county players not quite good enough for full England recognition is a bigger factor in your success rather than developing young players. I will credit you with Bell and Woakes but if you can turn Hannon-Dalby into a good county pro then that would outdo everything else.

  • Carl on April 6, 2013, 22:47 GMT

    Good to see that Warwickshire are being rewarded for developing players that can play for England (not relying on Kolpak players like a lot of other sides) with some success. For that reason alone surely they deserve to be provided a test match every year, maybe to serve as a signal to those sides that are importing various aging foreign players.

    It will be interesting to see how the bowling attack performs this year as they'll have a lot more focus/presure on them. The batting still needs some work, with an over reliance on all rounders and decent tail end batman but I can still see them retaining their title.

    I don't see Clarke being selected for England again (certainly not in test matches), whilst he had a fine season last year he still lacks that bit of class needed to be an international player but that's not to say he can't do a great job for Warwickshire again. Barker has a chance of playing an ODI or two but the closed shop that is the England test team is here to stay.