Worcestershire preview, 2006

Strong squad eyeing promotion

Paul Bolton
Paul Bolton provides a preview of Worcestershire for the 2006 season

This Season

Championship Division 2
Nat League Division 2
Captain Vikram Solanki
Coach Steve Rhodes
Overseas Players Nathan Bracken
Phil Jaques
Roger Sillence
Phil Jaques
Nathan Bracken
David Leatherdale (retired)
James Pipe
David Wigley
Stephen Peters

Revolving door
Change of overseas players, with the Australian left-hander Phil Jaques and India's left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan replacing Zander de Bruyn and the injury-prone Shoaib Akhtar. Roger Sillence, a bit-part player in five seasons with Gloucestershire, may have the chance to be a leading man at New Road. Stephen Peters and David Wigley have joined Northamptonshire.

Winter wonderland
The county hope that New Road might take the Mayfair slot on a Worcestershire version of Monopoly being produced by the makers of the famous board game. It is more likely to be the Old Kent Road unless they can soon find the cash to replace the ground's famous pavilion, built in 1899, which is decaying after more than a century of regular winter floods.

Well-balanced squad with strong, experienced batting, a battery of seamers, wicket-taking spinners and a talented young keeper.

The depth of a small squad will be tested if Jaques is needed by Australia A and Gareth Batty, Vikram Solanki and Kabir Ali stay in England's one-day squad.

Best-case scenario
Potential for promotion in both competitions to make up for the disappointment of a stuttering Championship campaign and moderate one-day form last season.

Worst-case scenario
Another season of second-tier cricket in both competitions, especially if Graeme Hick, who failed to make 1,000 Championship runs last year, disappoints again in the final year of his contract.

Young one to watch
Steven Davies, a gifted wicketkeeper and stylish middle-order batsman. In the mould of Steve Rhodes, now Worcestershire's director of cricket, who believes Davies has the potential to score 1,000 runs in his first full season.

Twin promise: Steven Davies keeps wicket and looks good for 1,000 runs © Getty Images

Key man
Stephen Moore. Made 1,000 firstclass runs in each of his first two full seasons. Keen to improve and spent part of the winter in India improving his technique against spin.

What they say
"The dressing room environment is very important to me," says Rhodes, the county's director of cricket. "We want to get that right and I want players who are totally committed to each other as opposed to their individual game. If we can create the right environment, then I would expect to see progress and improvement."

Mark Wagh A strong team, with very good players across the board. A strong middle order will surely provide enough runs and the seamers Matt Mason and Kabir Ali will have excellent support from experienced spinners. The question mark is the depth of the squad.

Predictions County Championship 1st (D2) Pro40 3rd (D2)
Odds 6/1. Click here for full odds and to place your bet.