Hampshire coach Craig White has warned Yorkshire will provide the closest challenge to playing Test cricket when the two sides meet in the County Championship tomorrow with Joe Root playing his first match of the season.
White’s team are second in the table and beat Yorkshire two weeks ago when they chased 320 to pull off a remarkable win built around seven for 41 in Yorkshire’s second innings by new Kolpak signing, South African Test bowler Kyle Abbott.
It was followed by a draw last week against title holders Middlesex, giving Hampshire confidence to face a Yorkshire side bolstered by the addition of England stars Root and Jonny Bairstow, who help make up an incredibly strong top six of Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Root, Australian Peter Handscomb, Gary Ballance and Bairstow.
“We have had a very good start to the season, but we know how Yorkshire are going to be up for revenge in this game and are going to be flying at us after the victory we had in the first match,” White told Telegraph Sport.
“We have to get ourselves up for that and I told the lads after the last game that this one will be the closest in terms of intensity you will play in if you have not played Test cricket. We have to be ready mentally for a very intense game of cricket.”
Hampshire were only saved from playing second division cricket this season because of the relegation of Durham in their place.
Since then they have strengthened with the signing of two Kolpaks, Abbott and Rilee Rossouw. It has not made them the most popular team outside Southampton, particularly with English leg spinner Mason Crane unable to break into the side so far this season despite England wanting him to gain more experience.
But with two relegated from eight this season, coaches are under pressure to gain results so short-term options will be taken.
Even though there is no financial penalty for relegation in county cricket, more coaches are being sacked than in previous generations. Crane is in the squad for this game along with Reece Topley, who has not played for almost a year through injury.
“Kyle is absolutely awesome. We had him for three months a few years back and I said to our director of cricket Giles White that if he is ever available then you are getting him for me because he is a diamond on and off the field,” said White. “We sign characters and he is the kind of cricketer we want.
“We realise we got very lucky last season. We got a lifeline but luck works in funny ways. We had so much bad luck through injuries last year so that (Durham relegation) was our bit of good luck. I feel sorry for Durham but that is out of our hands.”
Championship cricket is on hold for almost a month after this round of matches while the Royal London One-Day Cup takes off and, with only 14 games this season in total, the April results have never been so important.
Warwickshire have taken only three points from two matches and director of cricket Ashley Giles has already conceded his team are in a relegation fight.
They play Surrey at Edgbaston and have called up opener Ian Westwood and dropped Sam Hain.
“The important thing is we don’t panic,” said Giles. “We have not developed well internally for quite some time. We have not made any transition of our players for some time but that is because we have been one of the most successful teams in the country since 2010.
“It generally means at some point you are going to be blocked at the top end. I still have every confidence in this group of players they can get us through this patch. I have said consistently the one big thing that worries me about our system is that 25 per cent of a division getting relegated is tough. It should be an elite club the first division but in time it is going to lead clubs into more and more short-term planning and decision making.”