Craig Miles knows that Warwickshire face a "real test" when they open their LV=Insurance County Championship title defence against Surrey - but he insists the Bears are ready for it.

The 2022 season starts on Thursday with the Bears facing one of the likeliest challengers to wrest their crown from them in the months ahead.

Surrey will arrive with England players available (while the Bears’ Chris Woakes is not) and overseas stars Hashim Amla and Kemar Roach also likely to be in the squad.

It will be an immediate test of the Bears’ aspirations to retain their title – and Miles insists the match is as mouth watering a prospect for the players as the spectators.

“There could be no better way to kick off the season at Edgbaston,” said the seamer. “Surrey have a very strong side with a lot of guys around the England squad who will be available. They have a lot of batting depth so it will be a real test for us as a bowling unit and they have strength in depth in the bowling as well with Kemar Roach, so that will test our batting as well.

“But we are in a good place and reigning champions and we proved last year that we can be a match for anyone. It’s all set to be a fantastic game.”

As the Bears try to subdue Surrey’s powerful batting order, Miles will be a key member of the attack as he aims to build on his excellent 2021 season.

Uncertain even of a first team place at the start of last year, the former Gloucestershire man went on to excel in all formats and become an integral member of the attack that bowled the Bears to two trophies.

“Coming into last season I was in the last year of my contract and there was a lot of work to do,” he said. “But it couldn’t have gone any better.

“I came to a club like Warwickshire to challenge myself and become a more consistent performer, so to achieve that and then also for the team to finish the season the way they did exceeded all my personal expectations.

Craig Miles

“Now my goal is to hit those standards again and ideally improve upon them. We are all waiting to see who gets the nod to play against Surrey and it’s good for us to go into the season knowing that your place is not guaranteed. I think that brings the best out of most people.

“A club like Warwickshire has that strength in depth so if you get that shirt in the first game you know you have to do your very best to take the opportunity. Among the bowlers and also the batting group we have a great squad to pick from.”

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