Warwickshire will face Northamptonshire in the Specsavers County Championship tomorrow with captain Jeetan Patel delighted by how the recent recruits to the squad are clearly "excited" to wear the Bear on their shirt.
Patel’s team will arrive at Wantage Road on the back of a rain-affected draw with Sussex, the highlight of which was a career-best eight for 80 from fast-bowler Olly Stone.
The former Northamptonshire fast-bowler generated genuine pace on his home championship debut for the Bears – and exemplified the commitment and spirit which Patel wants from his players.
No-one knows what conditions we are going to get down at Northants as they have just relaid the outfield so we don’t know if that will affect the wicket. But they have a very good bowling attack and quite an aggressive batting line-up so we’re going to have to go down there with some good plans and ideas.Jeetan Patel
“Olly bowled with great hostility,” the skipper said. “He hit the deck hard and hurried the batsman and it’s great to see these guys who are relatively new to the team getting out there and really wanting to be a part of this club. To be a Bear is a very proud thing and we want to make sure these guys are excited by that, buy into it and use it as an inspiration.
“The Sussex game was a very good workout for the guys. The bowlers got 25 overs in their legs and some of the batters got good time at the crease. Now we move on into the season. The excitement of playing the first game is gone and it’s all about the excitement of trying to win some games.
“There are things that we need to get better at but the exciting thing for me is the ability we have in the squad and the challenge of bringing that to the fore. Hopefully we can keep improving as the season goes along.
“Northamptonshire had a tough start against Middlesex down at Lord’s so they will be desperate to bounce back from that. No-one knows what conditions we are going to get down at Northants as they have just relaid the outfield so we don’t know if that will affect the wicket. But they have a very good bowling attack and quite an aggressive batting line-up so we’re going to have to go down there with some good plans and ideas.”
Warwickshire would certainly settle for something similar to their most recent championship visit to Wantage Road, in June 2014. They won by an innings and 105 runs thanks to 12 wickets in the match from Patel and Chris Woakes and the Bears’ record total against Northamptonshire – 602 for nine declared.
Sam Hain scored 140 and Jim Troughton 69 before Keith Barker racked up an unbeaten 102 at number nine, adding 86 for the ninth wicket with Patel and an unbroken 63 for the tenth with Chris Wright.
At the time the home side was in the midst of a terrible season which culminated in relegation. They will offer much tougher opposition over the next four days.