When the fixture list was published at the start of the year, it is unlikely that many players or spectators looked at the match against Bangladesh A and thought to themselves ‘that’s the big one.’
Yet, for several members of the Warwickshire side, the three-day fixture, which starts on Friday at Edgbaston could prove to be an important game.
Five of them are out of contract in September, one more is a non-contract player, and a couple more have an awful lot to prove in the second half of the season. As director of coaching Ashley Giles put it “we have a big squad; it can’t get any bigger and we’re trying to recruit.”
Three of the top-order batsmen are particularly precariously placed. Michael Powell, Navdeep Poonia and Luke Parker are all out of contract at season’s end and, as things stand, have much to do to win new deals.
While Powell might well find a place on the coaching staff in place of the retiring Neal Abberley, the other two have much at stake over the coming weeks.
Seamers Lee Daggett and Andy Miller have points to prove, too. Miller is only 20 and making his first-class debut but, now in his third year with the club, knows he needs to impress, while 25-year-old Daggett is in the uncomfortable position of knowing that younger men have moved ahead of him in the pecking order.
The opportunities for 20-year-old, Michael Balac, are not so obvious. The Leamington Spa CC keeper has impressed Keith Piper with his glovework, but will need events elsewhere to go his way if he is to win a contract with the club.
As things stand, Warwickshire already have three keepers on staff and are reluctant to sign a fourth. Tim Ambrose’s availability remains unclear - the England keeping position is hardly the most stable at present - but Tony Frost has confirmed that he is happy to remain on the playing staff for another year.
Some of the others, such as Naqaash Tahir, have the relative security of another year on their contract. His place as the club’s premier swing bowler has been usurped by Chris Woakes, however, while he needs to shed the reputation for being injury prone.
Tim Groenewald also has the opportunity to prove his effectiveness in first-class cricket. While he does have a full contract for 2009, his form at present suggests he is becoming something of a limited-overs specialist.
A successful game against Bangladesh A might go some way towards convincing the coaching staff at Edgbaston that he has a larger role to play.