It is hard to be optimistic as Warwickshire begin the final match of their championship season.

Without a win in the competition since May 5 and facing a side hungry for their first championship title in more than half a century, logic suggests relegation beckons.

All is not lost, however. Lancashire's reputation for choking is deserved, while Kent - the team snapping at Warwickshire's heels - may find it hard to garner many points from their final two games against Hampshire (away) and Durham (at home).

The coterie of Warwickshire supporters making the journey up the M6 over the next few days will be doing so in hope rather than expectation, however. Their side has looked shell-shocked in recent weeks and it would take a major reversal of form for them to produce a win in this match.

Luke Parker comes into the team for the injured Jim Troughton, while Heath Streak and Nick James also travel with the squad. Tim Groenewald, who only a few weeks ago had impressed enough to earn a new two-year contract, now finds himself not required.

With only one day to prepare for this crucial championship match, the stand-in captain, Tim Ambrose, quite sensibly stressed that he would ensure his batsmen focused on the positives from the Surrey game. Quite what he found to say remains unclear.

But if one good thing has come out of this season it is that the new coach - and there will surely be one - will have much lower expectations with which to wrestle next summer. For whatever happens over the next fortnight, the next few years at Edgbaston must be about rebuilding. The club must stop looking for quick-fixes.

It is interesting to compare the Warwickshire line-up for this game with their hosts' team. This Lancashire side, shorn of the likes of Mal Loye, James Anderson, Murali and Andy Flintoff as it is, is not filled with world-beaters. Good cricketers, yes, but in normal circumstances a tight game would be anticipated.

What they do have, however, is a core of home-grown talent supplemented by top-class acquisitions. The Lancashire committee have resisted the coach's requests - and there have been several - to bring in the number of Kolpak players so prevalent elsewhere and have requested that he develop from within. The fact that their 12-man squad contains four home-grown fast bowlers suggests it is working.

The hierarchy at Edgbaston must take note. The route to sustained success comes from developing and scouting young players. Warwickshire is blessed to be in a large, multi-cultural city teeming with excellent cricket clubs; there must be the raw talent out there.

At present Warwickshire are wasting money. There is little point the club spending thousands of pounds on youth team cricket and an academy if they are going to try to sign slightly more developed players from other counties or abroad in an attempt to bring immediate returns.

All that does is prevent the home-grown young players from progressing and instil a culture of fear. If the club feel that their own youngsters are not good enough, then those charged with bringing them through must go. Professional sport is harsh for players; it should not be cosy for coaches.

If anyone still doubts the depth of the current crisis it is worth considering the following statistics (courtesy of Tim Walton). They suggest that this period is not the "mid-season blip" described by the club's chief executive, but arguably the worst season in the history of the club.

- The fewest wickets every taken by Warwickshire in a first-class season is 188 (185 in the championship). This season Warwickshire have claimed only 159. A new record is certain.

- The fewest wickets taken in a season by Warwickshire's highest wicket-taker is 39 by Waqar Younis in 2003. The leader this year is Jimmy Anyon with 31.

- The highest bowling average of Warwickshire's leading wicket-taker in a season is 36.60 by Vasbert Drakes in 2001. Anyon's average is currently 43.93.

- The worst strike-rate (the number of balls taken to claim each wicket) in Warwickshire's history is 78.81 in 1979. This year it is 81.03. The next worse by any side in either division is Worcestershire, who take a wicket, on average, every 70.93 deliveries.

- The fewest five-wicket hauls taken by Warwickshire bowlers in a season is four. This season only two have been claimed. The next worst record this season is, again, from Worcestershire, with four.

- There has not been one stumping this season. The only previous occurrence of that came in 1991.

- Tim Ambrose, with 840 first-class runs, is the only player in the squad with a realistic chance of achieving 1,000 runs in the season. The last time that Warwickshire failed to produce a single player who reached that target was in 1919.

- The last time Warwickshire produced a home-grown specialist seamer that went on to win his county cap was 1977. His name was Steve Perryman.

Not a pretty picture, is it? Yet there is hope. Each of the Warwickshire batsmen have, at times, shown they are capable of thriving at this level. The bowlers produced their best display for several months in the defeat against Surrey. If they can combine those skills, Warwickshire may yet escape.