Warwickshire's strength in depth continues to be tested as injuries and international call-ups threaten to under-mine the start of their County Championship campaign.

All at the club will delight in Alex Loudon's inclusion in the England A team to to play Sri Lanka at Worcester from next Thursday, but it does come at a most inopportune time for Warwickshire.

It means that he will be unavailable for the Championship match at Trent Bridge next week, on a pitch which usually encourages spinners, leaving his county without any semblance of a senior spin bowler.

Daniel Vettori does not arrive until May 11 while Ashley Giles is at least six weeks away from a return.

Although Ian Bell's return for that match will more than compensate for Loudon's input with the bat, his departure will affect the balance of the side. Unless the management decide to go into the match with a seam-only attack, a batsman or seamer will have to make way for either of the teenagers, Nick James or Moeen Ali.

It is worth noting that Jason Gillespie, who makes his Yorkshire debut today, was playing Test cricket in Bangladesh as recently as last Thursday. Bell, meanwhile, is obliged to rest, despite having batted only twice in the last month . . .

Central contracts have proved a key part of England's Test resurgence but it would be nice if Duncan Fletcher would wield his power a little more delicately. Those who criticise county cricket for not being self-financing might consider the obstacles placed before it. The England and Wales Cricket Board have meddled with competitions, offended sponsors, pilfered the best players and imposed penalties on counties who dare to put members first.

The addition of an A-team is a most unwelcome addition to the season. It once again dilutes the strength of county cricket and increases the danger of the doom-mongers' prophecies becoming self-fulfilling.

The county members are the true 'stakeholders' of cricket. They are the ones paying their county subs; their subscriptions to Sky Sports. They own county cricket. Yet their opinions are ignored; their interests scorned. It can continue for only so long.

Of more immediate concern, as cricket makes a welcome return to Edgbaston, is the fitness of Dougie Brown. Although fears that the allrounder had suffered an intercostal muscle tear look to have been allayed, Brown will have a fitness test before this morning's start of the Championship match against York-shire. He will not be risked if there is any danger at all of aggravating the problem.

Just as labels of 'the new Botham' appeared to weigh down a generation of allrounders, so replacing Brown at Warwickshire may prove daunting. That, however, is the burden that could fall to Tim Groenewald. A bowler of sharpish pace and a batsman who likes to lay bat on ball, 21-year-old Groenewald has large shoes to fill but is, at least, a cricketer of similar style.

Both wicketkeepers (Tim Ambrose and Tony Frost) came through the first day of yesterday's second XI friendly against Loughborough. They kept for a session-and-a-half each with Ambrose taking two catches and Frost a catch and a stumping.

A decision will be made on them this morning after an assessment on their fitness and form.

Moeen Ali issued a timely reminder of his own all-round abilities against Loughborough. He claimed four for 46 in a 13-over second spell of spin bowling while Adam Shantry (three for 50) also impressed with his swing bowling.

Will Gifford, who is on the staff at Worcestershire, scored 82 for the students and added 130 for the third wicket with David Holt. The students were dismissed for 303.

In Gillespie, meanwhile, Yorkshire have a gem: a world-class fast bowler with a point to prove. It remains to be seen if he can ever recover his finest form but he is only 31 and remains hungry to cement a place in the Australian Test side.

At his best, he was a great bowler. If he is anywhere near recovering that form, Warwickshire's batsmen will face a stern examination.

He cannot have the best memories of Edgbaston - two losses in three Tests, including last summer's epic - but is in form with bat and ball and could prove an inspired signing.