Despite the influence of Kolpaks this weekend and the hindrance of a points deduction in their previous match, director of cricket Steve Rhodes is confident that Worcestershire can keep apace with the front-runners in Division Two.
Their four-day match against Derbyshire at Chesterfield starts today with the visitors in good spirits having recorded their first championship win of the season last Sunday against Essex.
Although they won the match within three days - and in some style - the disparity in quality between the two sides was not totally reflected in how the points were distributed after Worcestershire, who failed to gain any bonus batting points, were deducted three for a slow over-rate.
“That was disappointing,” Rhodes said. “Keeping up with the overs is something we have desperately tried to do and it is something that Vikram [Solanki, captain] and I mention all the time. Unfortunately, we could not do that against Essex and we paid the price for it.
“Three points could prove crucial in this division. It is up to us to make sure that we do not pay the price for it in the longer-term.”
The imminent ‘longer-term’ starts today against a side who, despite their lowly league position, are far from a pushover. That is largely down to the influence of Kolpak signing Charl Langevedlt, who spearheads a solid bowling attack that includes former England Test player Rikki Clarke, now Derbyshire skipper.
Rhodes is an admirer of the South African seamer and, while he sees players of Langevedlt’s ilk having a positive impact on young English cricketers, he is hardly impressed that he is playing today.
The 33-year-old, who gave The Post his views on the Kolpak debate last month when Warwickshire visited the County Ground, believes their inclusion is beneficial given the mediocre standard of first-class cricket in this country.
Rhodes, less convinced, said: “I think Langeveldt is a quality player - he has done well internationally when he has played - and in many respect he shows the good impact Kolpak players can have on a county team.
“In saying that, it seems a bit of a cheek when you can play him alongside another fine overseas cricketer in [Australian opening batsmen] Chris Rogers. But they are the rules; we have to abide by them and do our best to beat Derbyshire even with Kolpaks in their side.
“We are confident of doing that. We have been feeling really confident of winning all the games we have played this season. The difference was that we got rewarded against Essex.”
Making his debut for Derbyshire will be Wavell Hinds, the West Indian all-rounder who was confirmed as a Kolpak signing after initially being refused clearance to play for the county by the England and Wales Cricket Board. The Jamaican, who is a versatile batsman who bowls medium-pace, replaces seam bowler Kevin Dean in the Derbyshire line-up.
James Pipe, the former Worcestershire wicketkeeper, has recovered from a finger injury and will keep wicket in place of Freddie Klokker while Greg Smith is still unavailable with an arm muscle tear and fast bowler Tom Lungley has a toe injury.
For Worcestershire, Englishman Gareth Andrew comes in to replace Englishman Chris Whelan, and he will be joined by Englishman Moeen Ali in the squad, just in case the Chesterfield pitch looks likely to turn.
Rhodes said: “We have no idea what the pitch will be like. They may have taken a look at our seamers and prepared a spinning wicket, which is why we are taking Moeen. We were at Chesterfield two years ago and it was a decent wicket.”
Another interesting aside in this match will be the performance of Stephen Moore, Worcestershire’s most prolific batsman this season, who is out of contract at New Road at the end of this season and is a Derbyshire target.
The 27-year-old, who has made three first-class centuries in six matches at an average close to 70, has struggled to break into Worcestershire’s limited-overs side and could be lured by the prospect of greater opportunities in that format of the game.
Derbyshire’s chief executive, Tom Sears, formerly commercial director at New Road, revealed that his new employers’ intentions last week, although Rhodes told The Post that he was unmoved by the speculation.
Nevertheless, the spotlight will be on Moore at Chesterfield just as much as it is on Langeveldt.