Warwickshire open their Twenty20 Cup campaign today with their season at a crossroads.
It is how they react to defeat in the semi-final of the Friends Provident Trophy that will determine whether 2007 is remembered as a success or failure. Though the loss was desperately disappointing, the competition is only one of four and they must recover immediately.
As ever at Warwickshire, expectations are high. With finals day held at Edgbaston this year, a failure to reach the last four will probably be perceived as a failure. While the team should have the batting power to go that far, concern remains about the bowling. Paul Harris' return will partially offset the absence of Dale Steyn but the support bowlers look vulnerable.
The club still hope that Steyn returns for the latter part of the competition. He arrived in Ireland armed with detailed statistics about his workload in county cricket and eager to persuade the South African cricket board to let him continue his cricketing education with Warwickshire. The fact that South Africa tour England next summer might stand him in good stead.
Mark Greatbatch, Warwickshire's director of cricket, has been criticised for his decision to omit Ian Bell from The Rose Bowl line-up, some critics even suggesting that it was in some way undermining the cause of 'Team England.'
Whatever you think of the decision - and I am firmly of the opinion that it was a mistake - the England and Wales Cricket Board have no right to criticise. They scheduled a prestigious semi-final for the day after a Test while they have also previously taken players out of similar matches. Remember Bell and Ashley Giles missing the semi-final in 2005? Warwickshire should select the team they think best without any outside interference.
The decision to 'rest' Bell sets an interesting precedent, however. In July, Warwickshire have to play a four-day championship match at Canterbury, followed the next day by a match at Edgbaston. Can we expect the whole team to be rested?
There would also be some irony in Steyn's return. After all, when Bell was available for county duty, Warwickshire declined to change a winning team. Will Steyn be forced to wait if one a young bowler takes his chance in the opening matches?
It is the schedule that is most at fault. The semi-final should have been played over a weekend to allow as many spectators as possible to watch, and it should have had a reserve day. The ECB have downgraded county cricket for years and can't now decide they want to select counties' sides for them.
One man who emerged with his reputation enhanced from the disappointment at The Rose Bowl was Tim Ambrose. Warwickshire's wicketkeeper-batsman held his head while all about him were losing theirs and underlined the impression that his is a career very much in the ascendancy.
"England are not exactly top of the pile in one-day cricket," Greatbatch said. "So if they are looking at improving they should be picking Tim Ambrose.
"If there's a better one-day batsman in this country I've not seen him. The standard of his play this season has been of the highest quality. He played Shane Warne brilliantly at The Rose Bowl. And we haven't even talked about his keeping yet."
Warwickshire will resist the temptation to promote Ambrose up the order today, however. Instead, Alex Loudon will open the batting with Darren Maddy, with Ian Westwood and Vaughn van Jaarsveld competing for the final batting spot. Dougie Brown is also in the 14-man squad but highly unlikely to figure. Neil Carter, who will make his first-team return today, will have a floating role in the batting order. The club have not ruled out opening with him in some matches but expect their batsmen to be flexible.
Van Jaarsveld was recently described by Harris as "the best Twenty20 batsman in South Africa".
Today's opponents, Somerset, have a particularly strong batting line-up but are hampered by injuries and their fielding, in particular, is not the finest. Ian Blackwell, Steffan Jones and Peter Trego will miss out with injuries today while Charl Willoughby is rested.
WARWICKSHIRE: D Maddy (capt.), A Loudon, J Trott, J Troughton, V van Jaarsveld, T Ambrose (wkt), D Brown, N Carter, T Groenewald, H Streak, P Harris, L Daggett, J Anyon, I Westwood.
SOMERSET: J Langer (capt.), M Trescothick, C White, J Hildreth, C Kieswetter (wkt.), K Parsons, W Durston, A Caddick, C Willoughby, M Wood, A Suppiah, M Turner.