Club Captain Joe Leach is looking for Worcestershire CCC to build on the successful formula displayed in red-ball cricket last season – and produce the same consistency over an entire campaign.
He and his teammates put together a series of highly encouraging displays in the five-game Bob Willis Trophy after two disappointing years in four-day cricket.
They were in contention for a Lord’s final spot until the final afternoon of the group stages after scoring heavily throughout the competition and having a potent attack.
Leach said: “You have to bottom out to come back up, but you learn from the highs and the lows. We’ve learnt so much as a group from 2018 and 2019.
“Our problem in the past has been consistency. We feel like we’ve come across a formula and way of playing we think will make us more consistent over a long time.
“We saw the green shoots of that last year, and it’s now up to us to kick on and develop that over an entire season.
“I’m excited how that is going to play out over a full season. It’s a tough group, but we are confident we can do well in it.
“Look, it’s straightforward to say in mid-March, but we feel we are in a really good spot.
“It’s just about trying to get back what we were doing last year as quickly as we possibly can.”
Leach praised the squad for the way they have adapted to training during COVID-19.
He said: “There is no question about it; it is extraordinary. Everything we have done since we came back last June has been very strange.
“What I would say is that the guys have adapted well to it.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to get out and train. We all love playing cricket, so for us to go and be able to do that, especially in these times, I think everyone does appreciate how fortunate they are.
“They have thrown themselves into training and, considering how different it has had to be, I would say the training results will be as normal as you can make them throughout the winter.
“The guys are as fit as ever, and the cricket we’ve had at Malvern has been slightly condensed time-wise but not quality-wise.”
Leach says squad depth, particularly in the bowling department, will be crucial during a full-on opening two months of red-ball cricket.
He said: “That schedule is pretty brutal for the bowlers. I think it’s nine games in 11 weeks, and having squad depth will be very important.
“There is no getting away from that, just as our squad depth shone through last year just over a five-game season.
“It probably sounds not a lot to some people, but the way four-day cricket is played now, and the way some of the big quick lads run in, we need them to be at a level – and for them to do that we are going to have to pull them out occasionally. That is just fact.
“Us having a squad that is exciting as it is, and has deep as it is, is what gives me cause for optimism moving forward, whereas, in the past, it has been slightly precarious relying on 10, 11, 12 players.
“We’ve got a really deep squad which I feel is good and important.”
Leach has highlighted the importance of “big runs” being scored by the lower order as part of the make-up of successful sides in four-day cricket.
Leach has set his sights on becoming a genuine all-rounder after his role in the side has come full circle since he scored a superb County Championship century, batting at number six against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham in 2013.
He has evolved into the County’s ‘go-to’ bowler, and 300 plus wickets since becoming a regular member of the side in 2015 bears testament to his sterling achievements, including a three-season golden run of 59, 65 and 69 scalps.
The 30-year-old is now occupying a spot further down the order given the strength in the batting line-up’s strength but wants to score heavily enough to bat higher again.
Leach said: “My mindset is very much like it was at the start of my career. I want to be an all-rounder; I want to score more runs and look at the successful four-day sides over the past ten years regarding the value to the side.
“They bat deep, so the onus is on Ben (Cox), Ed (Barnard) and myself to start scoring big runs. I would challenge us to do more than we have in recent years.”
“If we couple that with an improvement in the top six, as seen last season, if you are scoring a lot of runs, you are going to win games of cricket.
“Runs are a currency. You’ve got to get 20 wickets, but runs are the currency in four-day cricket for us.
“If we can score enough runs, we will bowl sides out. I’m very confident of that.”
Leach is looking to climb back up the batting order.
He said: “In short, I don’t see my batting as a bonus. I feel I would like to contribute more if I’m honest. I’m batting lower than I would like, but that’s down to me.
“I need to force my way up the order, and you do that by scoring runs.
“I’ve worked hard on my batting since my stress fracture. In 2019 my batting was pretty good. I got a couple of fifties and some not outs.
“Last year, I didn’t really get a chance because we batted so well as a top-six unit.
“At the start of my captaincy, I probably did think batting was a bit of a bonus, whereas now I’m certainly not thinking like that.”