Club Captain Joe Leach will be looking to continue his impressive form on his return to List A cricket when leaders Worcestershire Rapids take on Middlesex in Sunday’s Royal London Cup Group 2 encounter at New Road.
Leach has not played in that game format for three years since June 2018 until this summer, but he is certainly making up for lost time.
The 30-year-old has been a key figure with bat and ball in the Rapids trio of victories over Kent Spitfires, Gloucestershire and Essex Eagles, which have propelled into top position.
Assistant Coach Alan Richardson, who is overseeing the One-Day Cup campaign in tandem with Kadeer Ali, said: “It is something we discussed. Joe hasn’t played much white-ball cricket for about three years now.
“For him to have the opportunity to take the new ball and do what he does, he has been excellent.
“Joe has managed to pick up those early wickets for us, which makes a huge difference. He has done brilliantly well.
“He is an intelligent cricketer, with bat and ball, and leads the boys well on the field. It’s been an excellent start for him.
“There have been several lads who have outstanding starts, and we need more and more people to keep contributing throughout the eight group games.
“It’s nice Joe has led from the front, but there are going to be plenty of others helping him out as well.”
Richardson has been delighted with the overall performances by the Rapids team in contrasting victories – a massive run chase, defending a total in a rain-affected game, and posting a substantial total and bowling out the opposition cheaply.
He said: “The lads are doing us proud right now. They have taken the competition on board and are pushing themselves.
“If they continue to do that in their performances, they are going to give themselves opportunities to win.
“They have tried to stretch themselves. It has been fantastic so far in terms of outcome. To win the first three games is as good as we could have hoped for.
“You are never going to play the perfect game of cricket, no matter how short a game it is. There are going to be overs or periods in games that don’t go your way.
“But we asked the lads to deal with whatever was put in front of them, which they’ve done well so far.
“There are all sorts of ways to win games of cricket and compete in games of cricket. We’ve had three pretty different games already.
“We know we are going to lose games of cricket along the way, but, as long as we maintain what we are trying to do at the moment, it allows us to perform.
“If we do that, hopefully, we will get on the right side of some of the games.”
Richardson added: “The Essex game was as good as you could hope in terms of we put a big score on the board and then bowled well.
“They were under a bit of pressure already because of the scoreboard (total), but we doubled that pressure by the way we bowled and got those early wickets which just got us ahead of the game.
“That is always a help, and is something we talk about quite a bit, to be ahead of the game as much as possible, whether in the first or second innings, and we managed to do that for long periods on Thursday.”
Middlesex are still searching for their first win, but Richardson is aware of the quality in their squad.
He said: “You look through their squad and the guys who play for them, and there are some outstanding cricketers, a couple with international experience in Sam Robson and Peter Handscomb.
“You look at Stephen Eskinazi, James Harris, Ethan Bamber, Max Holden, who has played Lions cricket.
“They might not have had the results they wanted, but they will have a lot of experience and quality in their side, and no one in this group can take anyone else lightly.
“We will just keep concentrating on our game, and that has been a big thing for us, making sure we do our skill sets as well as we can.”
Paceman Ben Parker returns to the Worcestershire squad after a successful time for the Midlands during the Super Fours tournament at Loughborough.
He is added to the 13 players originally selected for the Essex encounter, in the 11 who played plus Jacques Banton and Henry Cullen.