Moeen Ali in charge as Worcestershire Rapids look to tame the Bears
Moeen Ali is back to captain holders Worcestershire Rapids as they return to the scene of last season’s Vitality Blast triumph for the first of two vital matches in the space of 36 hours.
The England all-rounder played a major role on finals day at Edgbaston with bat and ball last September when the Rapids defeated Lancashire and Sussex to lift the trophy for the first time.
Now the second-placed Rapids face Birmingham Bears tonight and then host group leaders Lancashire on Sunday afternoon knowing a brace of positive results would almost certainly secure a quarter-final spot.
But it will be a case of all change for the Rapids in terms of their batting line-up top order for the finale of the North Group.
Callum Ferguson has been forced to cut short his stay with Worcestershire for ‘personal reasons’ and flown home to Australia.
Opener Martin Guptill will play his final group game before heading off to join New Zealand’s tour of Sri Lanka for three T20Is in Kandy.
But Guptill’s compatriot, Hamish Rutherford, has stepped into the breach – along with Moeen – after the double departure via a second spell of the campaign at Blackfinch New Road.
Rutherford became only the second Worcestershire player to score a century on their first class and List A debut earlier in the campaign.
Worcestershire will be striving to put this week’s defeat against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road in the Specsavers County Championship behind them.
It was a result which ended any faint hopes of promotion and they have now gone nine games without a win in the competition.
Assistant coach-bowling coach Alan Richardson said: “We are going to get back into white ball mode and have got a big week which will hopefully lead to a quarter-final place for us.
“The boys will be looking forward to it. We’ve performed really well in white ball cricket for the past couple of years.
“We have got some confidence in the white ball and T20 and we will go into this period with good heart really.
“It will be Guppy’s last game in the qualifying period (on Friday) and the boys want to send him off on his way with a win.”
Meanwhile, the injuries continue to pile up for the Rapids with paceman Josh Tongue (side strain) out for the rest of the season and joining spin trio Brett D’Oliveira, George Rhodes and Ben Twohig on the side-lines.
But at least Moeen’s return will give them some ammunition in the slow bowling department and his one Blast appearance this season brought him figures of four for 18 at Trent Bridge.