|Venue: Lord’s Date: Tuesday, 28 September – Saturday, 2 October|
|Coverage: Live text and report on BBC Sport website, radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra & BBC Sport app.|
English county cricket will experience its latest end to a first-class season when Warwickshire take on Lancashire in the Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord’s, starting on Tuesday.
The Bear and Ragged Staff against the Red Rose, at the home of cricket.
County champions v runners-up over five days to decide who follows Essex as winners of the Bob Willis Trophy.
But is it a slightly unnecessary game at the end of a six-month domestic season or the showpiece occasion Lord’s deserves?
Warwickshire skipper Will Rhodes is in no doubt.
“Whenever we go to Lord’s, it’s very special,” said Rhodes, who hit 118 there when the Bears last visited, for a Championship game with Middlesex in July 2018.
“And it’s another trophy up for grabs but there are some very tired bodies. We maybe might make a couple of changes, but hopefully not too many.
“To finish in the top two was always the aim. To be champions and be captain and to take the winning catch was the icing on the cake for me. But this is still a chance for more silverware.”
Rhodes is one of four Bears players potentially on duty for the next five days who were also in that team which lost to Middlesex three years ago, along with Dom Sibley, Sam Hain and Chris Woakes.
The Chris Woakes factor
Whether Warwickshire will still be allowed to have the Woakes factor at Lord’s remains to be seen.
Like Bears captain Rhodes, the England all-rounder is pretty fond of the place too.
The last time he visited Lord’s was in 2019 when, in the space of little over a month, he took 3-37 to help England beat New Zealand to win the World Cup, a Test-best 6-17 to rout Ireland and then hit 32 and claimed another three wickets in the second Ashes Test against Australia.
Woakes, the only remaining member of the last Bears side to win the title in 2012 when he played nine matches, was a key weapon last week, tirelessly bowling 46.3 overs and taking six wickets for the second game running.
And, after helping to win a first title in nine years thanks to those successive wins over Yorkshire and Somerset, he admitted: “This is still quite a young group with more success in them.
“I was only a young pup when we won in 2012 and I’ve not even had a sniff of winning it again in nine years since. But, having lost a fair few senior players over the last few years, we now have some good players here with a lot of time ahead of them.”
But he was only able to return to the Warwickshire squad for their last two games – his first Championship appearances in three years – after being released by England because of the Covid cancellation of the fifth Test against India at Emirates Old Trafford.
And, if the Lord’s game goes the distance until Saturday – and there is every chance of that given the weather forecast on Thursday and Friday – then that will be 15 days before the T20 World Cup 2021 begins in the United Arab Emirates and Oman, although England’s first game is not until 23 October against West Indies in Dubai.
Can Lancashire get revenge?
Lancashire have already done the Bears one favour in the past week.
If their last pair had not held out for a breathless one-wicket win over Hampshire at Aigburth, then James Vince’s side would have won the title and not the Bears.
As it was Dane Vilas played a superb captain’s innings to see his side over the line, only for Lancashire to then get pipped for the title by Warwickshire the following day.
Now they have a chance of revenge against a Bears side who they drew with in a game of three centurions in Manchester a month ago – Josh Bohannon, Chris Benjamin and Hain – in the first game after the Championship restart.
The Red Rose won on their last visit to Lord’s in April 2019 and a repeat would provide the ideal send-off for Lancashire director of cricket Paul Allott, who is stepping down from his role.
The 65-year-old former Lancashire and England fast bowler sees it as the perfect stage to end the season and honour an old team-mate, both for England and later in the TV commentary box with Sky Sports.
“Bob was a great friend of mine,” said Allott, who made his debut for England alongside Willis at Old Trafford in the fifth Test of the famous 1981 Ashes series.
“We’ll be doing all we can to try and win it,” he told BBC Radio Lancashire. “It would be great to sign off for the season with the Bob Willis Trophy.
“It will be nice to play that game at Lord’s to end our season. It’s also a lovely way to honour his memory.”