Alex Gidman says Worcestershire are “confident and looking forward” to the new season in the Specsavers County Championship.

The County have completed their 12 days of build-up cricket – five in Abu Dhabi and seven in this country – ahead of Thursday’s visit to the Fischer County Ground in which New Zealand batsman Hamish Rutherford will make his debut.

Now the action starts for real in red ball cricket with Worcestershire striving to regain their top flight status at the first attempt.

First Team Coach Gidman feels the squad, coaches and support staff are in a “good place” approaching the 2019 season although he dismisses the theory that there are only two or three good teams in the division.

He said: “The guys are ready for competitive cricket now. It’s been a good pre-season. Alan and I have learnt a lot about the players. We’ve played some good cricket, and some that we’ve not been as happy with’’

“But, on the whole, and as a squad of 11, 12 going to Leicester, we are certainly ready to get going properly now and the players are excited’’

“Have I a few butterflies? Not at all. It’s not about me at all. The players have worked really hard, they’re relaxed and as comfortable as they can be’’

“We are in a really good place as a whole unit. Everyone is trying their utmost, the players, coaches and support staff’’

“I’m very comfortable with what we’ve all done, the players feel confident and relaxed enough to go and enjoy doing the thing they love.”

Gidman added: “We’ve done our planning for Thursday and Leicestershire need to be well respected on the back of their victory down at Sussex.

“They’ve won six games out of the last 15 (in the Championship) which is a very good return and they are a very competitive, well organised team.

“A lot of people have spoken about there being ‘two or three good teams in Division Two and that’s about it’ – but I couldn’t disagree more.

“As a group of players and coaches, we will not look at anything other than what’s right in front of us. Right now that’s preparing for Leicestershire and taking it a ball at a time.

“I’ve said before its very dangerous to look too far ahead and predict what we should or shouldn’t be doing. This game has a wonderful way of biting you on the backside if you are not careful.

“I think this is a very strong division with competitive teams throughout it, and you only have to look at the results from the first week to recognise that.

“We will focus on our own cricket and what we believe we need to do well to in every game we play to give ourselves a good chance of winning’’

Gidman has named a 12 man squad including Rutherford who flew in on Sunday for a three week spell as the County’s early season overseas player.

He said: “Hamish has settled in very quickly. He’s been here a few days, trained really well on Tuesday and he will have a practice at Leicester.

“He has vast experience and, anytime you bring any cricketer into your group that has played international cricket, it adds a huge amount.

“Although it is only for one (Championship) game, we are looking forward to having him around the group up at Leicester and for the 50 over competition.

“I’m really looking forward to watching him play to be honest. He comes with a really good reputation as a player and as a person.”

Ben Cox will lead the side while club captain Joe Leach continues his final programme of rehab after a stress fracture of the back.

Worcestershire (from) :

Mitchell

Fell

D’Oliveira

Rutherford

Wessels

Whiteley

Cox (wicket-keeper and captain)

Barnard

Parnell

Tongue

Morris

Finch