Skipper Joe Leach “can’t wait” for the start of the 2018 season to start and the chance for Worcestershire to face some of the leading overseas and England players in the opening weeks in the Specsavers County Championship.

The County will come up against South African legend Hashim Amla in tomorrow’s first game with Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.

The likes of England’s record run scorer Alastair Cook and second highest wicket-taker in Stuart Broad will also be on duty against the County for Essex and Nottinghamshire respectively in the first few blocks of four-day matches.

But Leach, who led the County to the Division Two title last summer, says testing yourselves against players of that quality is a challenge the Worcestershire players are looking forward to.

He said: “We are raring to go and can’t wait. It’s been a long winter and we’ve been back from tour (in Abu Dhabi) for three weeks so we are all ready to go.

“A bit of cabin fever sets in inside and we just need to go outside and get some cricket in.

“We started well last summer and that set up our season, not only in red ball cricket but also in the 50 over competition as well.

“We took the momentum from that four-day cricket and, yes, it’s a big first month-six weeks.

“With three away games in the first matches, it’s going to be a challenging start to the season but we are really excited.”

Leach added: “We want to test ourselves against people like Hashim Amla and, looking at the release dates of the England players as well, it looks like we will be facing all of them and that’s what we want to be in the top flight for.

“We need to go toe to toe with these guys and hopefully beat them and that’s how the group is going to go from strength to strength now.”