WORCESTERSHIRE will take a youthful squad to Taunton today for a two-day friendly match with Somerset as their pre-season preparations gather pace.

With the likes of Alan Richardson and Moeen Ali out in Abu Dhabi representing the MCC against reigning LV= county champions Lancashire in English cricket’s traditional curtain-raiser and Alexei Kervezee playing for the Netherlands in ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers in Dubai, the County are a little light on experience.

New Road director of cricket Steve Rhodes has challenged his youngsters to prove they merit a place in the Worcestershire first XI but young spinner Brett D’Oliveira has been ruled out of the trip due to illness.

Rhodes said: “Obviously we are missing a few players so we will have quite a young squad.

“It is a learning curve for them and a good chance to impress.

“They all want to be playing regular first-team cricket and this gives them an opportunity to do that.

“There will be a bit of apprehension going into these early warm-up games – even for those guys who have been playing cricket overseas during the winter – as the conditions will be different to what they have got used to.

“However, they are all back together with their mates now and we are all really looking forward to it.

“They have been looking OK in training so far, but we’ve only had a couple of days in the outdoor nets, so it’s still early doors.

“It is quite nice that the weather has been good this week and they definitely feel like playing cricket with the sun on their backs. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in an actual match this early in the year.”

Rhodes has been able to include senior players such as Vikram Solanki, captain Daryl Mitchell and new seam-bowling signing David Lucas.

The county chief added: “David has been with us all winter, settled in well and is looking good in the nets. Hopefully he will be able to settle in as well as Alan did when we signed him.

“Somerset have had a game already, which is hard to believe as we’re still in March, and they lost out to Glamorgan in a two-day game earlier this week.

“They will be missing a few players too, but have a very good squad and, as well as being interested in bringing in Ricky Ponting for a spell towards the end of the season, they have plenty of quality home-based players, such as Marcus Trescothick, Craig Kieswetter, Alfonso Thomas and Peter Trego.”

Squad: Mitchell, Solanki, Scott, Lucas, Cameron, Pinner, Pardoe, Manuel, Choudhry, Jones, Harrison, Shantry.