ROSS Whiteley has been called into the Worcestershire CCC senior squad for the first time this season as Worcestershire host Derbyshire today at New Road in the LV=Insurance County Championship.

Head coach Alex Gidman says the all-rounder “fully deserves the opportunity” after his performances for the second team, which has seen him rack-up knocks of 109 not out versus Lancashire and 92 against Somerset.

Gidman said: “We said at the beginning of the season that, for those guys not in the first team, it is about going away, putting a run of performances together and trying to put pressure on the first team players.

“There have been a couple who have done that really well, and especially Ross, competing against those guys in the middle order, he has done everything anyone could have asked for.

“Ross fully deserves the opportunity now to come into the first team and try and repeat what he has been doing in the second team in the first team environment.

“He is an option to bowl a couple of spells if that is what Joe (Leach) feels is what is needed. Being a left armer, he brings a different option and quite often, Ross has the knack of breaking a partnership or getting a wicket when you need it.”

Whiteley is part of a 12 strong squad for the match that begins this morning (11AM).

Bowler Ed Barnard returns to the squad after being rested for the last game against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge after playing in the opening six games.

The game will see spectators back in the ground for the first time in 20 months and Gidman is hopeful that will spur the team on to find their first win of the 2021 season.

“For us, although we’ve had a lot of cricket, it feels like a fresh start," he said.

"The lads have been chatting about having fans back at New Road. We’ve missed the familiar and friendly faces and we know they are a knowledgeable supporter base, and they will get behind the team.

“Really looking to seeing them again, albeit from a distance, and we hope they enjoy the cricket, and the lads are looking forward to seeing them too.”