PREVIEW: Essex CCC v Lancashire CCC
Match Preview: Essex CCC v Lancashire CCC, Specsavers County Championship
Essex CCC v Lancashire CCC
Friday 7 – Monday 10 April
The Cloudfm County Ground
Specsavers County Championship
Lancashire will be aiming to replicate last season’s flying start to the Specsavers County Championship campaign when they travel to Chelmsford to take on Essex tomorrow.
The Red Rose hammered Nottinghamshire at Emirates Old Trafford, underpinned by Neil Wagner’s debut eleven-wicket haul, to start a run that saw them top the table in late May.
Ironically, the New Zealand left-arm seamer is set to make his debut for Essex as their new overseas player this weekend.
Glen Chapple takes charge of his first competitive fixture as coach of the county, and he has already highlighted Essex’s batting line-up as a particular strength, although former England Test captain has been Alastair Cook has been ruled out with a hip injury.
Lancashire have only ever lost one Championship match at Chelmsford, in 1935, with other defeats coming at Leyton, Clacton-on-Sea, Brentwood, Southend, Ilford and Colchester.
In fact, the Red Rose have not lost a Championship match against Essex at any venue since 1997, a run of seven draws and seven wins.
Lancashire’s last win against Essex came at Chelmsford in 2013 when, famously, they bowled the hosts out for 20 in their second innings on the way to Division Two promotion.
A repeat tomorrow? “That would be nice!” smiled Chapple.
Overseas all-rounder Ryan McLaren and fellow South African Dane Vilas are set for their Red Rose Championship debuts, while Shiv Chanderpaul should make his second debut for the county having arrived from Guyana earlier this week.
Hameed’s England team-mate Jimmy Anderson will play in this and the third round fixture against Somerset at Emirates Old Trafford (April 21-24).
Added to the signing of Wagner for the first half of the season, Essex have also permanently recruited opener Varun Chopra and wicketkeeper Adam Wheater, who both started their careers at Chelmsford.
Coached by former Yorkshire and England duo Chris Silverwood and Anthony McGrath, Essex won the Division Two title in 2016, and this will be their first top-flight campaign in seven years.
As Chapple pointed out when looking ahead to the game: “They have a really strong batting line-up”.
Tom Westley will be one to watch as he bids for England honours, while opener Nick Browne has also been mentioned as a potential international.
Ryan ten Doeschate has taken over the captaincy this season in all forms, with Ravi Bopara stepping away from the role in white ball cricket to concentrate solely on his own game.
Essex have lost retired seamers Graham Napier and David Masters, but Jamie Porter took 55 Championship wickets last year and should lead the attack.
LAST TIME OUT
Lancashire and Essex last met in the Championship at Chelmsford at the end of the 2015 campaign when the Red Rose had already been promoted.
Essex had the better of a high-scoring draw, although Anderson took 7-77 in their first-innings 394, the second best return of his first-class career.
Lancashire responded with 310 thanks to fifties for Hameed, Luis Reece and Ashwell Prince in his final first-class appearance before retirement.
It was also the last match Chapple played, although he is still registered as a player and has not officially confirmed his retirement despite admitting it is unlikely he will ever play again. Essex reached 138-3 in their second innings on day four.
WHAT THEY SAID
Alex Davies is relishing his first Championship appearance since last May following knee surgery.
The Lancashire wicketkeeper scored 80, as an opening batsman, and 50 lower down the order in the recent first-class win at Cambridge, and he can’t wait to contribute to what he expects will be a successful summer for the county.
“It was quite a long year last year after being one that I’d targeted to do really well in. Obviously, four or five games in, it got cut short,” he said.
“I’d set goals last year, and not being able to achieve them because of the injury was tough. I’ve set my goals this year, and I’m going to achieve them. It’s going to be a big year.” Davies continued: “It’s a brilliant squad at the minute, and I think we can do big things this year.
“There’s great depth, which brings competition for places. That can only be healthy. We have signed some experience in the batting department, and there’s a lot of local and young talent around too. The second team is going to be really strong this year, which just shows how much depth we do have.”
On this fixture, he added: “It’s never an easy place to go, Chelmsford. We've just got to concentrate on doing what we do well and stick to our plans. Hopefully over four days we can show our class and get that first win on the board.”
HOW TO FOLLOW
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