Opposition Preview: Essex
Opposition Preview: Essex
Specsavers County Championship: Division 1 (2017 performance - 1st)
Captain: Ryan ten Doeschate (all formats)
Head coach: Anthony McGrath
Overseas Players: Peter Siddle (Australia; first five Championship matches); Neil Wagner (New Zealand; from May to end of July with option to extend; all formats); Adam Zampa (Australia; T20 only)
Other Ins: Matt Coles (Kent), Feroze Khushi (Academy)
Outs: Kishen Velani (released)
Man on a Mission - Matt Coles. Three weeks after lifting the Specsavers County Championship trophy, Essex made a decisive, if controversial move to bolster their playing strengths. Into a settled, winning and harmonious squad came the imposing figure of Kent all-rounder Matt Coles, he of well-documented off- and on-field misdemeanours. Some viewed it an unnecessary punt. However, the 27-year-old is at a stage where he needs to put regrets behind him and make his undoubted talents less mercurial, and more consistent. Essex say they have taken him as they find him, and been impressed with his application thus far. It might prove to be an inspired signing.
Local Hero - Sam Cook. With approximately two-thirds of the first-team squad coming through the Essex Academy, the champions have an abundance of local heroes. But none arguably more local than Sam Cook, who was born and raised within five minutes of The Cloudfm County Ground in Chelmsford. The strike bowler claimed 18 wickets, and two five-wicket hauls, in the final four Specsavers County Championship games of last season to earn instant ‘hero’ status. With a first professional contract in his back pocket, the 20-year-old former Loughborough University student has the nascent ability to build on that stunning start to his career.
Prospects for 2018
With the exception of Mohammad Amir – and he only played two and a half games in the Championship, albeit one to devastating effect – the champions retain the same squad for their title defence. In addition, the former Australian Test bowler Peter Siddle will play the part of Amir for the first five Championship games after which Neil Wagner returns to reprise his role in the success of 2017. Furthermore, the acquisition of all-rounder Matt Coles will bolster both bowling and batting.
While Essex have the resources necessary to mount a successful campaign, much will depend on the recruitment programmes of Division One rivals who were left foundering by 72 points – and more – last season.
In Alastair Cook, Nick Browne, Tom Westley, Varun Chopra and veteran captain Ryan ten Doeschate, to name just five, Essex have a batting unit that can put runs on the board; with Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer (147 wickets between them), plus Siddle/Wagner and back-up from the likes of Sam Cook, Paul Walter and Matt Quinn, the bowlers are capable of knocking over teams twice. Again, there is more than adequate cover for every position, every eventuality.
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