Gloucestershire have the chance to put themselves firmly in charge of the South Division when they visit Essex for a T20 Blast clash on Thursday evening.
For a team written off by many before a ball was bowled this season, Gloucestershire sit pretty in second place in the South Group, and a victory against Essex would take Michael Klinger’s men to the summit with a game in hand on their closest challengers.
Essex will be looking for a victory of their own to kick-start their Blast campaign. Four defeats in the first five games had threatened to derail the Eagles’ season, but a win over Surrey last week has kept Head Coach Paul Grayson confident of pushing for a spot in the last eight.
He said: “I was very pleased with the manner of the win, although Surrey got a few more runs than we would have liked towards the end of their innings. But generally, I thought we bowled well and then produced a good run-chase.
“It was vital that we got a win after some disappointing results and hopefully, we can carry the momentum from that victory into these next two or three games in this format.”
The inability to make Chelmsford the fortress it’s been in recent seasons has been a concern for the Essex faithful, who have seen five T20 home defeats in a row. Given the explosive capabilities of the likes of Ryan ten Doeschate and Jesse Ryder, the fans will be wanting some fireworks pretty quickly- last time out, it was Tom Westley and Ravi Bopara who starred with half-centuries. Stemming the runs with the ball will therefore be the order of the day for a bowling unit who have seemingly not been at full strength so far this season.
A trip to Chelmsford marks the start of a big weekend for the 2007 runners-up, with a home tie against Glamorgan and a visit to Middlesex on the minds of a Gloucestershire team who have yet to win this competition since its inception 12 years ago. A strong four days, and as much as one foot could be in the quarter-finals even at this stage.
The two have already faced-off so far this season, with Gloucestershire getting the better of their counterparts at Bristol, with Klinger’s superb century leading the hosts to a 39-run victory as Essex’s batting line-up collapsed around Westley and ten Doeschate – Tom Smith’s chief architect of the destruction with five wickets.
All-rounder Jesse Ryder is capable of taking a T20 by the scruff of the neck on his given day, and Essex will be looking for him to do just that. The New Zealander has not hit his straps thus far, with just one score above 20 in his five innings to date, although his explosive 54 from just 28 balls against Somerset more than displayed his abilities as he looks to replicate an impressive four-day game against Northants. Ryder, despite being canny with the ball, has only been used once so far this season – taking one for 28 from three overs against Hampshire.
Essex have proved to be a welcome opponent for Tom Smith, with the spinner averaging just 15.71 against the Eagles. He also starred in their previous clash in May, taking the second five-wicket haul of his career as well as a hattrick for his troubles. It’s also worth keeping an eye on Michael Klinger, who has played two games so far this season – a 126* v Essex alongside an unbeaten 69.
Essex have named a 13-man squad for their game against Gloucestershire as well as their trip to Sussex on Friday night. Alastair Cook is unavailable, despite playing in the success against Surrey, but Mark Pettini returns from a hip injury.
Essex Eagles squad: Ryan ten Doeschate (c), Ravi Bopara, Nick Browne, James Foster (wk), David Masters, Graham Napier, Mark Pettini, Jesse Ryder, Greg Smith, Shaun Tait, Reece Topley, Kishen Velani, Tom Westley,
With three games in four days, Gloucestershire have elected to name a 15-man squad with some cross-country trips in the schedule for Klinger and co. Hamish Marshall is named in the squad, but is unlikely to play against Essex due to a calf injury, while Miles Hammond is included.
Gloucestershire squad: Michael Klinger (c), Ian Cockbain, Chris Dent, James Fuller, Miles Hammond, Peter Handscomb, Benny Howell, Geraint Jones (wk), Hamish Marshall, Robin Montgomery, Kieran Noema-Barnett, David Payne, Tom Smith, Jack Taylor, Matt Taylor
Weather and Conditions
Sun, sun and more sun. There’s a glorious evening in store at the ECG, with barely a cloud in the sky, and with short boundaries at a batting friendly Chelmsford track, expect runs aplenty and an entertaining game in store.
Date: Thursday 11th June 2015
Ground: County Ground, Chelmsford
Umpires: Garrett and Lloyd
Odds: Essex 8/13. Gloucestershire 5/4