Essex and Hampshire lock horns at Chelmsford on Friday night with both teams fighting to boost their hopes of T20 Blast success. Whilst neither side can secure qualification with a win, it will be a huge step in the right direction heading into the final few weeks of the campaign.
Essex had a poor start to their T20 campaign but have bounced back with four wins in their last five matches. Ravi Bopara tops the batting and bowling averages for the Eagles and is full of confidence after a man-of-the-match performance against Glamorgan last week. He has been supported well at the top of the order by Tom Westley who has continued his excellent form from the 2014 season. The power hitting is provided by Jesse Ryder and Ryan ten Doeschate who are both due a big score.
The bowling attack appears settled with Reece Topley back from his experience with the England squad. Shaun Tait comes into the match as the leading wicket-taker in domestic T20 cricket and his battle with James Vince and Michael Carberry could decide the outcome of the match.
Hampshire are renowned as one of the strongest T20 teams in the country and look set to qualify for the quarter finals again this year. Despite suffering a setback in their last outing against Sussex, they still have the potential to stop the Eagles’ in their tracks. Vince is one of the best young players in the country whilst Owais Shah and Michael Carberry have also been in fine form this season.
Jackson Bird’s arrival has boosted the pace attack with Chris Wood and Yasir Arafat proven performers at the death. The spin of Danny Briggs and Will Smith completes a potent line up that should trouble the home side.
Hampshire have won the last six T20 matches between the sides and will be aiming to stretch that run with victory in front of a partisan Chelmsford crowd on Friday night.
Essex have a plethora of world class performers but it has been the return of Mark Pettini which has made the difference in recent weeks. The right-hander has struck two fifties in his six outings in 2015 and is the perfect foil for Ryder at the top of the innings. Pettini remains Essex’s most capped T20 player and he will need all of his experience against a talented Hampshire bowling line up.
Yasir Arafat remains a key component of the Hampshire team with his lower order hitting and expert death bowling making him a dangerous player. Second only to Lasith Malinga in the T20 wicket-taking stakes, the former Pakistan international is having another good season with ten scalps to his name. Whilst he is unlikely to find any reverse swing at Chelmsford, his toe crushing yorkers could prove decisive in a tight match.
Essex are sweating on the fitness of experienced seamer David Masters who sat out the County Championship game this week with a groin strain. If Masters is available, Paul Grayson is expected to name an unchanged side from last week’s win over Glamorgan, with Aron Nijjar and Kishen Velani missing out.
Essex Eagles squad: Ryan ten Doeschate (c), Ravi Bopara, Nick Browne, James Foster (wk), David Masters, Graham Napier, Aron Nijjar, Mark Pettini, Jesse Ryder, Shaun Tait, Reece Topley, Kishen Velani, Tom Westley
Sean Ervine does not make the trip to Chelmsford with a fractured finger suffered against Somerset ruling him out for the next few weeks. James Vince returns from international duty to lead the team whilst Owais Shah will be eager to put in a strong performance against his former side.
Hampshire squad: James Vince (c), Jimmy Adams, Yasir Arafat, Gareth Berg, Jackson Bird, Danny Briggs, Michael Carberry, Liam Dawson, Joe Gatting, Owais Shah, Will Smith, Adam Wheater (wk), Mark Wood
Weather and conditions
A pleasant midsummer evening is forecast at Chelmsford on Friday with temperatures hitting 20˚C. The pitch is expected to be another belter with the average score in T20 this season at the ground being 178. The short boundaries and warm conditions could mean the bowlers are in for more punishment, especially if the likes of Ryder and Carberry get going.
Date: 26th June 2015
Ground: County Ground, Chelmsford
Umpires: Peter Hartley and Martin Saggers
Odds (Bet365): Essex 1/1, Hampshire 4/5