Two mid-table sides meet at Bristol in Division Two of the Championship this week: Gloucestershire are in seventh place on 72 points, while Essex are one point ahead in sixth position.
Essex come to Nevil Road in better heart than a month ago when they last visited Bristol in a T20 fixture, and were soundly beaten. This was the second time that Gloucestershire had beaten them this season. In early May the Chelmsford side were defeated easily by nine wickets.
Essex will be feeling more positive as a result of their victory, by an innings and 31 runs, in last week’s Championship match against Derbyshire at Chelmsford, only their second red-ball win of the summer. This win lifted them from the bottom of the table, an unexpected position in light of how many commentators tipped them for promotion this season. It is very much to their credit that this welcome victory was achieved without their main spearhead seam bowlers, David Masters and Reece Topley, both of whom were injured. Coach Paul Grayson will also be delighted that six of his batsmen scored over 50 in the Essex total of 473.
Gloucestershire did not play in the Championship last week, so their last match was the 91 run defeat against Lancashire at Bristol two weeks ago. The home side matched Lancashire for all of the match until after lunch on the last day, when their pursuit of an apparently obtainable 252 in the fourth innings was derailed on the last afternoon by the leaders’ seam attack.
The home side will be looking to break their Championship duck at Nevil Road for this season- all three matches ending in defeat, while the visitors will be keen to gain their first victory away from Chelmsford.
In a week which has seen the emergence of dashing young England batters on the international scene, it’s encouraging to note that there is plenty of batting talent coming through in the county game. Two of the more promising young opening batsmen are on show in this game in the shape of Will Tavare and Nick Browne.
Gloucestershire’s Will Tavare is enjoying a second season which looks as if it will be as successful as his first in 2014. He has scored over 400 runs at just under 40 and has forged a solid opening partnership with Chris Dent. Like partner Dent, Tavare is a local boy, a Bristolian who came through the county’s academy. When he first made it to the first team it was inevitable that he would be introduced as Chris Tavare’s nephew. Now he is busy forging an identity of his own as a highly promising young right-handed batter who plays straight and scores runs at a decent pace.
Nick Browne of Essex is a specialist opener like Tavare, albeit left- handed, who too has scored over 400 runs this season for an average in the mid-30s. Like Tavare he is a local boy, born in Leytonstone, East London and in his second season. He gained attention last season by hitting two centuries in the match at Chesterfield against Derbyshire in only his seventh senior appearance and has already scored a big hundred this season: 143 against Surrey at the Oval in April.
Gloucestershire will wait on a number of late fitness tests before naming their squad. Seamer Matt Taylor is ruled out with a back problem, but Hamish Marshall may return after injury kept him out of the last Championship match. Wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick may play as a batsman after making a good recovery from a thumb injury, but will not be fit enough to keep wicket.
Gloucestershire squad: Chris Dent, Will Tavare, Michael Klinger, Gareth Roderick, Hamish Marshall, Geraint Jones (c), Benny Howell, Jack Taylor, David Payne, Liam Norwell, Craig Miles, Cameron Herring (wk)
Essex are without opening bowlers Reece Topley (on England T20 duty) and David Masters (groin strain).
Essex squad: Alastair Cook, Nick Browne, Tom Westley, Ravi Bopara, Jesse Ryder, Ryan ten Doeschate, Dan Lawrence, James Foster (c/wk) Graham Napier, Matt Salisbury, Jamie Porter, Aron Nijjar.
Weather and conditions
The weather forecast for Bristol for the duration of the match is mainly dry although there is some rain likely on day two.
Date: 21-24 June 2015.
Ground: The County Ground, Nevil Road, Bristol.
Umpires: Jeremy Lloyds and Stephen Gale
Odds (SkyBet): Gloucestershire evens, Essex 8/11