Essex will once again be looking for their bowling unit to click together in the T20 Blast when they make the trip to Sussex for their second game in two nights.
Having had a disappointing start to the season with one win from their first four games, the Eagles have been rejuvenated in recent weeks with successive victories over Surrey and Gloucestershire, keeping them in touch with the South Group front-runners.
Essex boast a plethora of international pedigree and T20 experience, but an inability for the team to click as one entity had hampered them in the early stages of the season. The pieces seemed to fit together against Gloucestershire last time out however, with Mark Pettini’s 68 leading the Eagles to 181 – despite a batting collapse at Chelmsford – and then Tom Westley, David Masters and Graham Napier following it up by bowling with guile and nerve for an 18-run victory.
Sussex, meanwhile, languish just one spot off the bottom of the division but with plenty of games still to go, and holding some in hand over the teams above, the Sharks will have little concern at this early stage. Two wins and two defeats makes for a steady, if unspectacular, start for the Hove outfit, with a win tonight – in their first game in the format in two weeks – surely kickstarting their bid to make the last eight.
The Sharks were on the end of a mauling in their last clash, with Middlesex racking up 221 for two from their 20 overs, a score 42 runs too steep for Sussex despite Luke Wright’s 91 from just 47 balls.
Wright was also the undoubted star the last time these two sides met, making a domestic best of 153* at Chelmsford in July 2014 as Sussex chased down 225 with nine balls to spare. With Tom Westley also making a hundred in that game, could fireworks be in store at Hove?
There’s only one candidate for Sussex’s key man, with Luke Wright in decent form for Sussex this season, not to mention his history against the Eagles. He may have passed 50 only once this season, but three efforts of 30+ have been crucial for the Sharks. Wright’s ability to change an innings makes him a marked threat for the Eagles, whose bowling unit has not been as disciplined as they would have liked so far this term. Whether Wright can take advantage however, is another matter.
Two half-centuries so far this season is good going for Ryan ten Doeschate, but failing to get past 21 in his last three innings will be a concern for the Dutch international. The 34-year old averages 30 in the shortest format, and he’ll be looking to all of his 253-game strong T20 experience to keep Essex’s momentum high in their bid for the last eight.
Sussex continue to be without a plethora of fast bowlers, with Chris Jordan in the England squad while Ajmal Shahzad, James Anyon and Lewis Hatchett are still on the treatment table. Chris Nash is set to play his 100th T20 in England.
Sussex Sharks squad: Luke Wright (c), Will Beer, Ben Brown (wk), Craig Cachopa, Harry Finch, Mahela Jayawardene, Chris Liddle, Matt Machan, Tymal Mills, Chris Nash, Stefan Piolet, Oliver Robinson, Michael Yardy
With Essex playing last night, the Eagles named a squad for both games, with Alastair Cook missing out having played last week.
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
Weather and Conditions
A cloudy day is expected at Hove, with perhaps the chance of an odd shower when the evening comes around. Fingers crossed we should get a full game on the South Coast.
Date: Friday 12th June 2015
Ground: BrightonandHovejobs County Ground, Hove
Umpires: Martin Bodenham and Nigel Cowley
Odds (SkyBet): Sussex 4/5, Essex evens