Essex’s win by an innings and eight runs over Hampshire this week has kept their next opponents on top of the Division One table. Twelve wickets in the match for Simon Harmer made sure his side had to bat only once, and kept the East Anglian side hot on Hampshire’s heels in third place.
However, even a full bonus point win over this week’s visitors would not see Essex overtake Somerset at the top of Division One-Somerset are 30 points better off.
Somerset had the week off, allowing some of the players to get club cricket action, while others had a much deserved rest and further chance to recover from injury niggles and knocks. One argument says this should help the West country side; the contrary suggests this could see a loss of momentum after their unbeaten start to the Championship season, and great confidence brought about by their first piece of silverware since 2005, the Royal London One Day Cup.
Essex, for their part, are unbeaten at home. Either way, this fixture sees two sides at the very top of their game clash in by far and away the pick of this County Championship round.
It simply has to be Simon Harmer for Essex on current form. Since turning his back on South Africa to sign a Kolpak agreement with Essex, he has performed even better than even his most ardent of fans could have imagined. Handy with the willow too, Harmer averages just over 17 with the ball, topping the charts with 42 Division One wickets so far, complete with five five-wicket hauls.
Tom Banton scored his maiden first-class fifty last time out, in a remarkably low scoring game amidst the showers in Canterbury. The match winning knock of 63 was more than double what any other Somerset batsman could provide, and by far and away the highest score of the mere 120 over match.
Peter Siddle looks to be recovered from the injury concern that had him miss Somerset’s last run out. Seamer Sam Cook, however, sustained a side injury in the win over Hampshire and is benched this week while the extent of the damage is investigated.
Essex squad: Ryan ten Doeschate (c),Aaron Beard, Ravi Bopara, Nick Browne, Varun Chopra, Alastair Cook, Simon Harmer, Dan Lawrence, Jamie Porter, Matt Quinn, Peter Siddle, Tom Westley, Adam Wheater
Josh Davey returns from injury and is available for selection, while Dom Bess returns from his loan spell at Yorkshire.
Somerset squad: Tom Abell (c), Azhar Ali, Tom Banton, George Bartlett, Jack Brooks, Dom Bess, Josh Davey, Steve Davies, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton
Weather and Conditions
After weeks of wet weather, we finally have some sunshine! Overcast is the current forecast for all four days. Expect bowler friendly conditions still, but nothing like the low scores we saw in Somerset’s last Championship game.
Date: 23rd-26thth June
Ground: Cloud FM County Ground, Chelmsford
Odds (SkyBet): Essex 1/1, Somerset 4/5