It’s the start of a new season; a season where, due to the new look Championship Conferences, all sides can start the season dreaming of lifting not only the LV County Championship Trophy, but the Bob Willis Trophy as well. Only one side knows what it is like to do the latter, having won the inaugural competition last season, and that is the hosts for this game.
Essex have also won two of the last three County Championships, making them the clear favourites to do the same and very much the side everyone will have to beat.
Both sides have had a relatively calm off season, with very little in the way of comings and going. In fact the only signing made by either side was that of Gareth Roderick, for the visitors, who made the move from Gloucestershire. Roderick is a solid wicketkeeper batter who is good enough to play as a batter in his own right.
The signing – or re-signing – that Essex will be happiest about is that of talismanic off spin bowler Simon Harmer. Harmer has signed as an overseas player due to the change in selection criteria thanks to Brexit, and the disappearance of Kolpak status. Essex supporters will be hoping he can add to his 255 wickets for the county.
Next week we see Essex at home again, welcoming Durham, and Worcestershire will again be on the road headed for Derbyshire. Unless the weather intervenes, it’s likely that Essex will be looking to build on a victory while Worcestershire will likely be travelling to find their first victory of the season.
Essex will probably be too much for the Pears with Alastair Cook, Tom Westley, Dan Lawrencce, Nick Browne and Adam Wheater at the top of the order and then Jamie Porter, Aaron Beard, Sam Cook and the afore mention Harmer with the ball. This is a side that knows how to win and definitely has the ability to do so.
It’s early season, the track looks a bit green, the opposition bowlers are fresh, the ball will nip around a bit. Blink and you can be 30 for 4 and in real trouble, so who better to have at the top of your innings than Sir Alastair Cook, a man who has scored more runs for his country than anyone? A man who exudes calm, who is a natural leader and who last season scored 563 runs at 56.30 and helped propel his side to the title? If he can use all his experience to combat the troubles of opening the batting in early season, then Essex should have a good start
He may not be Sir Alastair Cook, but in Jake Libby Worcestershire have their very own opener who can remove the shine from the ball and set a platform for a dangerous middle order. Signed from Nottinghamshire before last season, he went on to have the most successful season of his career, albeit a truncated covid hit season. In the five First Class matches he played, he scored 498 runs in nine innings at an average of 55.33. Libby also brings a gentle offering of off break bowling, which may allow Worcestershire to play more seamers and give his side balance.
Dan Lawrence should be available. Peter Siddle is yet to arrive from Australia, so the seam bowling will be an all-English affair, with Simon Harmer being the only overseas player on show for Essex. Aaron Beard picked up a groin strain in pre-season but there are no other injury concerns so, Siddle aside, Anthony McGrath will have close to a full strength side to select from.
Essex Squad: Tom Westley (c), Ben Allison, Nick Browne, Alastair Cook, Sam Cook, Simon Harmer, Feroze Khushi, Dan Lawrence, Jamie Porter, Matt Quinn, Shane Snater, Ryan Ten Doeschate, Paul Walter, Adam Wheater
Moeen Ali is away plying his trade in the IPL, so will not be at Chelmsford this week. New signing Gareth Roderick will be there, but will in all likelihood play as a specialist batter with Ben Cox donning the gloves. Alzarri Joseph arrived from the West Indies on the weekend, so is currently in quarantine. He is expected to be available for next week’s visit to Derby. Joseph is expected to supplement an exciting seam attack lead by skipper Joe Leach and, if pre season is anything to go by, Dillon Pennington will add excellent support.
Worcestershire Squad: Daryl Mitchell, Jake Libby, Tom Fell, Gareth Roderick, Jack Haynes, Brett D’Oliveira, Riki Wessels, Ben Cox, Ed Barnard, Joe Leach, Dillon Pennington, Charlie Morris, Adam Finch
Weather and Conditions
This game will be played behind closed doors in line with the Government’s Covid 19 Road map, however a live stream will be available with commentary from BBC Radio Essex direct from the club’s website.
As with all early season games the weather can play a huge part, and if the sides want a positive result they will want to do the vast majority of the work on the first three days. Those days look set fair, although chilly. The Sunday looks pretty bleak with rain, and even some sleet and snow forecast throughout the morning up until around 3pm. The pitches at Chelmsford are usually good wickets, which offer value for both batters and bowlers. Expect nothing less this week, although as it’s the first game of the season we shall have to wait and see.
Dates : 8th to 11th April
Time : 11am
Ground : Cloud FM County Ground, Chelmsford, Essex