There is an old native American saying “never approach a wounded Eagle’s nest”. That, however, is exactly what Derbyshire will be doing this Thursday when they visit Chelmsford. Essex have tasted defeat twice this season, the first time they have lost this many First Class matches since the 2018 season. Last time out they lost to Nottinghamshire by an innings, having been bowled out in the first innings for just 99 and then conceding 323 in reply.
Derbyshire have had a week off to lick their wounds, having also tasted defeat to East Midlands rivals Nottinghamshire. Prior to that, Derbyshire had drawn their three matches and came a gnat’s breath away from beating Worcestershire. And yet, they find themselves bottom of group one with 40 points, 12 points behind their hosts.
The whole group is covered by just 33 points, and a victory for either side will elevate them up the table and put either in contention for a top two finish.
The bookies, unsurprisingly, have Essex as favourites and it is easy to see why – they have won the first class competition three times in the last four years, which is two more than Derbyshire have managed in their history. Essex know how to win, and they have the weapons in their bowling attack and batting order to make victory likely.
Also, as the native American saying goes, you never want to approach a wounded Eagle. It’s likely to strike at you and strike hard.
In a batting line up that boasts players with international recognition such as Alastair Cook, Tom Westley, Dan Lawrence and Ryan ten Doeschate it is easy to forget about the others. But the glue that often holds the Essex innings together is Nick Browne. He is as solid and dependable as they come and, despite not snatching headlines, he does accumulate runs.
In his last five innings Browne has scored three half centuries, two of those against Nottinghamshire where in the first innings he scored more than half of Essex’s total. Browne is the man on the shop floor that keeps the engine ticking over. He doesn’t attract the limelight, but without him, the smooth running of the side and its success is limited.
Derbyshire are winless so far this season and it’s no accident that the game they came the closest to winning was that in which Leus Du Plooy hit his highest scores of the season. Du Plooy has been batting at three this season and he is excellent there. He scores runs at a quick rate and can take the game away from opposition. He is a dynamic left handed batter and times the ball sweetly. He also offers a left arm spin option and is excellent in the field, often filling a slot in the slip cordon. If he fires against Essex this week, the chances of Derbyshire returning victorious from Chelmsford will be greatly enhanced.
A couple of changes have been made to the Essex squad that travelled to Trent Bridge last week, with Ben Allison, Feroze Khushi and Sam Cook.
Essex Squad: Westley (c), Allison, Browne, A Cook, S Cook, Harmer, Khushi, Lawrence, Porter, Siddle, Snater, Ten Doeschate, Walter, Wheater (wk)
Aussie Billy Stanlake is finally available for selection, after being in quarantine for a couple of weeks. Alex Hughes is recalled, and Billy Godleman and Dustin Melton return from injury.
Derbyshire Squad: Billy Godleman (c), Luis Reece, Leus du Plooy, Wayne Madsen, Matt Critchley, Alex Hughes, Harvey Hosein (wk), Brooke Guest, Fynn Hudson-Prentice, Michael Cohen, Sam Conners, Billy Stanlake, Dustin Melton
Essex CCC : DWLDL
Derbyshire CCC : DDDL
Weather and Conditions
This match will again be played behind closed doors, although the live stream will be available throughout the match on the Essex website along with commentary from the BBC radio. However, looking at the forecast there may also be rain streaming down the windows of the Chelmsford dressing rooms. Friday is currently the only day without rain predicted.
Essex haven’t played at home since the 18th of April, and in that game the pitch provided a positive result with neither side scoring more than 330. In the only other previous game at Chelmsford this season, 490 played 475 in a high scoring game. A pitch more like the former is most likely, with an opportunity to see a side win – if the weather allows of course.
Dates : 13th to 16th May
Time : 11am
Ground : Cloud FM County Ground, Chelmsford, Essex
Match Odds (Sky Bet): Essex CCC 1/2 Derbyshire CCC 6/4