As the County Championship returns after a five-week break, sides, and players, will look to shake off the white-ball inertia and turn their focus on red-ball silverware.
Essex are still in the hunt, placed fourth in Division One with four matches to go, and the road to their ninth title resumes in Canterbury as they take on seventh-placed Kent.
While the hosts will have the Royal London Cup’s final at the back of their minds against Lancashire, it’s been a season to forget in the longest format after managing just two wins out of 11 games and they will be keen to avoid relegation into Division Two.
The last time the two sides met, in the season opener at Chelmsford, they shared the spoils after each side racked up over 500 in the first innings.
Essex are back to full-strength and will be buoyed by the recent run-of-form of Sam Cook, who picked 4-18 in the Men’s Hundred final, and of Paul Walter, who made all-round contributions in Manchester Originals’ run to the finals.
Kent will be hoping for the batters to offset the bowling inconsistencies as they cope without their overseas players in Navdeep Saini, Matt Henry and George Linde but will be boosted by the return of captain Sam Billings. As many as three batters – Ben Compton, Daniel Bell-Drummond and Jordan Cox – feature in the top ten run-getters in Division One.
In being the only player to breach the 1000-run mark this season in Division One, Ben Compton has enjoyed a breakthrough season. Against a spirited Essex attack spearheaded by Jamie Porter and Sam Cook, he will once again be the lynchpin of the batting order and will look to continue his prolific season.
With September bringing in its fair share of dry conditions, much will be expected of Matt Critchley in the absence of Simon Harmer. The South African off-spinner, who is away on national duty, has taken 46 wickets and sits third in the top wicket-taker’s list. Critchley’s form after the game against Kent, when he scored 132 and picked up 4/114, has been indifferent with a batting average of 24.15 and just 16 wickets from nine games. With the conditions suiting him, it’s perhaps as good a time as any to hit the right notes.
Kent’s main area of concern has been their inability to bowl sides out and heading into their final three games of the season, they will be without the overseas bowling pair of Matt Henry (12 wickets in two games) and Navdeep Saini (11 wickets in two games). In their absence, the onus will be on Matt Milnes, who has been the side’s leading wicket-taker this season with 21 wickets in nine games, and Nathan Gilchrist with Matt Quinn and Hamidullah Qadri for support.
George Linde, Marcus O’Riordan and Tawanda Muyeye were not considered for selection as they continue their recovery from their respective injuries.
Joey Evison is in line for his Championship debut for Kent.
Squad: Sam Billings ©, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Ben Compton, Jordan Cox, Joe Denly, Joey Evison, Nathan Gilchrist, Jack Leaning, Matt Milnes, Hamid Qadri, Matt Quinn, Ollie Robinson, Grant Stewart
Essex have plenty of options on the bowling and batting front and will look to the experience of Alastair Cook, Nick Browne, Paul Walter to cash in against the Kent seamers.
Squad: Tom Westley ©, Ben Allison, Nick Browne, Alastair Cook, Sam Cook, Matt Critchley, Feroze Khushi, Dan Lawrence, Aron Nijjar, Jamie Porter, Adam Rossington, Shane Snater, Paul Walter
Date: Monday 5 September to Thursday 8 September 2022
Time: 10:30 am
Ground: The Spitfire Ground, St. Lawrence, Canterbury.