Onto round three, and we have a local derby in store between two sides with contrasting fortunes following round two. Essex comfortably batted out two sessions on day four to secure a draw against Lancashire, while Kent fought doggedly with the bat on the final day but succumbed to an innings defeat at Edgbaston against Warwickshire.
The last time these two sides met at Canterbury, Essex won by a thumping innings and 260 runs, with Sam Cook taking 10 for 60 in the match to back up Feroze Khushi’s maiden first class century.
The hosts will welcome Australian seamer Wes Agar into their line up as he begins a four-game stint in red ball cricket to add some pace and strike power to the attack which looked a little toothless against Warwickshire. The batting unit has plenty of talent but is yet to fire consistently with the exception of the metronomic Ben Compton who continues to churn runs at the top of the order. At any other time, his old school method would surely bring him into test consideration but lacks the firepower and range of stroke that the England selectors look for in their batting. It is a quirk of the modern game that Compton’s first-class average (57.97) is more than double what his opening partner and incumbent test opener Zak Crawley (27.60) is.
Both sides are likely to make changes to their starting XI’s, as Essex are awaiting news on Sam Cook as he has reported to have a hamstring injury, so will be monitored right up until the toss. If he is ruled out, then expect Ben Allison to come back into the side after taking 6/41 including a triple wicket maiden and hitting 53 with the bat in the second eleven game against Durham. They are also keeping an eye on keeper Adam Rossington’s hand injury which forced him off the field for Lancashire’s 2nd innings. If he is unfit, then Michael Pepper looks set to step in after a tidy display with the gloves as substitute keeper.
All though pitches at Canterbury in recent times have been good for batting, but with the visitors in form bowling attack should give them the edge in this local derby. Sam Cook may be a big miss if he cannot play, but the quality of the likes of Jamie Porter, Simon Harmer, and Doug Bracewell will see them through.
Dan Lawrence will be looking to continue his strong start to the season after his century in testing conditions at Lords to push his case for England test honours. Matt Critchley has also started the season in excellent form, with three half centuries so far. Sam Cook has been on fire so far with ten wickets at 14.50, alongside Jamie Porter who has 12 wickets at 16.00. It will be intriguing to see how they fair against the Kent top order.
Ben Compton has been his usual consistent self, with 100’s in five of his last six first class matches, as well as 88 last time against Warwickshire. Joey Evison also performed well, just missing out on a hundred after being last man out for 99 during their second innings rear-guard at Edgbaston. It will also be interesting how Wes Agar fares in English conditions as he is reported to have a fair bit of pace.
Kent squad: tbc
Essex squad: tbc
Weather and conditions:
This match is likely to be weather affected with some rain interruptions expected on the first three days, but in between rain interruptions it looks to be a typical April climate with temperatures remaining in the low teens for most of the 4 days, so jumpers and hand warmers will be highly necessary.
Date: 20th – 24th April 2023
Ground: The Spitfire Ground, Canterbury
Odds: Kent 13/10; Essex 53/100 (oddspedia.com)