As we enter round two of the 2023 County Championship, we have an enticing encounter in store between two sides who can both look back on week one with some positives. Essex completed a comprehensive win at Lords in their London derby with Middlesex, while Lancashire comfortably saw out day four at Old Trafford for a draw against 2022 champions Surrey.
The last time these two sides met at Chelmsford resulted in a rather farcical two-day encounter which Lancashire won by 38 runs where the highest total of the match was 131. The hopes are for a game with a better balance between bat and ball, but whether this matches England captain Ben Stokes’ call for county ground staffs to produce fast and flat wickets this summer, remains to be seen.
Both sides are likely to make changes to their starting elevens, as Essex will welcome overseas signing Doug Bracewell fresh from the New Zealand summer into the squad following his late signing as a replacement for Australian all-rounder Will Sutherland, with Ben Allison the most likely candidate to make way in the starting XI following his economical but wicketless showing at Lords.
The visitors are likely to have England legend James Anderson available for this match after he was rested by the ECB for week one, as he begins his preparations for the 2023 test summer against Ireland and Australia. Watching him bowl to fellow England legend Sir Alistair Cook is always an enjoyable prospect and is something that cricket fans should savour as it may not happen many more times as both reach the tail end of their respective careers.
This match is likely to be weather affected but should be a tightly fought contest between two good sides. The visitors’ batting should be in a more confident place after their second innings performance against Surrey, with Josh Bohannon continuing to impress with another century. The home side have a high-quality seam attack so will fancy their chances. The hosts’ top six also got reasonable time in the middle at Lords without making a big score (Dan Lawrence apart). I would expect the hosts to get the edge in this one due to their more incisive bowling attack.
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. Alongside him, the likes of Sam Cook and Jamie Porter are excellent county performers, and both performed brilliantly at Lords, which can be evidenced by the fact that the Middlesex top three only managed 7 runs between them over both innings.
Lancashire have some high-quality players in their side, and experienced New Zealand all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme will be a key player for them with both bat and ball. Leg spinner Matt Parkinson also had a good start picking up six wickets against Surrey, but Josh Bohannon is the key batter in the Lancashire line up who is rightly being talked about for international honours.
Essex squad: tbc
Lancashire squad: tbc
Weather and conditions:
The forecast for day one looks somewhat cold and cloudy, but crucially dry. Days two and three may see some weather interruptions, with day 4 warming up somewhat to hopefully allow for the match to be played to a conclusion.
Date: 13th – 20th April 2023
Ground: County Ground, Chelmsford
Odds (Sky Bet): Essex 14/25; Lancashire 109/100 (oddspedia.com)