We enter the final round of Championship games before the T20 Blast starts and brings a change of pace to the season, and we are presented with an interesting clash between two sides with aspirations of pushing towards the top of Division One. Both sides come into this fixture in good spirits, especially the home side thanks to their three day demolition job of strugglers Northamptonshire at Wantage Road; and Essex who fell to a four wicket defeat against Warwickshire at Edgbaston. As a result, the sides sit fourth and fifth respectively in the table as it starts to take shape.
Notts win last time was based on an incisive performance with ball, especially from overseas seam bowler Dane Paterson who took 5-16 to dismiss Northants for just 72 to seal a convincing win. He was ably backed by Brett Hutton who chipped in with a first innings five wicket haul himself among an attack missing the international class and experience of Stuart Broad. Heading into Thursday’s game, the home side are reporting no major injury concerns and should be relatively unchanged, but Broad may come back into the side to get some more overs in his legs before the Ireland test at Lords. England opener Haseeb Hameed has had a solid start to the season, alongside current England opener Ben Duckett who retained his place for the Lord’s test against Ireland. If Notts are to remain competitive, these two are key components in their batting line up which has yet to fire as a unit, with Duckett’s 177 v Middlesex the only first class hundred scored by a Notts batsman this season.
For Essex, they will be determined to get back to their normal gritty, hard to beat ways after being another victim of Chris Rushworth’s excellence at Edgbaston, as the batters again failed to back up the bowling unit with sufficient runs on the board. The fact they took 6 wickets before Warwickshire achieved their paltry 100 run target will be of some consolation, but again backs up where their respective strengths have been over the past season and a half. Plenty of batters got starts, but their highest score in the match was 50 not out from Simon Harmer.
Both sides should see few changes to their starting XI’s from their previous matches, but expect Stuart Broad to return for the hosts for what has been an already potent seam attack, with Brett Hutton the most likely to make way. For Essex, Adam Rossington returns to the squad after his recent hand injury and may come back into the starting XI for Michael Pepper, whose glovework has been exemplary, but has flattered to deceive with the bat. Otherwise, Essex are likely to remain unchanged.
A result looks likely here mainly due to the strength of both bowling attacks, and Trent Bridge has been known to favour the seamers with movement in the air if the overhead conditions allow. Essex may have the edge with their batters in more consistent form coming into this game, but this is likely to be a low scoring affair.
For Nottinghamshire, Ben Duckett is a proven high-class performer with the bat, and will be looking to carry his good early season form into the international summer, as will Hameed who will be looking to force his way back into England recognition.
Essex will be looking to their high-quality seam attack of Sam Cook, Jamie Porter, and Doug Bracewell to make inroads, alongside the erstwhile Simon Harmer. Bracewell has been an excellent addition since joining as a last-minute replacement overseas player. Such a high-quality attack will ensure that they will always be competitive. The batting has improved significantly upon last season without posting consistent big scores yet, with the likes of Nick Browne and Tom Westley having much more consistent seasons than 2022 so far, but all-rounder Matt Critchley has held the middle order together with four 50+ scores in 7 innings so far, with 300 runs at an average of 50. He is an underrated cricketer who has flown under the radar, and his proven his worth to Essex significantly.
Nottinghamshire squad: Steven Mullaney (c), Stuart Broad, Joe Clarke, Haseeb Hameed, Calvin Harrison, Brett Hutton, Lyndon James, Tom Loten, Ben Martindale, Matt Montgomery, Dane Paterson, Liam Patterson-White, Ben Slater
Essex squad: Tom Westley, Doug Bracewell, Nick Browne, Alistair Cook, Sam Cook, Matt Critchley, Simon Harmer, Dan Lawrence, Michael Pepper, Jamie porter, Adam Rossington, Shane Snater, Paul Walter.
Weather and conditions:
The forecast for day one looks cloudy and overcast but crucially dry, which should help the seamers and make the toss crucial. Friday may see some rain interruptions, but Saturday and Sunday look good and be the best days for batting.
Date: 18th – 21st May 2023
Ground: Trent Bridge, Nottingham