After another short break for the Blast, we return to another one-off week of Championship action as fourth placed Essex host second placed Warwickshire as the chasing pack behind leaders Surrey compete to close the gap.
For Essex, they will be buoyant after a thumping win against Somerset at Chelmsford by 196 runs on the final day. First innings runs ere crucial as Essex piled on 462/9 thanks to hundreds from Sir Alistair Cook and Matt Critchley laid the foundation for a dominant display. They were ably backed up by the bowlers the erstwhile Simon Harmer taking eight wickets in the match, alongside solid support from the new ball pair of Sam Cook and Jamie Porter. All three sit in the top ten wicket takers in Division One at the halfway stage of the season, demonstrating their consistency and enduring quality. The Essex batters have flown under the radar this year, but they possess three of the top ten run scorers in Division One this season with Tom Westley, Cook, and Critchley all enjoying solid if unspectacular seasons averaging in the 40’s.
This will also be the first red ball game since the announcement of England batter Dan Lawrence’s surprise move to Surrey for the 2024 season, and he may feature despite being in the England squad for the Lord’s test, so the England management may be keen for him to get some red ball match practice should he required. If so, then expect him to come in for either Paul Walter or Feroze Khushi, both of whom are having excellent Blast campaigns. Adam Rossington or Michael Pepper should also come back into the side to take the gloves from Will Buttleman, who performed solidly behind the stumps against Somerset last time out.
Warwickshire’s last red ball game resulted in a draw against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge after being unable to force the win despite Notts following on some 416 runs behind on first innings. The Bears posted 71/9 in their only innings, with solid contributions throughout the order, led by Sam Hain’s 100 and half-centuries from Alex Davies, talented youngster Dan Mousley, keeper Michael Burgess, and Pakistani seamer Hasan Ali. Hain has been one of the standout players in Division One so far, with three hundreds and averaging 76.57, he is doing all he can he keep knocking on the door for international honours.
Heading into Sunday’s game, the away side may be missing Hasan Ali has he has been called up on international duty but are likely to have England’s Chris Woakes available as he looks to force his way into the England squad for the third test onwards. Veteran seamer and Division One’s leading wicket taker Chris Rushworth should also return after being rested for the Blast.
With the weather set fair for the first three days at least, the toss could be crucial if the Somerset game at Chelmsford is anything to go by, as a surface which was good for batting on day one and two, but gradually provided more help to the spinners as the game wears on. Day four may see some rain around, so do not be surprised if this ends in a draw.
For Warwickshire, Chris Woakes is a proven high-class performer with bat and ball. Chris Rushworth has proved an inspired signing with 35 wickets at 15.45 in the six games of the championship season. With the bat, Sam Hain has been one of the leading batters in the country with 536 runs at 76.57 so far.
The visitors will be looking to their high-quality seam attack to make inroads, alongside the erstwhile Simon Harmer. Such a high-quality attack will ensure that they will always be competitive. The batting has improved upon last season, with the likes of Sir Alistair Cook and Tom Westley having much more consistent seasons than 2022 so far, but all-rounder Matt Critchley has held the middle order together with six 50+ scores in 13 innings so far, with 522 runs at an average of 43.5 who managed his first hundred of the season against Somerset. He is a seriously underrated cricketer who has flown under the radar, and his proven his worth to Essex significantly.
Essex squad: tbc
Warwickshire squad: tbc
Weather and conditions:
The forecast for days one to three looks set fair so expect good batting conditions on days one and two at least, but the rain threatens to return on Wednesday which may threaten any realistic prospect of a decisive result either way.
Date: 25th – 28th June 2023
Ground: County Ground, Chelmsford