A Southeast derby awaits us as 2nd place Essex host 8th place Kent at fortress Chelmsford. Essex is fresh off falling just short of glory in the Vitality Blast, losing a thrilling final to Somerset at Edgbaston, but will have happy memories of their last red ball outing. They beat Lancashire by 46 runs at Blackpool, in a thrilling game that went all the way to the final ten balls and are now just 13 points behind leaders Surrey. While the visitors from the other side of the Thames were comprehensively beaten by Warwickshire by an innings and 46 runs at Canterbury.
Earlier in the season, these two sides played a rain affected draw at Canterbury that saw 206 overs lost to the elements. Nick Browne and Tom Westley both hit big hundreds for Essex as they posted 451/5 declared, while Kent hit back with 342/7 built around England opener Zak Crawley’s 170, as there appeared to be little joy for the bowlers.
The hosts are likely to be unchanged following their last gasp win at Lancashire. Nick Browne has struggled for runs since his hundred at Canterbury so his place may be under threat unless he finds some runs soon. England’s Dan Lawrence will be available from day two of this fixture because of his England commitments, so Robin Das looks likely to fill in for him on day one. All-rounder Paul Walter has been excellent since he forced his way back into the red ball side, with vital runs at Blackpool, as well as five wickets in the game, and provides useful balance to the side. The rest of the bowling attack should be unchanged, with Sam Cook, Jamie Porter, and Doug Bracewell completing the seam attack with the erstwhile Simon Harmer providing the spin bowling option. Adam Rossington also returns to the squad and may take over the gloves from Will Buttleman.
The visitors look to be unchanged following their defeat at Canterbury. The top order batting has struggled for much of this season, but Tawanda Muyeye has put in some promising performances since being asked to open. Ben Compton has been short of runs recently too, as is new captain Jack Leaning. They are without the injured Daniel Bell-Drummond, for whom injury struck at a particularly tough time after hitting 300 not out against Northamptonshire. The bowling attack rests on the shoulders of Indian international Arshdeep Singh and Matt Quinn now that Australian seamer Wes Agar has returned to Australia. They have struggled for penetration at times this year, so they will be appreciative of the expected overhead conditions at Chelmsford.
This match is likely to be weather affected, but the hosts should be strong favourites for this one, due their more experienced and incisive bowling line up.
Sam Cook and Jamie Porter are among the best new ball pairings in the country and should be dangerous again here having shared 57 wickets between them so far. But Simon Harmer continues to do Simon Harmer things with 36 red ball wickets so far. Skipper Tom Westley has flown under the radar this year but is the second highest run scorer in Division One with 891 runs at 55.68 and is in the race for the title of the first to 1,000 runs this year.
Tawanda Muyeye is a player that many knowledgeable judges in the game believe to have a bright future and is a potential international batter of some class. He has come of age this year in red ball cricket and made his maiden first class hundred against Northants. At the moment he is the understudy to Zak Crawley but looks to be making the spot his own right now. With the ball, former Essex seamer Matt Quinn has had a solid season for Kent, with 14 wickets at 28.14, and will be looking forward to returning to Chelmsford.
Essex squad: Tom Westley, Doug Bracewell, Nick Browne, Will Buttleman, Alistair Cook, Sam Cook, Matt Critchley, Robin Das, Simon Harmer, Dan Lawrence, Jamie Porter, Adam Rossington, Shane Snater, Paul Walter
Kent squad: Jack Leaning (c), Arafat Bhuiyan, Arshdeep Singh, Ben Compton, Jordan Cox, Joe Denly, Joey Evison, Harry Finch, Hamid Qadri, Tawanda Muyeye, Matt Quinn, Grant Stewart.
Weather and conditions:
There looks to be the potential for rain on days one and four, but it should be overcast for all four days at Chelmsford. This should suit the seamers, on what is normally a helpful track for bowlers when the sun is not shining.
Date: 19th – 22nd July 2023
Ground: Cloud County Ground, Chelmsford