Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Durham v Essex

Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Durham v Essex

Dean Elgar

Essex have had a start to the season that they could only have dreamed of, with two wins from three matches and an eight point lead over their recent rivals Surrey. This week they make the long trip north to Chester-le-Street where they meet another side fresh off a win. Durham will be feeling more comfortable about themselves, having been washed out in round one and then following on against Warwickshire, albeit in a very high scoring draw.

Despite the loss of two key batters in Sir Alastair Cook and Dan Lawrence, Essex have recruited well with both Jordan Cox and Dean Elgar scoring plenty of runs. Cox is an exciting prospect who also keeps wicket, although this seems to be on the back burner due to his own recovery from injury as rather than taking the gloves when Adam Rossington has been sidelined with a fractured finger, Essex have brought in Michael Pepper. Elgar is joined by Feroze Khushi at the top of the order, replacing Cook’s partner Nick Brown, who had a disappointing 2023. Khushi chipped in with a swift half century in the last game against Lancashire and will likely be stuck with for the moment. The other batters have all made contributions.

While the Essex batting has been more than competent, it is the bowling that stands out with the opening pair of Sam Cook and Jamie Porter both having taken 15 wickets this season, Cook’s from just two starts. Shane Snater has also chipped in with 13. The Dutch international last played for the Netherlands in the ODI series against England in 2022, during which he bowled his cousin Jason Roy. He has not played a T20I since 2019, but if he keeps taking wickets, he might come into consideration for their World Cup squad. Simon Harmer has been relatively quiet so far this season, although chipped in with three wickets in the last game.

Meanwhile Durham defeated Worcestershire inside three days last week, dismissing their opponents cheaply in the first innings and then repeating the bowling effort in the second innings after the batters had put them in an unassailable lead. They too have a high class trio of pace bowlers, Paul Coughlin leading the way against the Pears with seven wickets, while Matty Potts and Ben Raine took five each. They are backed up by Bas de Leede and the left arm spin of Callum Parkinson.

Durham get a break next week, while Essex have to wait a week longer, so it will be interesting to see how the two counties manage their bowling options. Durham have lost their Australian overseas player Scott Boland due to plantar fasciitis and they have signed Peter Siddle for the next six Championship matches. The 39-year-old is well acquainted with county cricket, having been with Somerset last summer, although his stay was cut short by a broken finger suffered in a T20 match. He will be familiar with some of the Essex batters having been with them between 2018 and 2021.

The middle order of David Bedingham, Ollie Robinson and Graham Clark has been the mainstay of the batting effort for Durham so far this season. Scott Borthwick has moved to the top of the order, to make room for new recruit Colin Ackerman, while Michael Jones, Alex Lees’ previous opening partner, scored 194 and 39 not out in a second XI game last week.

This game will be a real test of Durham’s Division One credentials and they will do well to hold out against the current pace setters.

Key players:

There has been plenty of discussion about who should be keeping wicket for England in recent years and Ollie Robinson’s name is certainly one that is part of that discussion. He has represented his country at under 19 and Lions level and is a well respected glove man. He moved from Kent at the end of the 2022 season in order to get more opportunity behind the stumps and his 931 Championship runs at 58.18 indicates that the decision has been agood one. When it comes to England, there are no shortage of contenders, with Essex’s Jordan Cox, although he is not keeping wicket and Nottinghamshire’s Joe Clarke, who has scored 480 runs at 96.00 so far this season.

Sam Cook hit the headlines with 10 wickets against Nottinghamshire, but his new ball partner Jamie Porter is equally destructive. The 30-year-old took 57 wickets at 19.05 last summer, including four fifers and is approaching the 500 first class wickets mark. He has represented the Lions and came close to a Test cap in 2018 when he was named in the squad for the first match against India at Edgbaston, but the opportunity passed him by. It remains to be seen if he will get another chance, but it will not be for lack of effort.

Team News:

Peter Siddle comes in for Scott Boland.

Durham squad (from): Scott Borthwick (c), Colin Ackerman, David Bedingham, Brydon Carse, Graham Clark, Paul Coughlin, Bas de Leede, Michael Jones, Alex Lees, Callum Parkinson, Matty Potts, Ben Raine, Ollie Robinson (wk), Peter Siddle

Paul Walter missed the last match because of an injured toe and was replaced by Noah Thain.

Essex squad (from): Tom Westley (c), Ben Allison, Aaron Beard, Sam Cook, Jordan Cox, Matt Critchley, Dean Elgar, Simon Harmer, Feroze Khushi, Michael Pepper, Jamie Porter, Shane Snater, Noah Thain, Paul Walter

Weather and Conditions

Showers are forecast throughout the match.

Given the number of batting bonus points Durham accrued last season, run scoring is no longer an issue at Chester-le-Street. However the damp conditions will likely encourage the skipper winning the toss to bowl first. The forecast suggests that it will be difficult to fit in enough play for a result, which is disappointing given the wash out in week one.

Date: 26th April 2024

Time: 11:00

Ground: Chester-le-Street, Durham


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