Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Essex v Warwickshire

Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Essex v Warwickshire

Essex head coach Anthony McGrath
Essex head coach Anthony McGrath Copyright: Harry Everett

Round six of the Vitality County Championship season is upon us as second-placed Essex hosts sixth-placed Warwickshire, the chasing pack is already starting to form behind leaders Surrey and compete to close the gap.

For Essex, they will be relatively well-rested after a week off, but will be looking to bounce back from a two-day defeat against Somerset at Taunton by three wickets when many poor shots were played. Despite that defeat, they will still be able to take plenty of positives from that game in how the seam attack continues to perform, with the trio of Sam Cook, Jamie Porter, and Shane Snater sharing all 17 wickets that Essex took. The batters may be disappointed with their output, but they have still put in some decent numbers overall in 2024, with new signings Jordan Cox and Dean Elgar slotting seamlessly into life in Chelmsford.

In terms of selection news, wicketkeeper Harry Duke’s two-week loan from Yorkshire has ended and he has returned to his home county, with Michael Pepper fit to play this week. No other injury news is known, so the home side looks to be, or close to, full strength.

Warwickshire’s last red ball game resulted in a nine-wicket defeat to a dominant Surrey side at the Kia Oval. Despite putting up a decent first-innings score, Kemar Roach ripped through the batting in the second innings to leave the hosts a small chase in the fourth innings. Skipper Alex Davies has had a phenomenal start to the season at the top of the order, along with his opening partner Rob Yates who have scored to 1000 runs between them already, and both average over 70 with the bat. Sam Hain also made his first appearance of the season at the Oval, and although he failed to make a major contribution, the Bears will be thrilled to have a player of his class back in the side.

Warwickshire’s weakness so far this season has perhaps been in the bowling attack where they have sometimes struggled to take regular wickets. They do have significant mitigation on this front, though, as many of their frontline seamers are out injured as Chris Rushworth, Liam Norwell and Craig Miles are all currently injured, and Hasan Ali has been called up by Pakistan. This has led to them seeking replacements and, as a result, signed Otago seamer Michael Rae on a short-term deal as cover. Rae has played for New Zealand A and has over 150 first-class wickets, which suggests he has some pedigree.

With the weather set fair for the first day at least, with the threat of some rain on days two and three hanging around. The toss could be crucial if the Lancashire and Kent games at Chelmsford is anything to go by, as a surface which was good for batting on days one and two but gradually provided more help to the spinners as the game wore on.

Key Players

For Warwickshire, Alex Davies has had an exceptional season so far with 506 runs and sits behind only Daniel Bell-Drummond of Kent in the Division One run charts. Just as crucially in the Bazball era of English cricket, his runs have come at a strike rate of close to 70 runs per 100 balls. He was elevated to the captaincy for the 2024 season and has undoubtedly experienced the bounce in performances that many new captains experience in their own performances.

The visitors will look to their high-quality seam attack to make inroads alongside the erstwhile Simon Harmer who has had a poor early season by his great standards. Such a high-quality attack will ensure that they will always be competitive and have shown as such so far this season, with Sam Cook and Jamie Porter both on top of the Division One wicket charts with 25 a piece, despite Cook missing one match. With the announcement of James Anderson’s retirement from international cricket this summer, this could surely be Sam Cook’s time if he can stay fit and firing as he is.

Team news:

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

Warwickshire squad: Alex Davies (c), Ed Barnard, Jacob Bethell, Danny Briggs, Michael Burgess (wk), Sam Hain, Olly Hannon-Dalby, Jake Lintott, Dan Mousley, Michael Rae, Will Rhodes, Che Simmons, Rob Yates

Weather and conditions:

With the weather set fair for the first day at least, with the threat of some rain on days two and three hanging around. Day four looks dry so there is a strong chance of a result in this game. Chelmsford often offers something for the bowlers, and with Essex firmly having the advantage in that department I expect them to edge this, but it will be an interesting battle between the best performing new ball seam partnership against the highest scoring opening partnership in Division One.

Date: 17th – 20th May 2024

Time: 11am

Ground: County Ground, Chelmsford


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