Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Essex v Durham

Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Essex v Durham

After a brief sojourn for some white ball action by virtue of the T20 Blast, we return to the red ball as we enter the second half of the 2024 County Championship season with Division One nicely poised with a three-way title contest, with hosts Essex in second place, just two points behind leaders Surrey. Durham visits Chelmsford with a fair sprinkle of stardust as England Test captain Ben Stokes looks set to continue his preparations for the Test match summer.

Earlier in the season, these two sides played out a rain-affected draw at Chester-le-Street, with Nick Browne and Feroze Khushi in the runs for Essex and Colin Ackermann and Ollie Robinson making runs in return for Durham. Both teams will have had hectic schedules recently, with both playing in the Blast on Friday evening, where they have had middling campaigns up to this point.

For the hosts, confidence remains high after a good recent run in the Blast, in addition to their excellent Championship form. In their red ball outing, they thrashed Kent by an innings and 96 runs in a truly dominant performance at Canterbury, thanks to an unbeaten 207 from Jordan Cox and seven wickets from Matt Critchley. Dean Elgar has been pushing his way out of the red ball pigeon hole he’s been put in with some dynamic performances in the shortest format and will be feeling in form going back to the format where he made his name.

There will be an interesting sub-plot with Sam Cook and Jamie Porter likely to be bowling to England’s Test captain, where they will both be looking to make their case for selection in the post-Jimmy Anderson era. South African fast bowling all-rounder Eathan Bosch, a surprise overseas signing for four Championship games, also joins the squad, and it will be interesting to see how he fares.

This Durham team is sprinkled with experience and quality, and none exemplify that more than South Africa batter David Bedingham, who is currently the leading run-scorer in the County Championship so far with 795 runs, with an astonishing five first-class hundreds already this season. Interestingly, Jordan Cox is just 64 runs behind him in second place. He has been well supported by Ollie Robinson, who has made 542 runs himself as he makes a strong case for international selection, too, with many good judges considering him well-suited to the Bazball era of test cricket. However, they have not had much support with the bat, with Alex Lees the only other player to break 300 runs.

The visitors do possess a sound battery of bowlers, with the likes of Peter Siddle and Matt Potts, as well as Ben Stokes himself, who has made an outstanding return with the ball, with 15 wickets in just two matches so far. Ben Raine is also a solid county pro and regularly produces good contributions as the third or fourth seamer.

The weather is set fair for the first three days, at least, thanks to the relative heatwave in the south of the country, with the threat of some rain on day four hanging around. The toss could be crucial. If previous pitches at Chelmsford are anything to go by, they are better for batting on days one and two but gradually provide more help to the spinners as the game wears on. Essex could have the edge due to the fact of possessing more quality at the top of the order and a high-quality new ball pairing, but when you have a man called Ben Stokes on your side, you always have a chance.

Key Players

The hosts will look to their high-quality seam attack to make inroads alongside the erstwhile Simon Harmer, who has had a poor season by his usual lofty 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 29 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, and there is no better way to make your case than showing your class in front of the England captain.

For Durham, David Bedingham has had an exceptional season so far with 795 runs and sits top of Division One run charts. He looks like he could be South Africa’s next great Test batter and has made an excellent start to his Test career. Alongside him, Matty Potts is a high-quality performer with the ball and will be crucial to Durham’s hope in this game.

Team news:

Essex squad: tbc

Durham squad: tbc

Weather and conditions:

With the weather looking fine for the first three days, anyone heading to Chelmsford will need to make sure they have plenty of sunscreen and water. This should be a hard-fought game, with two sides who play tough, attacking cricket, so there should be every chance of a result.

Date: 23-26 June 2024

Time: 11am

Ground: County Ground, Chelmsford


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