2008 County Preview - Essex

Essex failed to follow up on their 2006 title in the Pro 40 Division One, indeed the county ended up rock bottom of the division defending their crown. England call ups for the likes of Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara would have dented their title challenge but coupled with the loss of key one day batsman Andy Flower to an England coaching role meant Essex struggled to contest in the top league and now face a season in the lower division. The Eagles will be facing their fifth season in the County Championship Division Two and it’s in the longer form of the game that Essex have struggled to impress in during recent times, and with their lack of activity with player movement over the winter it is difficult to see this changing this year. Last year the batting seemed to be a weakness for the club, they obviously missed the experience and class of Flower from the season before. However, no one was able to assert themselves at the top end of the batting averages. The club has many quality all rounders in Ravi Bopara, Grant Flower, Andy Bichel and Ryan ten Doeschate, but specialist batsman such as Cook who is regularly whisked away for international duty is what the county lacks, however the signature of veteran opening batsman Jason Gallian from Nottinghamshire could be what the Eagles need to give them more batting prowess. Adam Hollioake’s inclusion in the clubs Twenty20 Cup campaign couldn’t inspire the team significantly enough and they fell at the first hurdle finishing fourth in the southern division. The previous season the club had finished top of the southern division progressing to the semi finals before losing out to eventual winners Leicestershire. The club missed the leadership and contributions that former captain Ronnie Irani made, after the batsman stepped down from his position halfway through the season. Opening bat Mark Pettini stepped into the former England international shoes to captain the team with little joy. If Essex are to be successful this summer then a lot will rely on the leadership of the captain. The only real glimmer of hope that came from the county’s 2007 campaign was their Friends Provident Trophy campaign, where they finished second out of ten in the south conference setting up a semi-final berth with Durham who went on to become winners of the competition. Essex have made acquisitions in their bowling department during the off season, bringing in seam bowlers David Masters and Chris Wright from Leicestershire and Middlesex respectively. With Pakistani spinner Danish Kaneria bolstering the bowling attack Essex could yet be set for a profitable season. In: Jason Gallian, David Masters, Chris Wright Out: Andrew McGarry, Darren Thomas, Ronnie Irani, Andy Flower 2008 Predictions County Championship Division Two: 4th Pro40 Division Two: 3rd Friends Provident Trophy: Group Stage Twenty20 Cup: Group Stage Star Man: Danish kaneria Top Tip: Ryan ten Doeschate Official Homepage By Richard Reardon
Official Essex CCC Website