Essex’s third season back in Division One starts with a match against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl on Friday (11am) and Head Coach Anthony McGrath admits that he and his squad can’t wait to get things underway.
McGrath said: “There is good competition for places which is great, and we’ve had a really good pre-season in Abu Dhabi.
“We also enjoyed what was a good work out against Cambridge MCCU last week and have worked really hard in the nets this week and now everything focuses on the Championship.”
The Yorkshireman led the Club to a respectable third place in the Specsavers County Championship last season, in his first full year in charge, and believes that his squad will be challenging for honours again this season.
“Having Alastair Cook available for a full season is a massive bonus,” he enthused. “Last year, we lacked runs some of the time, particularly in the first innings, but we have some talented batsmen and we just need to bat better as a unit at times.
“We know over the past few seasons that when we’ve got runs on the board, we fancy our attack to take 20 wickets on most surfaces.
“If you look at the teams in Division One, it’s a really strong division, every team have their strengths and weaknesses but in my opinion, we’ve got a really good balanced squad that can prove to be a very competitive outfit.
“I’m looking for us to start the season well and get that early confidence with bat and ball.”
Essex will select from a squad of 14 players but will be without Overseas signing Peter Siddle. The Australian, who has just assisted Victoria to their fourth Sheffield Shield title in 5 seasons, is due to fly into the UK on Friday morning.
All-rounder Matt Coles is also ruled out with a groin strain that is expected to keep him sidelined for the first two Championship matches.
The two counties have met at the Ageas Bowl on 7 occasions in the County Championship, with Essex just shading the honours with three wins and two defeats.
Hampshire have undergone a number of personnel changes to their First Team squad during the winter. Trusty long-time servants Jimmy Adams and Sean Ervine retired at the conclusion of the 2018 season, whilst Head Coach Craig White was replaced by South African Adrian Birrell in December.
The playing squad has been bolstered by the signing of South Africa batsman, Aiden Markram, for at least the first month of the season with his further availability dependent on his involvement in South Africa’s World Cup campaign.
Other winter recruits for Hampshire include Keith Barker from Warwickshire and James Fuller from Middlesex, whilst Aneurin Donald, who joined the County on loan towards the end of last season from Glamorgan, has now signed a permanent deal.
Essex squad to face Hampshire:
Ryan ten Doeschate (27) (Captain)
Aaron Beard (14)
Ravi Bopara (25)
Nick Browne (10)
Alastair Cook (26)
Sam Cook (16)
Simon Harmer (11)
Dan Lawrence (28)
Aron Nijjar (24)
Rishi Patel (12)
Jamie Porter (44)
Matt Quinn (94)
Tom Westley (21)
Adam Wheater (31) (Wicket-keeper)
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