Specsavers County Championship Hampshire v Essex - Match Preview
Alastair Cook is back in the 13-man Essex squad and the opener is due to make his first appearance of the domestic season in the County Championship clash with Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl starting on Friday.
Head Coach Anthony McGrath is naturally delighted to have the England left-hander back with the title holders, who arrive in Southampton holding joint second place in the Championship table with the South Coast County.
“We know how important ‘Cookie’ proved to be for us last year and he is always very keen to come back and play for Essex which is great for us,” he said. “We know all about his quality and how much he enjoys being around the dressing room as well.
“Hopefully, he can score a few runs which obviously helps us but also helps his form ahead of the Test series between England and Pakistan.
“People in the media are talking about his lack of form at the moment and I guess at International level, you are always going to be under pressure if you don’t score for a few innings even if you’ve got a record as good as Alastair Cook. It goes with the territory and he is aware of that, but we know what a wonderful player he is and we are absolutely delighted to have him for the next three games.”
After their opening fixture in this year’s Championship was completely washed out, Essex got their season off to a fine start with a 31 run success over Lancashire, the only team that they had been unable to beat on at least one occasion in the competition in 2017.
Now they face a Hampshire side over whom they recorded the “double” last year, including a sensational win down at Southampton where Essex won by 108 ruins after being forced to follow-on.
“We turned in one of our best performances with bat and ball when we beat Hampshire convincingly at Chelmsford last season and then the game down at their place was amazing,” the Essex Head Coach continued.
“We had already won the league by then and maybe mentally, we weren’t quite on our game and we gave ourselves a lot to do. But as on so many occasions, we fought back and posted a decent total on the last day and bowled them out for 76 to win by just over 100 runs with young pace bowler Sam Cook taking 5-18.
“That was Sam’s first 5-for and he will have good memories of that. We have included him in the squad for Friday’s game and are hoping that he will be available for selection following the finger injury he sustained whilst practising ahead of our game with Lancashire last week. We’ll see how things have progressed before we make a final decision.
“I think we showed some very good qualities in that win over Lancashire even though we weren’t fully at our best. They are a very good team who are going to beat sides throughout the season and so it was nice to get that win on the board.
“Now we turn to the task of facing Hampshire and we know we are in for another tough four days, but we are ready for the challenge and really looking forward to it.”
Ryan ten Doeschate (27) Captain
James Foster (7) Wicket-keeper
Aaron Beard (14)
Ravi Bopara (25)
Nick Browne (10)
Varun Chopra (6)
Alastair Cook (26)
Sam Cook (16)
Simon Harmer (11)
Dan Lawrence (28)
Jamie Porter (44)
Peter Siddle (64)
Tom Westley (21)