Match Preview : Essex v Kent


Essex start their season on Saturday when they face Kent in the Bob Willis Trophy at The Cloudfm County Ground.

This one-off competition replaces the County Championship, which has been shelved for this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tournament features all 18 first-class counties who will play in three regionalised groups. The two group winners with the most points will progress to the Final which will hopefully be played at Lord’s.

Each match will be staged over four days but for this new competition, there will be a reduction to a minimum of 90 overs in a day, whilst each sides first innings can last no longer than 120 overs. The follow-on will increase from 150 to 200 runs and the new ball will be available after 90 overs rather than 80.

The number of points on offer for a draw has been increased from 5 to 8 but all other points scoring will be the same as in the County Championship.

Essex Head coach Anthony McGrath is thrilled that county cricket is back on the scene, and said: “I’m just delighted that we do have some competitive cricket this year.

“It’s obviously disappointing that we will not be able to defend our Championship title that we won last year, but only a few weeks ago it was looking extremely unlikely that there would be any red-ball cricket for us this season.

“So the opportunity to play and challenge for a trophy is a real bonus and I think we should take the opportunity to thank everyone who has made this possible.

“It is going to be tough. We’ve had three months break and ideally, would have liked a little more time to prepare but everyone is going to be in the same position.

“We are hoping to hit the ground running with our opening two matches being at home although it will be strange playing at Chelmsford without any crowd because we do always get good support which does create an excellent atmosphere.

“The players are eager to get the season up and running, training in the last couple of weeks has been intense and the guys all look in good shape. There is a lot of competition for places amongst batters and bowlers which is always pleasing and there are places up for grabs.”

Essex will be captained by Tom Westley in red-ball cricket this year with the 31-year-old taking over the reins from Ryan ten Doeschate, who steered his side to Championship titles in 2017 and 2019.

Although ten Doeschate will still be an active member of the squad, there will be a few familiar faces missing from the Essex line-up when they embark on the new competition.

Dan Lawrence is with the England squad ahead of their Test series with Pakistan, influential pace bowler Peter Siddle is staying in Australia for this season whilst Ravi Bopara has departed to Sussex.

That leaves positions available, with McGrath adding: “The younger guys are desperate to come in and nail down a position and be a regular part of a successful squad.

“We will need to manage the squad and rotate the side and so for sure, there will be opportunities.

“The pleasing thing is that we have a depth to our squad that are able to play in pressure situations and allows us to cope with injuries and different types of wickets and selections.”

Essex squad to face Kent:

21 Tom Westley (C)
65 Ben Allison
14 Aaron Beard
10 Nick Browne
6 Varun Chopra
26 Alastair Cook
16 Sam Cook
11 Simon Harmer
23 Feroze Khushi
24 Aron Nijjar
44 Jamie Porter
94 Matt Quinn
27 Ryan ten Doeschate
31 Adam Wheater (WK)