McGrath looks ahead to Warwickshire clash


A visit from high-flying Warwickshire signals the return of the LV= Insurance County Championship to Chelmsford from Sunday, and Head Coach Anthony McGrath is up for the challenge presented by the Bears.

Essex currently sit fourth in Division One and come into the clash off the back of a 196-run home victory over Somerset two weeks ago.
Warwickshire, two places higher and inflictors of Essex’s only Championship defeat so far this season, will pose a stern test, but McGrath says the squad is in a good place and heavily motivated by the prospect of payback.

“It will be a little bit of a revenge mission, but it’s two good teams and we always have good games against Warwickshire,” he said. “The weather is set fine, so hopefully it’ll be a good four days at Chelmsford.

“It was a good win against Somerset, which keeps us in the hunt, and it was a tremendous effort. Coming off the schedule and with the heat, it’ll [need to] be similar against Warwickshire.

“The guys know what we’re playing for. We’ve just got to make sure that come that last day, we’re in with a chance and hopefully we can take the points.”

The Head Coach noted the punishing fixture list of the last month, which has seen red-ball cricket intertwined with the Vitality Blast, has been difficult to manage ahead of a crunch clash with the West Midlands side.

However, McGrath accepts the situation is identical everywhere, and he talked up the value of a deep squad permitting rest and rotation for key players, especially in the bowling department.

“The schedule has been crazy, and it tests the squad, but it’s the same for every county, so you have to be smart with resting people,” said McGrath. “I think we’ve played 16 out of 21 days recently.”

“It is tough, especially for the guys who play both forms. Sam [Cook] had a rest, [Shane Snater] had one the week before, and Dougie [Bracewell] also missed out with injury so hopefully he’ll be fresh.”

One potential factor that could be influential to an as-yet-unknown extent is that this round of Championship matches will be the first of two to see the Kookaburra ball being used, as opposed to the regular Dukes.

The Head Coach admits he is unsure how the ball might behave due to the schedule permitting limited practice with the Kookaburra, but he is again keen to express that everyone is in the same boat.

“Honestly, I have no idea [how it might behave]!” he smiled. “We haven’t had much opportunity to practice because of the T20, but we will get a report back off the second XI who have been using it up in Chester.

“It will be similar for all teams, though, and we’ll just have to adapt. It will be different to the Dukes, we know that, things like the seam are different, but it will be the team that adapts best.

“I’d be lying if I said I knew what’s going to happen! But hopefully we can get plenty of runs, and then it spins so [Simon Harmer] can come into play.

“It’s just about adapting and getting on with it, and there’s another round with it after this one, away to Lancashire, so it will also be interesting how it plays up and down the country.”

While the brand of ball is an unknown, McGrath does have controllables that he is able to influence far more, with one of the most important being the quality of the team he selects for the match.

The 47-year-old believes that the ability to play as strong a squad as possible will be crucial against Warwickshire, who have themselves also lost just once this season and count several big names among their ranks.

“It’ll be a difficult challenge,” he said. “They’ve played five seamers on occasions this year, so [they have] a really strong attack, and also their batsmen have been in form as well.

“It’s going to be a good test. Hopefully we’re coming into some form at the right time, but we’ve just got to make sure we’re on it for all four days.

“We saw against Somerset, when we get four full days, there’s normally a result, so hopefully that’s the case going forward.”