By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid) & David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Last Season: 7th Division 2. W4 L7 D3.
Last five results: Lost v Kent (A), Won v Glamorgan (H), Won v Northants (A),
Lost v Middlesex (A), Lost v Gloucestershire (H).
2018 leading run scorer: Wayne Madsen, 1016 @ 37.6 (2x100, 7x50, HS 144).
2018 top of batting averages: Ben Slater, 676 @ 42.3 (0x100, 6x50, HS 99).
2018 leading wicket-taker: Tony Palladino, 51 @ 19.7 (BBI 6-29, BBM 10-81)
2018 top of bowling averages: Luis Reece, 11 @ 17.9 (BBI 7-20, BBM 7-38)
Derbyshire's problems could be encapsulated in the struggles of Captain Billy Godleman. The first eight games of the season brought him just a solitary fifty. Although he ended strongly, with 2x100 and 2x50 in the last six games, an average of 26.3 is not what you hope for from a batsman who had appeared re-born at Derby. An attack of Ravi Rampaul, Mark Footitt, Duane Olivier and Tony Palladino looked sturdy enough to give any batting line-up a hard time, but Footitt managed just a single game, and his England ambitions now seem to be over, and Ravi Rampaul’s 13 wickets came at more than 50 apiece. Rampaul’s season ended prematurely at Hove on August 19th when he left the field with breathing difficulties and spent several nights in the hospital bed.
Derbyshire have seen important changes both on and off-field over the winter. They have signed New Zealand all-rounder Logan van Beek as their overseas player for the entire 2019 season for all formats. A medium-fast bowler and middle-order batsman, Derbyshire hope that he will strengthen their attack. An international with The Netherlands, he has been out of their side for more than three years now but, instead, has played for New Zealand A and is close to a cap for them. Batsman, Tom Lace has been signed on loan from Middlesex but, as part of the agreement, will not be available for games against Middlesex. And Scotland spinner, Mark Watt, has crossed the Pennines from Lancashire, hoping for the opportunity of regular cricket. On the negative side, Ben Slater has left for Nottinghamshire, Duanne Olivier has taken a Kolpak deal at Yorkshire and stalwarts Gary Wilson (T20 captain), and Hardus Viljoen have both been released, alongside Will David and Callum Brodrick. While the playing staff seem thinner in 2019, the backroom staff is now full of experience. David Houghton comes back to his post as Head of Cricket. Steve Kirby is bowling coach, and Dominic Cork is Head Coach for T20, while John Wright will work as an advisor on recruitment and strategy.
Although 2018 was ultimately disappointing, it was, at least, despite all the injury problems, a small advance on the three wins and eighth place of 2017. However, one feels that 2019 is going to be a challenging year because recruitment has not matched the talent that has left the club. Derbyshire will need Billy Godleman to continue his late-season form from 2018 and for van Beek to get both runs and wickets. More than anything though, they will need Rampaul and Footitt to stay fit and have one, last hurrah if they are to bowl sides out regularly.
Prediction: Derbyshire will struggle to avoid a bottom three finish.
After several seasons of losing their best players, the county seems to be returning to stability. For 2019, Durham must do without Paul Collingwood, who has retired finally. Collingwood had a season to forget, without a single fifty and averaging under 15, but Durham will miss his calm and his authority. In his place they have made the brave, one might almost say, courageous signing of Cameron Bancroft. There is no question that Bancroft has talent, although his common sense and sartorial judgement might be questioned. It will be interesting to see what he makes of the spicy pitches of the Riverside, as an extended run for Gloucestershire in 2016 and 2017 brought minimal success: almost a quarter of his runs over sixteen matches came in a single inning. Bancroft will undoubtedly receive some “chat” from opposition players and fans alike and how he handles it may define Durham’s season. Elsewhere, the squad seems reinforced, with two shrewd signings in Leicestershire’s Ben Raine, a useful all-rounder, who enjoyed a wonderful 2018 season, and Yorkshire’s Alex Lees, exiting the club are Barry McCarthy as he is now, with Ireland’s promotion, an overseas player. Ryan Davis, a fringe player in the Championship, has also left for personal reasons. The county is unlikely to see much of Stokes and Wood – if he stays fit, Wood is likely to be playing for England – so a lot of weight will fall, again, on the shoulders of Chris Rushworth to hold together the attack. More critical still is for the batsmen to make top-order runs after a horrific collective 2018: if Durham is to challenge, they will need at least two batsmen to top 800 runs for the season and several more to go past 600. James Franklin is expected to join the coaching staff, bringing with him a wealth of experience.
Prediction: Durham needs to show that an up and down 2018, including some remarkable wins from unpromising positions, was the first sign that they are turning the corner. More consistency in 2019 and they could be dark horses to go up.
Cook’s return will be most welcomed perhaps by Tom Westley and Nick Browne who will be looking to have big seasons after disappointing large parts in 2018. The pair both tend to improve when batting with Cook with both men benefiting from the former England captain’s guidance and coolness in the middle. Whilst, unlikely a strong start to the season for either Westley or Browne could see an unlikely call-up for the Ashes, and learning from Cook can only set them in good stead.
In terms of winter arrivals the Eagles have secured Peter Siddle for a further two season after the Australian Paceman impressed last season, but there are fears that the club lose the opening bowling to international duty with the Aussies coming to town for the Ashes this Summer, and good start to his county campaign could see him receive another Ashes call-up. Siddle proved to be a popular character around the Cloud FM County Ground with the 34-year-old often seen helping the Essex bowling youngsters develop their game, and his experience will prove key for Jamie Porter, Sam Cook and Aaron Beard’s development long term, of course Porter will be hoping to line-up against Siddle in the Ashes come June.
Andre Nel, former Essex and South African strike bowler has linked up with the Eagles once again to become assistant and bowling coach replacing the departed Dimitri Mascarenhas, who struggled to make an impact at Essex in his year with the club. Nel’s international experience could prove important for the club’s young prospects with Jack Plom in particularly highly thought of within the club.
Prediction: Another season of challenging at the top awaits for the Eagles, they shouldn’t lose too many key men for the Ashes, and with the returning Alastair Cook they should be able to get the runs to set up their talented bowling attack.
Spring has sprung (well, sort of) and the cricket season is about to begin, suddenly everything feels right with the world again. Twelve County get underway in the Specsavers County Championship on Friday all daring to dream of a memorable season ahead.
Yorkshire v Essex
Reigning Champions Essex travel north to face Yorkshire at Headingley looking to continue their momentum from last season and get their defence of the title off to a good start.
The White Rose suffered an early season blow losing three front-line bowlers weeks before the season opener. Both David Willey and Liam Plunkett were late call-ups to the IPL and young Ben Coad, who burst onto the scene last summer is a doubt for the season opener with a hip injury. They have also lost the mystery of Adil Rashid, who has become one of a number of players to focus on his white ball career.
They will though, be boosted by the re-arrival of Cheteshwar Pujara, the Indian batsman will have a point to prove ahead of India’s tour of England this summer and he will add much-needed stability to a line-up that was prone to collapse last summer.
It will be interesting to see how the hosts go in the opener with much relying on their senior pros like Adam Lyth, Tim Bresnan and Gary Ballance who will all be looking to get one over their former teammate Anthony McGrath.
For McGrath, who is taking charge of the Eagles for the first time, it is perhaps fitting that it takes place in his old backyard. He will be met by familiar surroundings as he looks to continue where Chris Silverwood left off with victory over Yorkshire. His first squad selection includes new signing Peter Siddle fresh from his Big Bash success with Adelaide Strikers in the Australian summer. Siddle, alongside Wisden Cricketer of the year Jamie Porter, youngster Sam Cook and Simon Harmer will be looking to make use of what is sure to be bowler-friendly conditions on the opening morning after the north of England was hit by horrendous weather in the weeks leading up to the curtain raiser.
The Eagles will have fond memories of playing Yorkshire having completed the double over the White Rose last summer, comprehensively beating them in both encounters. A good start at Headingley will negate any nerves of ‘doing a Middlesex’.
How they line up:
Yorkshire: Ballance ©, Bresnan, Brooks, Coad, Hodd (w/k), Leaning, Lees, Lyth, Pujara, Shaw and Waite.
Essex: Ten Doeschate ©, Foster (w/k), Bopara, Browne, Chopra, Sam Cook, Harmer, Lawrence, Porter, Siddle, Walter, Westley and Wheater
Day one: Early morning drizzle, which will clear and remain dry with highs of 11 degrees
Day two: Clear with sunny intervals with highs of 16 degrees.
Day three: Light rain and breezy, clear in the morning with rain showers in the afternoon with highs of 15 degrees.
Day four: Clear with sunny intervals with highs of 16 degrees.
Hampshire v Worcestershire
Newly promoted Worcestershire will be glad their season opener is away from New Road given the current status of their home of cricket. Instead, they face the tricky looking task of facing new look, Hampshire. The Southampton based club have further strengthened their squad with the arrivals of Hashim Amla and Sam Northeast – both of whom are in line to make their Hampshire debuts at the Ageas Bowl tomorrow.
Amla joins up with plenty of familiar faces with a smattering of South Africans amongst the Hampshire ranks with Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott also in the squad to face the Pears. It is a squad packed with international pedigree with Fidel Edwards, James Vince and Liam Dawson all set to feature in the season opener.
Despite the strength in depth of this Hampshire side, Hampshire coach Craig White was quick to remind his players that there are no easy games in Division One ahead of their clash with their newly promoted visitors.
“ The Competition is extremely strong and Division One cricket is fantastic cricket with some very good teams out there – we’re aware of the challenges Worcestershire present us with and we’re not taking them lightly”. White told Ageasbowl.com.
Worcestershire will have to brush off a 14-year Ageas Bowl hoodoo if they are to get off to a dream start in Division One having snuck promotion back to the top flight on the final day of the County season last year.
New coach Kevin Sharp is feeling confident ahead of the County Season though after taking over the reigns at New Road. He has made some shrewd winter signings and has urged his side to play fearless cricket. It is a motto that served Essex well last season as they took everyone by surprise if the Pears can be half as successful as the Eagles were last year they’ll be happy.
The arrival of Travis Head will bolster their batting ten-fold, although he is more known for his white-ball career, Head will offer some much-needed aggression down the order for the visitors as they look to attack a talented, but ageing looking Hampshire bowling attack.
Joe Leach is a wiley cricketer and he is sure to find seam movement on a pitch that will offer plenty early season. He and the experienced Steve Magoffin will play a huge role in deciding how their return to the top flight goes over the next four days.
And Leach has reiterated his excitement of pitting his wits against the international stars that ply their trade in Division One Cricket.
“We are raring to go and can’t wait. It’s been a long winter and we’ve been back from tour (in Abu Dhabi) for three weeks so we are all ready to go.
We want to test ourselves against people like Hashim Amla and, looking at the release dates of the England players as well, it looks like we will be facing all of them and that’s what we want to be in the top flight for.
We need to go toe to toe with these guys and hopefully beat them and that’s how the group is going to go from strength to strength now.” He told WCCC.co.uk.
How they line up:
Hampshire: Vince ©, Adams, Wood, Dawson, Berg, Amla, Northeast, McManus, Rossouw, Weatherley, Wheal, Edwards and Abbott.
Worcestershire: Not yet announced
Day One: Light cloud with highs of 13 degrees.
Day Two: Sunny intervals with highs of 15 degrees.
Day Three: Light cloud with highs of 13 degrees.
Day Four: Sunny intervals with highs of 15 degrees.
Lancashire v Nottinghamshire
Fellow newly-promoted Nottinghamshire face a trip to Old Trafford to tackle Lancashire in a clash of Test Ground playing counties.
Despite being newcomers many are expecting Nottinghamshire to fair well on their return to the top flight with a number of experienced heads mixed in with some young up and coming talents it feasible that the Outlaws could repeat Essex’s heroics from last year.
A look down the team sheet for their opening day encounter with the Red Rose shows just how strong this Midland club is. Opening up with a top three of Chris Nash, Jake Libby and Ross Taylor is enough to send shivers down any opening bowler spine, and the depth in the line-up continues to run deep with the likes of Samit Patel, Steven Mullaney and Rikki Wessels sure to add plenty of runs this season. With the ball, they are blessed with the likes of Mark Footitt, Jake Ball, Luke Fletcher and Harry Gurney it is little wonder why many of tipping them to be the surprise package this summer.
You’d have to think that that bowling attach will cause problems at Old Trafford in April, only a fool would choose not to take the new cherry on the opening morning of this encounter.
Ahead of the clash, new skipper Mullaney has spoken of the excitement of taking to the field as skipper for the first time against his former county but has stressed he doesn’t feel any extra pressure.
“I don’t think that this match and situation being against my old county puts any extra onus on it for me, because it would have been a proud and privileged moment whoever it was going to be against.
This will be my ninth season at Trent Bridge now so I’m firmly an Outlaw, but it will be nice going back and leading the team for the first time at my old ground.
“It actually feels like the first game as Captain has come round quite quickly, especially since Christmas. But I cannot wait to get stuck in at Old Trafford and I’m confident that we have practised really well and are ready to go.” He told TrentBridge.co.uk.
Lancashire, meanwhile, have had a little bit of a reshuffle at Old Trafford in an attempt to freshen up things after an ultimately disappointing end to last season.
The Red Rose have brought a couple of faces from Durham in Graham Onions and Keaton Jennings who have moved slightly south to Manchester. Onions will add an extra layer to the Lancashire attack with his experience sure to add to Glen Chapple’s side’s armoury. Australian overseas recruit Joe Mennie will also add some much-needed craft to what looked like a pretty one-dimensional attack last season.
With the bat, they look strong, with Jennings adding some flair to the top of the order alongside the ever-reliable Haseeb Hameed, who will look for a strong start to the season as Alastair Cook continues to struggle on the international stage. A good first couple of months for either of this pair could see a call-up for the England Test team this summer.
Shiv Chanderpaul and Liam Livingstone are also top quality batsmen. Both will add middle order runs and look to add stability to the side and they will need to be at the top of their game if they are to get the hosts off to a flier against a tricky looking opponent.
This could be the clash of the opening weekend as two top sides clash at Old Trafford. It is difficult to call; you just hope the weather won’t be the winner in this contest.
How they line-up:
Lancashire: Liam Livingstone (C), Tom Bailey, Shiv Chanderpaul, Jordan Clark, Steven Croft, Alex Davies, Haseeb Hameed, Keaton Jennings, Danny Lamb, Joe Mennie, Graham Onions, Stephen Parry, Matt Parkinson, Dane Vilas
Nottinghamshire: Libby, Nash, Mullaney ©, Footitt, Wessels, Gurney, Wood, Fletcher, Patel, Taylor, Moores, Ball and Root.
Day one: Light rain with highs of 11 degrees.
Day Two: Light clouds with highs of 16 degrees.
Day Three: Light rain with highs of 15 degrees.
Day Four: Cloudy with highs of 16 degrees.
Warwickshire v Sussex:
The season is set to begin with a bang at Edgbaston, as the two hotly tipped teams for promotion face off in their first fixture. I suspect as with most games in the early season, Sussex may choose for an uncontested toss to get an early go at movement off the pitch. Both teams’ pre-season matches were disrupted by the weather, so there may be a few batsmen a bit uncomfortable with batting first. Look out for Olly Stone, the fast bowler played the 2nd half of last season after a nasty injury, but will be all the better after his first full pre-season with Warwickshire. For Sussex, it will be fascinating to see if Division Two top run-scorer from last year, Luke Wells, can repeat his magic performances, with a big test expected at Edgbaston.
How they line-up:
Warwickshire 14-man squad: Jeetan Patel, Tim Ambrose, Keith Barker, Ian Bell, Henry Brookes, Sam Hain, Adam Hose, Matthew Lamb, Will Rhodes, Dominic Sibley, Ryan Sidebottom, Olly Stone, Jonathan Trott, Chris Wright.
Sussex 13-man squad: Ben Brown, Will Beer, Michael Burgess, Harry Finch, Ollie Robinson, Phil Salt, Ishant Sharma, Will Sheffield, Stiaan van Zyl, David Wiese, Luke Wells, Luke Wright.
Jeetan Patel is captain for the first time, as the Bears look to put last season behind them. All-rounder Will Rhodes is in the match squad and could make his debut after his move from Yorkshire. Sussex also have a new club captain, as Ben Brown takes over the reins on a permeant basis from Luke Wright. Indian international pace bowler Ishant Sharma could make his debut for Sussex.
Cloudy and mild, with a chance of sunny spells later on in the match on Sunday and Monday.
Kent v Gloucestershire:
The first round of matches in 2017 also threw up this fixture. Gloucestershire will hope that history does not repeat itself, as Kent won by 334 runs, bowling out Gloucestershire for 149 and 61.
Kent have reinforced shrewdly during the off-season and have named three new signings in their 13-man squad: South Africa Test batsman Heino Kuhn, Harry Podmore (recently signed from Middlesex) and New Zealand international Matt Henry. Claydon and Tredwell are injured. They will make a late decision on the final XI, weighing different pace options, aiming to find the best balance.
Gloucestershire have decided to experiment with their batting order. Having opened in recent seasons with Klinger and then with Bancroft, 2018 will see Benny Howell move up from the middle order to accompany new captain, Chris Dent, with Gareth Roderick taking over the gloves. Australian paceman Worrall is expected to debut while new signing from Middlesex, Ryan Higgins is likely to make a debut. With Norwell and Payne injured, Gloucestershire will have some interesting decisions to make on the balance of the side.
Kent were on the fringes of the promotion race last season and finished fifth one place, but 28 points ahead of Gloucestershire. They will hope for another good start to the season to start the challenge for a long-overdue promotion, while Gloucestershire will hope that their re-jigged batting is more solid than it was in 2017.
How they line up:
Kent: Joe Denly (c), Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sean Dickson, Heino Kuhn, Zak Crawley, Darren Stevens, Will Gidman, Adam Rouse (wk), Calum Haggett, Grant Stewart, Matt Henry, Harry Podmore, Ivan Thomas
Gloucestershire - Dent (c), Howell, Roderick (wk), Bracey, J.Taylor, van Buuren, Higgins, Noema-Barnett, Miles, Worrall, M.Taylor, Liddle, Hankins
Weather Watch: Fair and dry with a good chance of sunny spells throughout the match.
Middlesex v Northants:
Middlesex will give a debut to Australian, Hilton Cartwright. Middlesex have captain Dawid Malan rested and Nick Gubbins and Eoin Morgan injured. Sam Robson will captain and Paul Stirling has been added to the squad named for the match against Durham UCCE. Northants announce a twelve-man squad and include former Middlesex players Adam Rossington and Steven Crook. New Zealand Test player Doug Bracewell, signed for the first four Championship matches, will debut.
This interesting fixture features two sides that feel that they should not be in Division 2. Middlesex were extremely unhappy about the circumstances of their relegation, Northants were also unhappy to miss-out due to a points deduction for slow overrate that was also suffered in strange circumstances.
In 2011, the last time these two sides met in Division 2, both sides were both in contention for promotion in the final round of matches. Middlesex ended-up going up as winners of Division 2 and, despite being runaway leaders for much of the season, Northants missed-out narrowly to fast-finishing Surrey. Word inside the Middlesex camp is that immediate promotion back to Division 1 is their minimum aim for the season, while Northants will hope to make a point against a promotion rival. This fixture is likely to offer a pointer towards the prospects of both to play in Division One in 2019
How they line up:
Middlesex – Sam Robson (captain), Tom Barber, Hilton Cartwright, Stephen Eskinazi, James Harris, Tom Helm, Max Holden, Tim Murtagh, Ollie Rayner, Toby Roland-Jones, John Simpson (wicket-keeper), Paul Stirling, Robbie White
Northants – Wakely ©, Proctor, Levi, Rossington, Cobb, Keogh, Crook, Bracewell, Hutton, Gleeson, Sanderson, Newton
Weather watch: Dry and mild for large spells, with sunny spells on the final days play on Monday.
Division One previews by David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Warwickshire v Sussex by Harry Hill (@HarryHill96)
Middlesex v Northants & Kent v Gloucestershire by Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Where? The Essex County Ground, Chelmsford
Ins: Matt Coles (Kent), Feroze Khushi (YTH), Peter Siddle (AUS, April – Mid May) Neil Wagner (NZ, Mid-May to end of July – with option of extending), Adam Zampa (AUS, T20)
Outs: Kishen Velani (REL)
Key Man: Simon Harmer
Last Season: County Championship: Winners, RLODC: Semi-finalist, T20: Q/F
2018 Odds: Championship: 4/1, RLODC: 14/1, T20: 12/1
Essex had waited 25 long years to get their hands back on the County Championship trophy, not since their golden era in the eighties has there been this much excitement around Chelmsford.
A lot can be compared now to that of the great teams in the eighties and early nineties. Essex has always prided itself on bringing through the brightest talents in the local area. In the 20th century, the Eagles had players like the great Graham Gooch, Ray East and the adopted favourite Essex son Keith Fletcher. Fast-forward to 2018 and they have a new crop of local stars in Jamie Porter, Nick Browne and their new adopted son Ryan Ten Doeschate hoping to lead them to a new golden period.
Credit must be given to Derek Bowden and Ronnie Irani who took the bull by the horns and made big changes to the mentality of this little county from the East of England. They saw that the club was stagnating in the Second Division under Paul Grayson and made the much called for change in leadership. Out went the former Essex opener to be replaced by his number two, Chris Silverwood, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Chelmsford-based club suddenly had a complete change in playing style, there were no more cautious decisions on the outfield and with some shrewd signings, the club are back where they historically belong.
It was always going to prove key to keep hold of the core group that has taken Essex to the ‘next level’. There were plenty of murmurings around the County Ground that Surrey were sniffing around Dan Lawerence and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that the ‘bigger counties’ are starting to look at Jamie Porter too given his incredible breakthrough season in Division One. Perhaps though the fact that Lawrence ignored the glitz and the glamour of the Surrey dressing room shows how far the club has come. There is a real togetherness in the camp and with the supporters, and that was always going to be the key going into their defence of their newly held crown.
The only major blow for the club was the departure of the man that orchestrated Essex’s revival, Chris Silverwood, many expected his departure the minute the England Bowling coaching job came about, and it was quite fitting for the Eagles to wrap up their memorable season by finishing unbeaten and hammering his former county Yorkshire in that final game week.
His departure will be felt for sure though, many players grew under him as coach but what Bowden and Irani will hope is that the style and mentality won’t be hugely affected given the fact Anthony Mcgrath was part of that wonderful journey to where they are today. It is important that McGrath stamps his own authority on the camp whilst keeping things similar to the previous regime.
He will of course, like Silverwood was, be heavily reliant on two of Essex’s biggest weapons, Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer. The pair combined to lethal effect last summer collecting 148 wickets between them, as the Eagles ripped through sides time-after-time to claim big wins.
Porter’s story is perhaps one of the warmest in County Cricket. The Leytonstone-born seamer was about to turn his back on cricket when he was spotted by Essex’s chief scout Barry Hyam playing for Chingford. Two years later, back-to-back title-winning seasons and a tour to the Carribean with the England Lions it is safe to say he loves the game of cricket once again. He will be crucial again for the Eagles as he looks to continue his fine form with half an eye on taking over from James Anderson in a couple of years in the England set-up.
If you talk to many at Essex they will tell you that Harmer was the missing link that the club have been crying out for a long time. A man that can hold up an end and look constantly dangerous throughout. Porter claims his partner in crime is the best spinner in the county circuit and you’d be foolish to argue with him given his 72-wicket haul from his first season in county cricket.
The big shoes of the departure of Mohammed Amir have been left with Aussie Peter Siddle who will be joining the Eagles this week for the first six games of the Championship season. Essex will see this a big coup and after years of chasing the fierce quick and they have finally got their man. He will offer something different to the Essex attack, much like Amir did. He will show heart, spirit and will be a man that will run through brick walls for the side. Neil Wagner will replace Siddle in May, Wags as he is affectionally known around the County Ground was a popular signing after making such an impact last season at the club. Whilst he didn’t pull up any trees, he was Mr. Reliable and played a massive role in the dressing room helping young Aaron Beard and Sam Cook master their trade. If Wagner can produce half the level of skill he showed in the recent Test match series in New Zealand against England he will prove to be another very astute resigning from the Eagles.
Joining Siddle in the dressing room for the first time will be Matt Coles; the former Hampshire and Kent man has crossed the Dartford tunnel to join the Champions. It was a curious signing for the Eagles giving his somewhat bad boy reputation, but if any county can get the best out of Coles it is Essex. Jesse Ryder came with a similar reputation a few years ago but his reputation was soon forgotten about as the tight-knit dressing room welcomed him with open arms and he soon became one of the boys. Essex will hope that Coles will fall into that category too as he certainly offers white-ball guile as well as hard hitting down the order. Perhaps a nod to what Essex are aiming to become this season under new assistant Dimitri Mascarenhas, the former Hampshire all-rounder has developed quite the reputation of being an excellent white-bowl coach and his appointment, to me at least, seems like the club are wanting to become a unit that can fire in all competitions.
So what will 2018 bring for the reigning Champions? Can they retain their title or will they be the next Middlesex and go down straight after the highest of highs? Last year Ten Doeschate’s men came from no-where to absolutely dominate the top flight, even the most biased of Essex fans didn’t see that coming. They will be hard pushed to repeat the feat that took them to glory. They will, of course, have goals, firstly to get enough points on the board to keep their heads above water, and then who knows. It will be a fiercely competitive league this year and being title-holders they are there to be shot at. They will no longer have that element of surprise they perhaps carried last summer, but the bowling attack is strong enough to take 20-wickets consistently it is just whether the batting line-up can set them up consistently enough.
As for the white-ball game, the Eagles will hope that Adam Zampa (signed for the entirety of the T20 campaign) will offer them that element of mystery, and the newly acquired white-ball skill of Coles will offer them another wicket taking option at the top of the innings. T20 has always been the competition to elude Essex and they will want to put that right this summer under the tutelage of Mascarenhas.
Perhaps though, their best chance of white-ball success will come in the Royal London One-Day Cup, I feel as though the Eagles batting line-up is more suited to the longer formats of limited overs cricket. Essex’s line-up is more about craft and subtlety than the brute force and strength that T20 requires. They’ll qualify out of the group in the 50-over competition but they’ll have to get over their Knockout stage hoodoo to give their fans a trip to any sort of limited overs final.
County Championship: 3rd
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All Charlie Jennings County Championship David Bowden Derbyshire Durham Essex Glamorgan Gloucestershire Hampshire Harry Hil Harry Hill Hector Cappelletti Jamie Ramage Kent Lancashire Leicestershire Mark Kidger Matthew Nichols Matt Layton Middlesex Northamptonshire Nottinghamshire RLODC Season Previews Somerset Surrey Sussex T20 VFTO Predicts Warwickshire Worcestershire Yorkshire