Basement side Essex visit Northants

BOTTOM-of-the-table Essex face early pace-setters Northamptonshire this morning at Wantage Road as the third round of County Championship matches gets under way.

The visitors have made a lamentable start to their Division Two campaign having suffered a defeat to fellow relegated side Kent before they were crushed at Lord’s last week where Middlesex recorded an eight-wickets success in a match that lasted just 45 minutes into the third day.

In contrast Northants, who include former Essex players Stephen Peters and James Middlebrook, have enjoyed a positive start with an opening fixture draw with Surrey at The Oval followed by an innings home win over Kent.

“We need to get those two bad results out of our system and the beauty of County Cricket is that the games come thick and fast and we have the opportunity to do just that,” said Essex coach Paul Grayson.

Essex name overseas signing Lonwabo Tsotsobe into their 12-man squad and the 27-year-old South African left-arm swing Test bowler is expected to make his delayed debut after being forced to miss the match with Middlesex due to a family bereavement.

“Hopefully, he will have an immediate impact for us,” Grayson added.

“Our bowling has been okay in patches, especially from (David) Masters and (Reece) Topley but it hasn’t been consistent throughout our attack.”

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Tom Westley has returned to Durham University and that offers former captain Mark Pettini the opportunity to regain his place in the first-team line-up.

Meanwhile, Ravi Bopara is hoping that he can quickly rediscover his form as he bids to catch the England selectors’ attentions with an abundance of early season runs. Thus far, the stylish 25-year-old has managed just 56 runs in four Championship innings and he is hoping that the Wantage Road pitch can provide him with the opportunity to play a significant innings.

“I’m desperately keen to win back my England place but I need to show people that I’m scoring heavily and consistently,” he said. “It’s not been a great start for me or the team and that’s very disappointing.”

Bopara forfeited the opportunity to earn a lucrative pay-packet in the Indian Premier League when he turned down an offer from Rajasthan Royals preferring to focus on his international career with England but the early season has proved a nightmare for the player and his county.

Appointed as vice-captain on the eve of the season to James Foster, he continued: “We’ve been well beaten by Kent and Middlesex so far but we just have to keep working hard with bat and ball and hopefully come back well in the next few games.

“Everyone expected us to really do well in Division Two and there is still a lot of time for us to realise those expectations but it hasn’t started the way we wanted.”

Northants squad: A Hall (captain), S Peters, M Loye, R White, A Wakely, D Sales, N O’Brien (wicket-keeper), C Vaas,J Middlebrook, L Daggett, J Brooks and D Lucas.

Essex squad: J Foster (captain/wicket-keeper), B Godleman, A Cook, J Mickleburgh, R Bopara, M Walker, M Pettini, T Phillips, D Masters, M Chambers, R Topley and L Tsotsobe.

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