Don Topley: Essex’s exciting week could see double success
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
DON TOPLEY takes a look at a huge weekend for Essex cricket club
Essex County Cricket Club enter the final week of the 2019 Cricket Season fighting for two major domestic trophies.
Today, their talented players and loyal supporters travel to Edgbaston for t20 Finals Day, where they play the surprise package - Derbyshire Falcons - in the second semi-final this afternoon.
The Falcons have never been to any Finals Day, whilst Essex Eagles have always lost their morning semi-finals. They were last there back in 2013, when Essex Eagles lost the first semi-final to the eventual winners, Northamptonshire.
As I previously stated in this East Anglian Daily Times column, it has been an incredible journey for the Essex Eagles to reach the Quarter Finals and defeat Lancashire.
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It has seen a huge turnaround in form with bat and ball. Ravi Bopara has been instrumental and impressive since his return. Young Dan Lawrence has shown maturity with the bat, and fast bowler, Jamie Porter, (who doesn't always play t20) has been given some t20 game-time of late. He has responded well by taking eight t20 wickets in three outings.
They have a great chance to defeat Derbyshire Falcons and make the evening final.
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Derbyshire are coached by the charismatic, personable and aggressive Dominic Cork, but they don't have many players with big game experience. This morning's first Semi-Final is between highly-fancied Nottinghamshire Outlaws and last year's champions, Worcestershire Rapids.
Essex will stay in Birmingham tonight - win or lose - as they then travel a short journey south west to Taunton for the County Championship title decider against Somerset.
After a ninth championship win over Surrey at Chelmsford this week, Essex overtook previous leaders, Somerset, who had a complete nightmare at Southampton against Hampshire at the same time.
It was a truly remarkable game as the Hampshire and former South African fast bowler, Kyle Abbott, claimed 17 of the 20 Somerset wickets to fall. Abbott, now a Kolpak player, took an incredible 9 for 40 in the first innings and then followed up with 8 for 46, to utterly depress 'The Cidermen' and their supporters. It was a record haul in England since Jim Laker's England feat against Australia of 19 for 90, in 1956.
All of this came after Somerset had a brilliant first day, and Essex, their season's rivals, were delayed at Chelmsford as the County Ground was enveloped in bad light - never count your chickens in four day cricket!
Essex's recent form in the County Championship has been mercurial.
In July, they thrashed Nottinghamshire by an innings, Yorkshire by 8 wickets, and Warwickshire by 187 runs. August saw a close win over neighbours Kent by 3 wickets, whilst September saw Warwickshire put Essex under pressure, as the game petered out into a tame draw. This week's stunning victory over Surrey has now made Essex favourites to win the County Championship title.
The Taunton showdown starts on Monday, but it does have some difficult issues for Somerset. Over the years they have over prepared pitches, perhaps using old and tired pitches which turn for their two international spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess.
The ECB have warned the home team not to do such things. It would be a huge gamble too, as Essex have a better finger spinner in Simon Harmer, who is the leading wicket taker in the entire country in his stunning season - he out-performs everyone on spinning, or non-spinning pitches.
The other added issue Taunton has is during this incredibly busy season, Somserset hosted ICC World Cup matches and England Women's games. During these high profile international matches Sky Sports Tv requests matches use central wickets on their square in line with their tv cameras.
The pitches are all well used. The satellite tv company will be broadcasting all four days live from Taunton and therefore will request another central pitch, if available.
Essex arrive in the 'West Country' 12 points clear of second placed Somerset, and sadly rain is forecast at times during the four days, which wont help Somerset's cause.
Essex can afford to draw the match but Somerset simply can't. Essex can be selfish as they do not have to tempt their opponents into a game - don't expect Essex to declare or set any game up - why should they?
Go on Essex - make history this week!