Chance for Essex youngsters to impress

ESSEX entertain Sri Lanka in a three-day match at the Ford County Ground commencing this morning (start 11am) and the hosts are taking the opportunity to give first-team experience to a number of their emerging youngsters.

Two eighteen year-olds, wicket-keeper/batsman Ben Foakes and fast bowler Tymal Mills, are both named in a 12-man squad and are set to make their first-class debuts whilst triallist Tom Craddock is also in line to start.

Colchester-born Foakes who plays for Colchester & East Essex CC, has been involved in the England Development programme at Under18/19 levels and like Mills – who plays his club cricket with Mildenhall CC - he is a product of the Essex Academy. Both players have played regularly in the Essex Second XI this season.

Craddock impressed Essex first-team coach Paul Grayson when playing for the Unicorns against the county in the two Clydesdale Bank40 games this season and with the club keen to add to their spin bowling options, 21-year-old leg-spinner Craddock has been offered an opportunity to take a step further towards a professional contract.

Sri Lanka play the third and final Test match of the series with England at the Rose Bowl next week and so this encounter with Essex will be viewed by a number of their touring party, particularly the bowlers, to stake their own claims for inclusion on that match. However, the tourists will not be able to call on the services of tour captain Tillekeratne Dilshan who sustained a broken thumb during the Lord’s Test.

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Essex will be captained for the first time by Ravi Bopara who missed out on selection for the Test series after failing to impress the England selectors in an England Lions match against Sri Lanka immediately ahead of the start of the Test series.

Widely tipped to be given the number 6 spot, he missed out after Eoin Morgan returned from the IPL to score 193 for the Lions whilst the Essex player struggled to make an impact in that match.

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The game today offers all-rounder Bopara the opportunity to remind the international selectors of his talents and push his claims for a place in the one-day side.

Essex legend Graham Gooch has seen the Sri Lankans at close quarters this summer having worked with England as batting coach during the Test series.

Still heavily involved in coaching duties with the county, Gooch said: “It would have been nice to have been able to put out our regular first team but we’ve had a demanding schedule and it’s understandable that we have taken the opportunity to rest players. It is a good opportunity though for some of our youngsters to come in, get first-team experience and show what they can do.

“I don’t know what type of a team Sri Lanka will put out and I suspect that most of their squad players will play plus a sprinkling of those that played in the Lord’s Test but nevertheless, they are all international players and it will be a big occasion for some of our younger ones who will be involved.

“It’s a chance for some of them, together with a number of our senior players, to showcase their skills and it will be interesting to see how our guys shape up against international opposition.”

Essex (from): R Bopara (capt), B Godleman, M Pettini, J Mickleburgh, A Wheater, T Westley, B Foakes, (wkt), M Chambers, R Topley, T Mills, T Craddock, M Osborne.

Sri Lanka (from): D Chandimal, N Pradeep, D Fernando, R Herath, M Jayawardene, P Jayawardene, S Randiv, S Lakmal, F Maharoof, A Mendis, T Paranavitana, T Perera, T Sangakkara, K Silva, L Thirimanne, C Welegedara.

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