David Masters ruled out of Essex’s match at Hampshire

ESSEX face Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl starting on Tuesday (10.30am) in the penultimate LV= County Championship match of the season.

The match between the two teams played at The Ford County Ground seven weeks ago produced a thrilling finish with the visitors winning by just two runs after Essex had been set 360 for victory.

Hampshire hold realistic promotion prospects although they start the game in fourth place but only six points behind second-placed Yorkshire who have 150 points. Derbyshire lead the table with 169 points and all these teams have only two matches remaining.

With Essex now 27 points outside the promotion places and with just two matches remaining, the drawn match at Derby last week when rain intervened to deny Essex the opportunity of victory also virtually ended their chances of a return to Division One.

David Masters has had a recurrence of his side muscle injury and is ruled out. Reece Topley and Tymal Mills are brought in to make up a 12-man squad with the final decision on the starting line-up to be made on the morning of the match.

Head coach Paul Grayson accepts that his squad will be playing Division Two cricket next year but took some positives from the last match.

“I was really pleased with the way Tom Craddock bowled at Derby,” he said. “It’s been a frustrating summer for him in the sense of the weather and the pitches haven’t been great for him.

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“Frankly he probably hasn’t bowled as well as he would have liked in the second team to push his claims for inclusion in the first team. But he’s bowling well at the moment and a lot of our guys are really on good terms with themselves about our four-day cricket.

“Although there have been some harsh words spoken in our dressing room about our one-day cricket this year, to be fair, I think that overall, our four-day cricket has been very solid especially in the last month.

“I want us to maintain that style of cricket over the final two matches and if we do that, we can finish off 2012 on a real positive note.

“We’ve got two tough matches left against teams that are involved in the promotion race so we can have a real influence on that outcome. So there is no way that we will be picking weakened sides for these last two matches and we ourselves want to finish as high as we can in the table.”

Essex squad: T Westley, J Mickleburgh, Owais Shah, M Pettini, R ten Doeschate, J Foster (capt/wkt), A Wheater, G Napier, T Craddock, M Chambers, R Topley, T Mills.