Essex and Somerset desperate for victory

Essex start the first of their two festival cricket weeks when they entertain Somerset at Garon Park, Southend, today, with both teams desperate for victory - although for contrasting reasons.

Essex start the first of their two festival cricket weeks when they entertain Somerset at Garon Park, Southend, today, with both teams desperate for victory - although for contrasting reasons.

The home side start the match in third place in Division Two of the Liverpool Victoria County Championship, four points behind Worcestershire, who have a game in hand, while opponents Somerset occupy bottom place, having won just two of their 10 matches this summer.

Victory for Essex would maintain their hopes of clinching one of the two promotion spots, and they come into the game hoping to maintain their 100% record at the newest venue on the first-class circuit.

Last season's inaugural fixtures saw them complete a two-wickets win over Durham in the championship while the one-day clash with Middlesex produced a four-runs success.

Wicket-keeper James Foster admits it has been an exhausting time for the county in recent weeks.

“It's been difficult these last couple of weeks because the players are really drained. We've had a lot of intense cricket, what with the Twenty20 and the championship matches played in the sweltering temperatures,” said Foster.

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“It's not only the playing the matches - for example, people think that because Twenty20 games don't last very long, it doesn't take a lot out of the players but believe me, it can be very demanding and draining.

“You can get pretty run down, they are packed days with the travelling, late finishes, and although it's been a terrific competition for us so far, it is hard work and everyone's fairly drained. The abortive trip to Cardiff at the start of this week didn't help either.

“But we are professionals and continue to give our best, although I know that the lads are looking forward to a few days' break that we'll have next week.”

Foster must have been on the shortlist to replace England wicket-keeper Geraint Jones for the next Test against Pakistan, although the vote eventually went to Nottinghamshire's Chris Read. However the Essex stumper did have cause for celebration during last week's visit to Northamptonshire, when he reached 250 first-class catches.

“I didn't realise I'd reached that particular milestone because I'm not one who keeps records,” he admitted. “When I heard it announced over the PA at Northampton I was surprised, I just had no idea.

“I don't know whether it's a good statistic or not, I always do my best and some days you are lucky and get the nicks and things and other days, little seems to pass the bat.”

Asked about the England situation, Foster remained philosophical. “To be honest, I don't worry about it, I just get on with the job and don't worry about things but obviously I'd love to play international cricket again, who wouldn't?

“But all I set out to achieve is to do my best for Essex every day and ensure I play my part in helping them achieve further successes.”

Thanks to the industry of the Southend festival committee, a profit of nearly £22,000 was made last time and members and fans who supported the event last year will notice significant changes this time around.

Norman Garon Trust, which owns the ground, carried out a tree-planting programme during the winter, while the cricket square has been turned around 90 degrees so that bowlers run in north-south which is the cricketing norm. Apparently, batsmen were complaining last year that the sun was affecting their vision.

Essex recall former England fast bowler Darren Gough to the side after he was rested from the match at Northampton, and Will Jefferson is also added to the side while the visitors have cancelled the contract of Dan Cullen and will continue for the remainder of the campaign with just one overseas player, skipper Cameron White.

Essex won by three wickets when the sides met at Taunton earlier this season and will be looking to complete a double in this match.


Essex (from): R Irani (captain), M Pettini, W Jefferson, G Flower, R Bopara, A Flower, J Foster, J Middlebrook, T Phillips, A Bichel, A Tudor, D Gough and T Palladino.

Somerset (from): C White (captain), M Wood, N Edwards, A Suppiah, P Trego, J Hildreth, W Durston, C Gazzard, R Johnson, A Caddick, C Willoughby, M Munday and S Francis.

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