Essex look for another convincing display

ESSEX begin the Southend Cricket Festival at Garon Park today when they host bottom-of-the-table Leicestershire in the County Championship.

Essex gained a comprehensive 254-run success at Grace Road when the teams met just two weeks ago and head coach Paul Grayson is looking for another convincing display from his charges.

“We turned in an excellent performance against Leicestershire recently and we will be hoping to repeat that but we’ll not be taking anything for granted,” he said. “They are not a bad side although they do have a few injury problems at the moment.”

The visitors are missing their captain Matthew Hoggard and could also be without star batsman James Taylor. Former England and Yorkshire pace bowler Hoggard joined Leicestershire for the 2010 campaign and was appointed to lead the side but he is currently suffering with a wrist injury.

The diminutive Taylor has been named to lead the England Lions squad that also includes Essex all-rounder Ravi Bopara, as they face Sri Lanka A in a four-day match at Scarborough on August 2 and three one-day games at Worcester (August 12 and 14) and Northampton (August 16). However, he is suffering from a shoulder injury that could rule him out of today’s County Championship clash.

Grayson believes that the promotion race is still open and that Essex could feature prominently over the remaining weeks of the season.

“It’s getting tight at the top with a number of teams involved,” he stated. “If we can win four or five of our remaining matches, then I think we do have a chance of getting back to Division One. I know it’s a cliche, but we are just taking one game at a time and we’ll see where that takes us.”

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One Essex player who will be eagerly looking forward to facing the Leicestershire attack once more is Billy Godleman. The 22-year-old opener started this season with a half-century in the Championship opener with Kent but then managed only 50 runs in six subsequent innings and was dropped for the next five Championship matches until being recalled for the match at Leicestershire – an opportunity he grabbed with both hands.

He scored 130 in the Essex second innings and admitted it was relief to be back amongst the runs.

“It might not have been an attractive innings to watch but I needed a decent score and the runs are in the book.

“It’s been a frustrating and disappointing time for me to have been left out but I’ve learned from the experience. In fairness, I hadn’t got the runs I wanted to warrant a place in the side and play as much first-team cricket as I would have liked but I recognise that it’s only myself who can influence the decision to win my place in the team.

“I have a lot of ambition to do well for Essex, not just in four-day cricket but in the shorter forms of the game as well. But I’ve come in against Leicestershire and taken my chance and hopefully, I can build my Essex career on from here.”

Essex are missing Matt Walker who is suffering with a viral infection whilst James Foster remains a doubt having twisted an ankle in training last week.

Garon Park has not been a happy hunting ground for the home side in four-day cricket. The club moved the festival week from the Southchurch Park location to the current venue in 2005 but after winning their first two Championship matches, all four subsequent Championship fixtures have ended in defeat.

Play is scheduled to commence at midday today but reverts to the more regular time of 11am on each of the remaining three days. Essex squad: R Bopara (capt), B Godleman, T Westley, O Shah, J Mickleburgh, R ten Doeschate, A Wheater (wkt), D Masters, M Chambers, T Mills, T Craddock, T Phillips, G Napier.

Leicestershire squad: A McDonald (capt), W Jefferson, M Boyce, J Taylor, G Smith, P Nixon, J Cobb, W White, T New (wkt), J Naik, C Henderson, N Buck, N Malik, H Gurney.

The second match of the festival takes place on Sunday when Somerset are the visitors for a Clydesdale Bank40 match.

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