Grayson says race for promotion is wide open

THE Colchester Cricket Festival begins this morning when Essex entertain Gloucestershire in the County Championship at Castle Park. Both teams will be looking for the victory that maintains their promotion aspirations although both have considerable points to make up if they are to press their claims to reach the top flight.

Gloucestershire are currently in fourth position with 143 points, seven more than Essex who start the match in sixth position whilst leaders Northamptonshire have 174 points with all three counties having four more matches to play. Middlesex will consider themselves best-placed of all the teams seeking a top-two promotion position having secured 167 points with five matches left.

Essex head coach Paul Grayson believes that the race to reach Division One is still wide open.

“I’m sure that there are going to be quite a few result wickets over the next few weeks and back-to-back wins for a team can put a totally different complexion on the league table,” he said.

“We need to win at least three and possibly all four of our remaining matches but we have been playing some excellent four-day cricket in the past few weeks and if we can continue that level of form, then we can be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.”

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Essex will be looking to Owais Shah to continue to provide the mainstay of their batting in the final month of the season. The former England and Middlesex batsman moved to Chelmsford in the winter and, after missing the first two months of the season due to commitments in the Indian Premier League, he has continued to demonstrate his class with an average of 51.00 in the county championship having scored 510 runs that includes two hundreds and two other half-centuries.

The 32-year-old believes that cool heads over the next few weeks may bring about the required results.

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“I think the key is not to get sucked into the pressure scenario of ‘we could go up or we could win this and we could win that’,” he stated. “Teams that I’ve been involved with in the past with that outlook generally get ahead of themselves and that only increases the pressures.

“The issue is more about getting the process right in each session of four-day cricket because one bad session can change the course of the game. “We are playing some good championship cricket and if we can look after each session of each four-day game, then results will take care of themselves,” he added.

Today’s squads

Essex squad: J Foster (capt/wkt), B Godleman, T Westley, O Shah, A Wheater, R ten Doeschate, G Napier, T Phillips, D Masters, M Chambers, T Craddock, M Pettini, J Mickleburgh.

Gloucestershire: A Gidman (capt), H Marshall, C Dent, K Williamson, C Taylor, W Gidman, I Cockbain, E Young, R Coughtrie (wkt), J Lewis, I Saxelby, D Payne, J Fuller, C Miles.

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