Grayson still targeting promotion

ESSEX face Leicestershire at Grace Road tomorrow as they continue their LV=County Championship campaign. Despite managing only two victories from their opening nine matches, head coach Paul Grayson believes that his squad can still achieve their pre-season ambitions of promotion and a return to Division One cricket.

“We probably need five wins out of our remaining seven games and although it seems a tall order, I have belief that this squad can achieve that,” he said. “Certainly the players believe it and the win against Northants in our last match shows that we are a match for anyone in this division.

“They came to us as league leaders but we gained an emphatic victory (the winning margin was 171 runs) with more than a day to spare and what we have to do is to find a consistent level.

“We know that some of our performances have been disappointing in both the four-day game and the twenty20 and that’s a simple fact. But as we move into the second-half of the season in the Championship, we’ve got an excellent chance to put things right.

“For one reason or another, things just haven’t clicked yet for us this season but there’s still a lot of cricket to be played and we’ll be trying to turn things around very quickly.”

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Grayson has delayed naming his squad for the match but Graham Napier and Reece Topley are both missing. All-rounder Napier is still suffering with a hamstring problem whilst emerging pace bowler Topley, who has taken 23 championship wickets in six matches at 27.82, is now with the England Under-19 party for their one-day series with South Africa and is not expected to be available for a return to county duty until the start of August.

James Foster returns to lead the side having served his two-match ban issued by the ECB for disciplinary sanctions against Essex. The county’s leading wicket-taker David Masters, who needs just four more championship victims to reach the 50 wickets landmark for the season in the competition, makes a return to his former stomping ground. The 33-year-old new ball bowler spent five years at Grace Road between 2003 and 2007 before leaving to join Essex.

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Leicestershire include former Essex opener Will Jefferson, the tallest man in the first-class game at 6ft 10in. He is currently the Foxes leading runs scorer with 646 Championship runs at 42.66 whilst heading the bowling list is spinner Claude Henderson with 26 wickets at 29.46.

However, the hosts have injury concerns with captain Matthew Hoggard out of action with a wrist injury. Leicestershire had hoped that Hoggard would be fit to return to action in the Championship match against Essex at Southend on July 27 but further scans have revealed that the former England and Yorkshire paceman has suffered cartilage damage. He will be in a cast for two weeks and is likely to be out of action for between four and six weeks.

There are also fitness doubts over deputy skipper Australian Andrew McDonald who is struggling to overcome a shoulder problem. However, seamer Nathan Buck is available again having been out since mid May with an ankle injury.

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

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