Greg Smith returns for Essex in final CB40 match

ESSEX Eagles meet Lancashire Lightning at The Ford County Ground on Thursday in the final home match of their Clydesdale Bank 40 campaign.

Although the Eagles cannot make further progress in the competition, the Lightning have booked their place in the semi-finals and the home side will be keen to continue their recent good run of form in the competition with a win over the Group A leaders.

The home side have won their last three CB 40 matches and the only change from the side that beat Netherlands on Sunday will be the return of Greg Smith in place of Ravi Bopara who has been included in the England squad for the One-day series with South Africa that commences on Friday.

Eagles head coach Paul Grayson admits that the disappointing start to the CB40 campaign has proved significant.

“We’ve played well in the last three matches but losing three of our early matches have cost us,” he said. “We played badly then and with a combination of the poor weather, it meant we didn’t get going until it was too late.


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“But we have two games to go and we want to win both and finish as high as we can although we know we can’t qualify. The team is playing well at the moment with a lot of confidence and that’s been reflected in our recent performances both as a team and individually.

“We have a tough game against Lancashire who are flying high at the top of our group but we are putting out our strongest side to try and win that game.

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“It’s good to see the progress of some of the younger players in particular, people like Tom Westley who has shown us what he can do coming in at the top of the order and I was really pleased with the way he played last Sunday.

“He was a bit frustrated with himself that he didn’t go on and make a hundred because when he got out, there were still 25 overs left. We are already looking at our one-day plans for next season and the remaining games gives players an opportunity to show what they can do. We’ve had a look at some of them and been able to find out what they can and what they can’t do.”

The influential bowling performance in the win over Netherlands was provided by Indian Test bowler Harbhajan Singh and Grayson has the highest praise for the off-spinner.

“He’s made a big contribution both on the field and in the dressing room,” he stated. “He’s real quality and we are enjoying having him around. He was desperate to try and win the Championship game with Glamorgan for us last Saturday but it didn’t quite happen although he did his best.

“His commitment to the team has been brilliant for sure.”

The match is scheduled to start at 4.40pm with gates open form 2.40pm. Essex Cricket are celebrating an Indian summer during the match at The Ford County Ground with the Jugnu Bhangra Group performing before and during the interval.

Essex Eagles: T Westley, M Pettini, O Sha, R ten Doeschate, J Foster (caot, wkt), G Smith, A Wheater, G Napier, Harbhajan Singh, T Phillips, T Mills.

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