Napier back for Essex as Tsotebe is dropped

GRAHAM Napier is set to return to first-class cricket for Essex following a serious back injury that has kept him out of Championship cricket since early June last year but Lonwabo Tsotsobe is dropped from the squad to play Surrey at Whitgift School, Croydon starting this morning.

Napier suffered a career-threatening injury during the match with Hampshire at the Rose Bowl that ended his season and although he has made four one-day appearances for the county in 2011, this will be his first four-day game since sustaining the back problem.

Meanwhile, South African Test bowler Tsotsobe has continued to disappoint and pays the price for some indifferent bowling in his three matches thus far.

“He’s just not bowling well enough,” Essex first-team coach Paul Grayson admitted. “The simple fact is that we haven’t seen enough from him in Championship cricket and the decision comes down purely to form .Whether you are an overseas player or not, it doesn’t really matter, if you are not performing then changes have to be made.”

The return off all-rounder Napier is a welcome boost for a side who were ranked as pre-season favourites to win promotion back to the First Division at the first time of asking but who have won just one of their five Division Two matches this term.

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The Colchester-born player showed his well-being with a hat-trick in the Clydesdale Bank 40 match at Cardiff against Glamorgan recently that was eventually abandoned but he is now ready to play the longer form of the game.

The 31 year-old admitted that he believed his career was on the line during his recovery period. “Mentally it was hard during those 11 months, there were low points when I wondered if I would get back out on the field again but you play mind games with yourself in an effort to keep yourself motivated,” he stated.

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“Part of that motivation was telling myself, that I would enjoy every single moment if I did get back on the again. Things have been coming along nicely and getting back into the first team has been great for me.”

Essex will be without Ravi Bopara who is one duty with the England Lions whop meet Sri Lanka in Derby this week whilst the county are still awaiting the return of Owais Shah and Ryan ten Doeschate from the Indian Premier League.

The venue at Whitgift can be a batters paradise and the visitors batsmen will be hoping they can take advantage and improve a disappointing sequence of first innings performances.

Surrey have named a 12-man squad that includes Mark Ramprakash and Kevin Pietersen who made his comeback for Surrey last week when he captained their side in the defeat by Cambridge MCCU.

If selected, he will be appearing in his first Championship match of the 2011 season.

The Squads

Surrey: R Hamilton-Brown (capt), S Davies (wkt), M Ramprakash, K Pietersen, Z de Bruyn, T Maynard, G Batty, C Schofield, Yasir Arafat, C Tremlett, S Meaker, T Linley.

Essex: J Foster (capt/wkt), A Cook, J Mickleburgh, M Pettini, M Walker, A Wheater, G Napier, T Phillips, D Masters, C Wright, M Chambers, M Comber.

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