Napier under fire from coach Grayson

ESSEX conclude the Southend Cricket Festival on Sunday when Somerset are the visitors to Garon Park for a Clydesdale Bank40 match involving the top two sides in Group C of the competition.

The visitors bring an unbeaten record with them having won five of their six matches whilst the other game was abandoned and although Essex are level on 11 points with the West Country side, they have played two more games.

Essex tasted their first defeat in the competition last Tuesday when they were beaten by Gloucestershire following a lamentable performance by their top-order that saw them in total disarray at 52 for seven before the lower order rallied to left the total to 194 although that was not sufficient to prevent a four-wickets defeat.

Head coach Paul Grayson blamed a number of his players for the poor batting effort with Graham Napier particularly in the firing line from the coach.

“I can cope with us losing cricket matches, I can cope with us having bad days and I can cope with the players being a little bit out of form,” he said. “But what I find difficult to deal with is when we are not thinking smart and thinking like professional cricketers and we are making basic mistakes.

“As well as Napes played, he had got 30 odd runs but with 16 overs to go, he runs down the wicket to a left-arm spinner and is stumped. To me, that’s poor thinking and very poor from an experienced player.

“A couple of the guys had said to him that we needed him to stick in, it was a decent surface despite our score at one stage and if he got in, we might be able to get up to a total somewhere in the region of 220 or 230.

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“The defeat makes the next few games vitally important starting with the clash with Somerset and we are going to have to play a lot better than we did against Gloucestershire if we are to beat them.”

Essex are hoping that James Foster will have recovered from an ankle injury that has forced him to miss the club’s last three matches whilst Matt Walker has recovered from a viral infection that has kept him on the sidelines and he is also named in a 14-man squad.

Foster admitted that he is eager to return to the fold.

“I’ve been working really hard and getting stuck into my recovery programme this week and things are coming along nicely,” he said.

“Hopefully, I’ll be passed fit to play, the ankle is feeling stronger each day. It should be a cracking match with Somerset, there will be two good teams out there with both sides containing a number of potential match-winners and we are looking forward to an excellent game of cricket.

“We’ve had some good contests with Somerset over the past few years and no doubt, we’ll have another good match on Sunday.”

Essex (from): J Foster (capt/wkt), R Bopara, M Pettini, A Wheater, O Shah, M Walker, R ten Doeschate, T Westley, J Mickleburgh, G Napier, T Phillips, C Wright, D Masters, T Craddock.

Somerset (from): M Trescothick (capt), C Kieswetter (wkt), J Hildreth, N Compton, J Buttler, P Trego, A Suppiah, C Meschede, L Gregory, S Kirby, A Thomas, M Kartik, M Waller, G Hussain.

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