Trio’s emergence a bright spot for Essex

ESSEX hopes of securing an immediate return to Division One in the County Championship appear to be receding after they could only draw with Gloucestershire at Colchester last week.

However, first-team coach Paul Grayson still harbours hopes that victories from each of the county’s three remaining matches could prove sufficient to take them back to the top-flight.

“We’ll be looking to win all three games and hope that there are slip-ups elsewhere that allow us to get into the top-two.” he said. “I’m happy with our form in the four-day game because we’ve been playing some good cricket in the past few weeks.”

Essex appear to hold only a slender chance of promotion with leaders Northamptonshire, who also have three matches left, holding a 49-point lead over the county. Second-placed Middlesex lead Essex by 27 points and they also have a match in hand.

Whatever the final outcome in this year’s promotion race, the rapid development of three youngsters in particular will bring satisfaction to the county.

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Seventeen-year-old fast left-arm bowler Rhys Topley, 21-year-old batsman Adam Wheater and 22-year-old leg-spinner Tom Craddock have all emerged this summer to become highly-rated members of the first-team squad.

Craddock is the latest to make his mark. Having impressed when playing for the Unicorns in the CB40 matches against Essex this year, he was given a two-month trial in June that was soon extended to the end of the season.

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Now he has just signed a two-year permanent deal having forced his way into the side in all forms of the game.

“Things have happened quickly for me and I’m absolutely delighted,” he said. “My ambition has always been to play cricket professionally and now Essex have given me that chance. Hopefully I can repay them by taking plenty of wickets and helping them to success.

“We’ve still got a chance in both formats of the game this year, hopefully we can get promotion in the Championship and sneak into the semi-finals of the CB40 and kick on from there maybe.”

Since the departure of Danish Kaneria, Essex have been seeking to boost their spin options and the inexperienced but exciting talented leggie has certainly gone part of the way already to taking over from his influential leg-spin predecessor.

Already hopes are high that he can fill the Pakistani’s match-winning boots and that only increases the pressure on the Huddersfield-born twirler although the player remains unfazed by that.

“There are always pressures in whatever you do but to be honest, I don’t feel it especially,” he continued. “There is pressure on everyone in the team to perform, it’s not just on my shoulders. I’m just one member of a bowling attack that is trying to take wickets.”

Whilst Craddock is the latest recruit to the Essex playing fraternity, pace man Chris Wright appears to be heading out of Chelmsford. Having been allowed to speak to other counties, the former Middlesex man is having a trial with Warwickshire in the hope of securing a contract for next season.

Essex have named a 12-man squad for the match with Derbyshire with Topley added to the side that drew with Gloucestershire at Castle Park.

Interest in the Derbyshire squad will centre on former Essex bowler Tony Palladino who left Essex at the end of last season to join Derbyshire plus all-rounder Greg Smith who is rumoured to be the subject of interest from Essex as a possible recruit for next season.

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

Derbyshire squad: L Sutton (capt/wkt), M Guptill, C Hughes, G Smith, W Durston, W Madsen, D Redfern, R Whiteley, J Clare, T Groenewald, A Palladino, M Footitt, T Knight, J Needham.

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