West Indies in town against Essex

THE West Indies are in town and crowds are expected to flock to Chelmsford in what fans hope will be a Caribbean carnival of entertainment when the tourists face Essex in a three-day fixture starting this morning (11am) at the County Ground.


Essex v West Indies

ESSEX Test opener Alastair Cook reckons his own injury frustration has been put into context by international colleague Andrew Flintoff's latest blow.

Essex's Cook makes his season bow against the touring West Indians at Chelmsford tomorrow, after three weeks on the sidelines with a fractured finger.

The 24-year-old has aborted a couple of potential comebacks for his county due to discomfort, which has delayed his preparation for the first Test at Lord's on May 6, but that is nothing compared to the catalogue of problems Flintoff has faced.

Flintoff, 31, was today ruled out of the two-match series against West Indies to undergo an operation on his right knee - this year alone the Lancastrian has been kept out of matches by a side strain and torn muscle in his hip.

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"I have found the last three weeks so frustrating and I have only had a broken finger," Cook told PA Sport. "That is so minuscule compared to what Fred has had to go through.

"He just keeps coming back, getting through all the rehab, and to do it time after time must be so hard: you have to have respect what he has gone through.

"It is disappointing for English cricket that he won't be playing: we want to have our best players available and the public want to see them.

"He has shown his resilience to get back from so many injuries before and we hope he gets over this one quickly with the summer we have ahead of us.''

England have become accustomed to accounting for the absence of Flintoff over the past few years due to numerous operations on his troublesome left ankle.

"You always want to have your best side out but you cannot do anything about injuries,'' Cook added. "We would always want Fred in our team but we have coped well without him in the past and we will have to do it again.''

Flintoff featured in the first two Tests of the 1-0 series defeat in the Caribbean before being forced to miss the final two with his hip injury.

West Indies are likely to field their players not involved in their opening match of the tour over the next few days at Chelmsford.

As a centrally-contracted player Cook would not normally have featured in this kind of match, but with only more County Championship contest before England meet up at Lord's it is a chance to test his first ever broken digit and find form.

"I have been trying to get back for the past couple of weeks but I have not been able to bat properly,'' Cook said. "Even now it is still sore but I have got to get on with it because there is no time left before the Test.

"And I know how important a good start can be form-wise for the season.''

Essex will field a full-strength top order but are to rest some of their bowlers to preserve their energy for competitive cricket.

Essex have decided to rest Ryan ten Doeschate, Chris Wright and David Masters for the West Indies match whilst Mark Pettini is also unavailable because of a slight back problem. His absence will allow wicket-keeper James Foster to lead side that will have young bowlers Maurice Chambers and Mervyn Westfield spearheading the attack.

Essex from - A.Cook, J.Gallian, V.Chopra, J.Mickleburgh, M.Walker, J.Foster (captain),T.Westley, J.Middlebrook, M.Westfield, M.Chambers, J.Ahmed, G.Flower.

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