I’m going to put three things into one here in the week before the County Championship starts.  There will be photos aplenty too! The joys of the Easter holidays, oh and having retired (early) has meant that I’ve been able to get along to the County Ground 3 times this week.

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Middlesex CCC were the first visitors for 2016, arriving for a 2 day warm up game followed by a T20 match.  I wasn’t able to attend Day 1 but with a gloriously sunny day on the cards I wasn’t going to miss Day 2.

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The players had wintered well keeping themselves busy with a mix of sunshine cricket and punditry.  The close season has seen changes amongst the coaching staff with Chris Silverwood being appointed as Head Coach, the appointment is a popular one with the players.  He has a strong pedigree in his previous life as a player, appearing for Yorkshire, Middlesex and Essex, taking 577 first-class wickets at an average of average of 27.41 in 184 matches.  Chris has been working with the Lions as well as other England Development squads – this is a man held in high regard in the world of cricket. 

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As well as Jesse Ryder returning to Chelmsford we will see several new signings in 2016

  • Ashar Zaidi – An All Rounder, he’s a left handed batter with an average of 36.89 and similarly a left arm spin bowler.  He joined Essex in January after leaving Sussex and has signed a 1 year deal.

  • Matt Dixon – An Australian Fast Bowler, with a British Passport, that key factor  him available for all 3 formats.
  • Adam Milne – A BlackCap Fast Bowler he featured in the recent T20 World Cup.  He’ll join the County in June for the second half of the T20 programme.
  • Matt Quinn – Another Kiwi , but in possession of a British Passport, he was Silverwood’s first signing in December 2015.  A Fast Bowler who can get the ball to swing, he will also be available across all 3 formats
  • Wahab Riaz – the most experienced of those signed – He’s a left arm fast bowler, regularly reaching speeds of up to 90 mph, a Limited Overs specialist, although he has played 15 Tests for Pakistan, and featured in the recent Test series against England. He has 106 Twenty20 wickets.  He will feature in 7 T20 games before heading to tehe Carribean PL

These players add to the strength of the squad which contains a mix of experience and youth.  A real positive at the start of the season is the presence of Club Captain Ryan ten Doeschate and Limited Overs Captain Ravi Bopara, neither are taking part in the IPL this year.  In addition I believe the England Captain and Essex man Alastair Cook will be with the club for the first 4 County games.

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Day 1 of the friendly fixture had seen Essex score 370 for 7 with Tom Westley and Nick Browne both scoring 53, Dan Lawrence over 50 and Ravi Bopara top scoring with 93, not a bad day at the office.

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Day 2 saw a glorious day, It felt positively warm at times and sun cream was the order of the day, although the players looked chilly in the field at times.  The first session was one for the bowlers, Middlesex made lunch with the score on 83 for 1 – with Jesse Ryder taking the wicket of Nick Gubbins for 21, Tom Westley being on the end of a ball edged to the slips.

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Ryder took the wicket of Paul Stirling for 22 after lunch catching him LBW – Middlesex were 93 for 2.  Tom Westley caught Dawid Malan LBW when the score had moved on to 157 – he’d scored 19 runs.

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Sam Robson had been quietly building runs finding himself on 99 – he was unfortunately caught behind by James Foster from the bowling of new man Matt Dixon.

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The visitors went in at tea time on 201 for 4. I had to leave at this point but had been in seventh heaven being back at the County Ground to watch Essex play, my delight was added to by the delightful cream tea – I had for my lunch, not politically correct I know, but it had to be done!

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Middlesex batted on after tea with John Simpson making 51 and the team making 328 for 7 – the game was a good session for both teams, with bowlers and batters getting a ‘run out’.

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Part 2 of my Essex week involved attending the Annual General Meeting – not too much to say about this, it’s a meeting where there’s a great deal of business to be done.  The President Doug Insole at the age of 89 was quite remarkable!  Some difficult questions were well handled by those committee members being quizzed.  Jamie Porter was the recipient of the annual award.

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Part 3 saw me attend the Essex Media Day – to many intents and purposes I was there to sit back and take in how these events went.  However I couldn’t resist getting amongst the photography ‘big boys’ with my camera to get mostly team shots showing off both the new kits and the squad.

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The day was really quite cold, and the players had to change into 3 different kits, then pose both individually and as a squad.  They were joined by the Essex Women’s  team and also the Essex Disability squad.  The nicest part of the morning was seeing the lads from the Disability Squad getting photos with  a couple of the players and chatting to Alastair Cook.

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It was great to see the rapport all round, the morning was a long one for all involved, but photos were posed for with smiles and interviews were given patiently.  There is an air of optimism for 2016 – the County season starts with a visit from Gloucestershire, here’s hoping it’s a home win!

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