The photos included are of the Kent v Essex match, I messed up the settings on my camera so messed up the photos of the other games.

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2017 sees Essex in Division 1 of the County Championship and at this time in the semi-final of the Royal London One Day Cup, rugby and cricket watching means I’m way behind on writing so I’m going to write up how they got there.

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The group stage of the Cup came along early season this year, in a block, which I imagine must have been a good thing for those playing, in 2016 the season saw a yoyo between red and white ball cricket.

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Essex had a different looking line up, the fact that England aren’t playing a Test Match until early July meant that Alastair Cook played in every game.  With the retirement of David Masters and Graham Napier, two New names also featured in Simon Harmer and Neil Wagner, both South African but Wagner qualified to play for New Zealand and currently sits at 9 in the world when it comes to test match bowling, having been New Zealand’s top wicket taker in 2016.

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Ryan ten Doeschate took over captaincy of the Eagles having had a successful 2016 in the County Championship, he and Chris Silverwood had some selection conundrums, with Varun Chopra and Adam Wheater back in the Essex fold.  As the competition progressed performances dictated some of those selections.

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Essex kicked off with a home game against Hampshire, James Vince won the toss and put Essex in to bat.  Nick Browne opened the batting with Alastair Cook and faced the bowling of ex Essex man Reece Topley.  Browne’s stumps flew on the 3rd ball and Essex were 0 for 1, bringing Tom Westley in to bat with Cook.  I know Westley enjoys batting with Cook, he brings a calm to the centre.  the pair put on 103 runs before Liam Dawson bowled Cook, he’d made 39.

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Hampshire had an impressive bowling line up, with the South African Kyle Abbot complimented by Dawson, Gareth Berg, Sean Ervine and the 20 year old Mason Crane.  Crane bowled well for the most part, restricting Essex in spells, his is a name touted for England, it’ll be interesting to see if he makes the test team.

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Westley saw out Chopra, with 26, before falling on the next ball,  just short of his century with 93, it took an exceptional catch by George Bailey from the bowling of Dawson to dismiss him.  the middle order added 74 runs Ravi Bopara with 10, Adam Wheater 30 and his captain ten Doescahete who was run out with 2 to his name.  Essex were 237 for 7 and in need of runs.

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Enter Essex favourite Ashar Zaidi with 6.3 overs remaining, in his innings he faced 40 balls, scoring 72 runs, with six 4’s and four 6’s to his name, he was as always when he gets his eye in a delight to watch!  Simon Harmer added a useful 17 tasking the total to 304 for 7.  A total that meant a free Taco for Essex supporters from Taco Bell kicked in!

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It was good to see Michael Carberry back playing cricket after he had a break last year, a top batsman, he was bowled by Neil Wagner with the 5th ball of the Hampshire innings, they too were 0 for 1!  James Vince came in and was the top scorer for Hampshire.  Tom Alsop fell victim to Matt Quinn for 12 and Hampshire were 32 for 2.  In came the accomplished Australian George Bailey, he and Vince looked set and put on 91 before Vince was caught and bowled Ravi Bopara he’d made 68.

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Liam Dawson, a man often mentioned as in the reckoning for England batted well with Bailey and the 2 added 55 before quick work by Nick Browne in the field saw Dawson run out, games turn on such things and Bailey was out the next ball caught behind by Adam Wheater from the bowling of Neil Wagner for 63.

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Ryan ten Doeschate brought himself in to bowl and took 2 wickets in one of his 4 overs, having been responsible for the second run out of the innings, dismissing Sean Ervine for 31.  Wagner cleared up the tail, Hampshire finished on 279 all out and Wagner on 4 for 41.  Win One was achieved!

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A trip to the Oval was up next, I’m a Surrey member too, but very much an Essex fan, so I was sat in the members area shouting, at one point, for Essex!  I was slightly late so missed the dismissal of Mark Stoenman for 3, he was caught by Varun Chopra from the bowling of Quinn.  I was making my way to my seat just as Kumar Sangakarra was walking back to the dressing room.  As an Essex fan I was very pleased, as a cricket fan I was totally disappointed!  I wanted to see this legend bat, I was to get that opportunity on day 1 of the county game between the 2 teams.

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The only innings of note was that of former Essex man Ben Foakes, he scored a very classy 77, Steve Borthwick with 37 and Tom Curran with 33 deserve and honorouble mention, but this was an innings where the fielding side shone.  With the wickets shared between the bowlers, Neil Wagner with 2, Matt Quinn 3, Ravi Bopara 3 and Simon Harmer 2.  Essex restricted Surrey to 210, no mean feat in their own house.

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Essex fans were cock-a-hoop but the Surrey bowlers were also in good form, of the top 5 batsmen only Tom Westley with 34 and Ravi Bopara with 36 made it to double figures and Essex found themselves on 86 for 5, this wasn’t going to be an easy ride!

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As was often the way in 2016 the day was saved by Ryan ten Doeschate with a great innings from Simon Harmer too.  The captain made a vital 45 and the all rounder scored 44 runs from 53 balls, with both Wagner and Quinn keeping him company.  Essex eventually made 212, with 9 wickets down and 4 balls remaining, but, a win is a win and that was 2 more points in the bag.

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It was back to the County Ground for game 3 and Gloucestershire were the visitors, they won the toss and elected to bowl, they may have regretted that choice as Essex made it free Taco time again.  They made 315 for 8 with Alastair Cook scoring 127 runs from 134 balls, what a delight to watch him batting for his county, he has a carefree look about him when he’s back in Essex. Nick Browne made 42 and Ravi Bopara 37,  Bopara seems to be in a good place with his cricket in 2017, he looks much happier with the burden of captaincy removed.

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Chris Little was the best of the Gloucestershire bowlers taking 4 for 54 from his 10 overs. Could the Essex bowlers defend the total set?  The answer was a resounding yes, the visitors made 286 for 8 from their full 50 overs.  Phil Mustard scored 90 from 102 balls and Ian Cockbain 79 from 76.  Ravi Bopara had a good day with the ball with figures of 3 for 34 from his 10 overs.

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At this point in the proceedings I went off on a road trip to Edinburgh to watch Saracens win the Champions Cup Final, I therefore missed a 1 run loss away at Glamorgan, this time Varun Chopra high scored with 124 and home wins against Sussex and Middlesex.  Cook scored 109 against Sussex and captain Ryan ten Doeschate 102. Middlesex only scored 148 runs with Jamie Porter and Paul Walter taking 4 wickets each .

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Two different players shone against Somerset, Tom Westley with 100 and Ravi Bopara not out 92, the team were having a superb Royal London One Day Cup!

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The last game of the rounds was The Battle Of The Bridge, I left a gloomy Essex to drive to Canterbury, the weather improved as I got nearer to the ground.  Sam Northeast won the toss and put Essex in to bat, the forecast was for rain so this was a gamble either way.

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Chopra opened the batting with Cook and the pair put on 95 before Cook fell to the bowling of Imran Qayyam, caught by Adam Rouse for 54, Chopra top scored in the innings with 83, Ravi Bopara was out a run short of his 50 and Essex exceeded the 300 again, finishing with 307 for 7 from their 50 overs.

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Essex struck early with the ball and had Kent on 32 for 3 before the rain struck, it came down in a monsoon like way with no possible chance of play starting again, Essex had got through their overs, having bowled 11 they won by the Duckworth Lewis method.  This was the only game with a result for the day and it ensured top spot and a semi-final for Essex.

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That semi-final will be against Nottinghamshire who made a huge 429 runs to beat Somerset by 24 runs, over 800 runs in 100 overs of cricket must have been amazing to witness!

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There were great performance for Essex with Alastair Cook shining in particular

  • Alastair Cook          – 557 runs
  • Tom Westley            – 282
  • Ravi Bopara              – 313
  • Ryan ten Doeschate – 196
  • Varun Chopra           – 312

 

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