McGrath: Essex want to make sure of rewards

PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 September 2019

Essex head coach Anthony McGrath during Warwickshire CCC vs Essex CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at Edgbaston Stadium on 11th September 2019

Essex head coach Anthony McGrath during Warwickshire CCC vs Essex CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at Edgbaston Stadium on 11th September 2019

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Essex embark today on the 11 days that will decide the success of their season.

The county are in sight of an historic double that would crown them as both red-ball and white-ball champions.

Essex take on Surrey at Chelmsford this morning (10.30am start) in the Specsavers County Championship at the start of a week in which they will also change into their yellow-and-blue Vitality T20 Blast strip for Finals Day at Edgbaston.

Head coach Anthony McGrath oversaw the final pre-match training session yesterday afternoon and reported: "Everyone is looking forward to it now.

"When you look at the fixtures at the start of the season, this is where you want to be at this stage of the campaign - still in with a chance in two competitions.

"We just want to make sure we get the rewards for the hard work everyone has put in this year."

A frustrating draw against Warwickshire last week dropped Essex eight points behind leaders Somerset in the two-horse race for the Championship title with two games to play - including the potential winner-takes-all showdown at Taunton next week.

"It's still in our hands," added McGrath. "But we need to at least match what Somerset do this week [at Hampshire]. We've not really got a points total in mind that we want to be within when we go to Taunton, but with 16 points for a win I guess we don't want it to be more than that.

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"We need to put in a really strong performance against Surrey to get the win that would set us up for next week's game."

It has been two months since Essex played a four-day game at The Cloudfm County Ground where they have been invincible this season: they have won all six Championship games to date - and seven out of seven since they last lost there, ironically against today's visitors a little over a year ago.

Indeed, so dominant have Essex been that only two of this season's home games have gone into a fourth day, three ending a day early and one lasting just two days; victories have been by anything from 113 runs (Kent) and an innings and eight runs (Hampshire).

"It looks like another typical Chelmsford wicket," said McGrath. "We'd expect there to be something in it for the bowlers. We'll want to get a first-innings lead again because we're confident we can bowl sides out twice here.

"They've not been high-scoring games, but we've managed to outscore the opposition each time. It has been hard to score the runs the batmen would like to have in their stats, but fifties and eighties at Chelmsford have been hugely important. Two-hundred-and-fifty has been an average score here this year."

Essex had the rare experience of having to follow-on against Warwickshire last week, before batting out much of the final day to secure the draw.

"It would have looked a much better performance if we hadn't put down four catches," said McGrath. "We also probably didn't get two batting points that we should have done."

The Eagles make a quick return to Edgbaston on Saturday for Finals Day when they take on Derbyshire Falcons in the afternoon semi-final.

"Reaching Finals Day can only have a positive impact on our Championship fixtures," added McGrath. "Any time you get to the latter stages of a competition can only give you a lift and a buzz."

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