Essex have gained a reputation as the country’s One Day specialists. This is due as much to their under-achievement in the County Championship as their expertise in coloured clothing, and one suspects the New Writtle Street hierarchy would like to see promotion to Division one just as much as they would more limited overs silverware.
The 2008 Friends Provident and Pro 40 Division Two winners, who also reached the Twenty20 Cup semi finals, are adopting well-used tactics in their bid to return to the top flight for the first time since 2003.
Essex like to blend experienced batsmen (Jason Gallian and Matt Walker) with youth (Varun Chopra, Jaik Mickleburgh and Tom Westley) and this could finally be the year that this formula pays dividends, as Chopra will finally make his breakthrough this season. Skipper Mark Pettini, keeper James Foster and talisman Ryan ten Doeschate can be relied upon for middle order runs.
The bowling department lacks penetration in four day cricket and doubts remain as to whether there is enough support for the miserly David Masters and Danish Kaneria, who is perhaps the most dangerous bowler in the second tier. His prospective availability for the whole campaign could be crucial.
Pacemen Maurice Chambers and Mervyn Westfield have been on the scene for a while and need to step-up their progression this term.
The Chelmsford outfit, again bolstered by the presence of experienced specialist Grant Flower, will surely again be in the shake-up for limited overs honours, although Ravi Bopara, Graham Napier and perhaps Foster could, like Alastair Cook, be absent for long periods due to IPL and England commitments.
County Championship Div Two: 3rd
Friends Provident Trophy: Semi finalists
Pro 40 Div One: Winners
Twenty20 Cup: Quarter finalists