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Cricket: Siddle set for Essex debut in season opener

PUBLISHED: 15:46 12 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:46 12 April 2018

Australia's Peter Siddle is set for his Essex debut in the season opener at Yorkshire (pic Anthony Devlin/PA)

Australia's Peter Siddle is set for his Essex debut in the season opener at Yorkshire (pic Anthony Devlin/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

Essex head coach Anthony McGrath has named a 13-man squad for the first game of the 2018 County Championship season, with Peter Siddle due to make his debut against Yorkshire at Headingley.

The 33-year-old Australian fast bowler has joined Essex for the first five matches of the season and will spearhead the pace attack until the return of New Zealander, Neil Wagner.

Siddle plays his State cricket with Victoria and recently was a key member of the Adelaide Strikers team that won the Big Bash. Although he won the last of his 62 Test caps back in November 2016, his current form has led to many calling for him to return to the Australian Test side.

McGrath is delighted to have the presence of the influential bowler in his squad and said: “We are really excited to have Peter Siddle with us for those early matches given all the quality that he brings.

“We are confident after what we achieved last year and I’m sure that he will add to what we are trying to deliver in 2018.”

McGrath starts his tenure as Essex head coach with a nostalgic return to his former stomping ground, Headingley, having won four Test caps and spent 17 years with the White Rose county.

But he admits here will be no room for sentiment when he walks back into the ground, adding: “No there won’t be any, cricket is my profession and my job. I’m in my third year now with Essex and feel an Essex boy. I’ve really enjoyed my time since I moved down here.

“Yes I see old friends when I go back up there and my family will all be there, they live up there and so from that point of view, it’s great to catch up with people. But in terms of the game, it’s business as usual.”

Essex were the bookies, and many pundits, favourites to be relegated 12 months ago, but they shocked the critics by proving invincible in the red-ball game, collecting 10 wins along the way.

“Being defending champions comes with its own pressure because people now expect of us, but within our own dressing room, nothing has changed, it’s business as usual,” McGrath added.

“We look to control what we can control, look to improve as individuals, stay together as a team and stick to our game plans. I know that is a bit of a boring message but the teams that normally do the basics really well come out on top in four-day cricket.

“We beat Yorkshire twice last year and we’ll be looking to do the same this year. We want to start well, we know this game will be tough because Yorkshire are very good at Headingley. They’ve had a great record in recent years in four-day cricket so we are certainly not under-estimating how tough the game will be.”

Yorkshire will be desperate to put on a better show than they did when the sides met in 2017. They were rolled over in two days at Scarborough in August where Mohammad Amir grabbed match figures of 10-72 and fared little better in the return at Chelmsford in the final fixture of the season capitulating to defeat by 376 runs inside three days.

Essex batsman Varun Chopra and young seamer Sam Cook have passed fitness tests to be involved in the travelling squad to Yorkshire.

Essex squad: Ryan ten Doeschate (27); James Foster (7); Ravi Bopara (25); Nick Browne (10); Varun Chopra (6); Sam Cook (16); Simon Harmer (11); Dan Lawrence (28); Jamie Porter (44); Peter Siddle (64); Paul Walter (22); Tom Westley (21); Adam Wheater (31).

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