Essex get three home matches in Bob Willis Trophy

PUBLISHED: 08:00 24 July 2020

Essex players celebrate with the County Championship Trophy in 2019 (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Essex players celebrate with the County Championship Trophy in 2019 (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

©TGS Photo +44 1376 553468

Head coach Anthony McGrath is delighted that Essex will play three of their five games in the Bob Willis Trophy at ‘Fortress Chelmsford’.

The 2019 Double winners begin the one-off, red-ball mini series against Kent on August 1, with Surrey the visitors on August 8.

Middlesex arrive for the final Southern Group match on September 6, after trips to Sussex and Hampshire, and McGrath said: “To have three of the games at home, given that we won all seven in the Championship here last year, will suit our attack, especially when you’ve got Simon Harmer and the seamers.

“We weren’t sure which way it would go with an odd number of matches, so we’re happy with our lot. I think you’d prefer to be around your home surroundings rather then going away in the first couple of games.

“Hopefully with us having been practising at Chelmsford for the last three weeks it will give us a little bit of one up on the opposition.

“But given the circumstances, we’re just fortunate we’ve got some cricket; a few months ago we didn’t think we’d have anything. Everyone is excited to get going a week on Saturday and we don’t really mind where we’re playing as long as there’s some cricket.”

The Bob Willis Trophy – named in memory of the former England captain who died in December – replaces the Specsavers County Championship as the four-day format for this summer.

It is split into three regions – North, South and Central – with the two group winners with the most points advancing to a final over five days, starting on October 1.

This unprecedented season will be augmented by 10 Vitality Blast T20 group games from August 27 – the five-home, five-away fixtures will be announced in due course – with both competitions are set to be played behind closed doors.

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“I feel very sad for the fans,” added McGrath. “It’s their club as well. We want fans to be able to come and enjoy it and create an atmosphere; that’s what we all play for.

“It’s going to be surreal without fans. We’ve chatted about it during practice days and told the players ‘Have a look around, this is what it’s going to be like on a match day’. We’ve been trying to get their heads around it. But, as I say, we’re just happy to be playing this season and we’ll put up with it.

“It’s a shame for the cricket-lovers. But we want them to be safe – because it’s not safe at the moment to come and watch at the ground. But if there is a way to tune in, whether that’s on a radio or via our live streaming service on the website, hopefully they can get their cricket fix that way.

“Fingers crossed by next season we’ll be back to normal and the crowds can return.”

There is a certain irony that Kent should be Essex’s first competitive opponents since they also provide the opposition for the two-day pre-season friendly which starts at Canterbury on Monday.

“These type of coincidences tend to happen, don’t they?” said McGrath.

“But it doesn’t really matter; it’s just more practice. We’re going to take a squad of 14-15 to Kent and we’ve agreed that, weather permitting, we’ll bat one day, they’ll bat the other.

“We’ll try and get as many players on the field and rotate, so bowlers can have a bowl and batters can have a bat. Then we’ll see how the guys are before the final selection of the XI a few days later.”

The Bob Willis Trophy campaign also includes back-to-back trips to Sussex, first to face the eponymous county at Hove, then on to Arundel to meet Hampshire at their temporary base while the Ageas Bowl provides a bio-secure environment for England matches.

The ECB also confirmed on Friday morning that a regionalised women’s domestic competition will be played this summer, featuring the eight teams from the new Women’s Elite Domestic Structure.

Essex fixtures in the Bob Willis Trophy: Aug 1-4: Kent (Chelmsford); Aug 8-11: Surrey (Chelmsford); Aug 15-18: Sussex (Hove); Aug 22-25: Hampshire (Arundel); Sept 6-9: Middlesex (Chelmsford).

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