Essex coach eager to experience euphoria of finals day at Edgbaston
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
Red-ball cricket is now on the back-burner for Essex – temporarily at least – as the county focus on white ball cricket and the Vitality Blast competition.
It was a tournament that the Eagles won for the first time in 2019 and head coach Anthony McGrath would love to experience the euphoria of another successful Finals Day at Edgbaston in September.
But despite their triumph two years ago, they have yet to prove a consistently successful force in this particular format of the game.
“Although we won the T20 in 2019, the 20 over game remains a challenge for us,” McGrath admitted.
The former England Test batsman joined Essex from Yorkshire in February 2016 having been appointed as assistant coach to Chris Silverwood before being promoted to head coach in November 2017 when his former county colleague Silverwood took up a coaching position with England.
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“There’s no doubt that we can be successful as we showed two years ago but we need to show consistency in our performances,” he reasoned. “As a coach you're here to win trophies and of course the last few years have been very enjoyable but as ever there are lots of challenges along the way and our T20 cricket represents one of those challenges.”
“We just haven’t hit the heights in this format consistently. “We want to solve that and want to get better obviously.
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"I think, in particular, our home record has been poor in T20 yet in the County Championship, our record at Chelmsford has been the cornerstone for our successes in the past few years.
"So, we really want to target our home form in T20.”
This season has not got off to the flying start that McGrath and his coaching staff would have wished for, a win against Somerset at Taunton was followed by two defeats in the space of 48 hours, firstly at home to Hampshire and then to Glamorgan in Cardiff.
This week offers the Eagles the opportunity to turn things around with back-to-back home matches, firstly against Sussex on Tuesday and then Gloucestershire on Friday.
“We’ve got two home games to look forward to this week and if we can put together a couple of good results, that will lifts everyone’s confidence.
"We saw in 2019 when we got on a run that we were difficult to stop so that’s what the immediate target is ahead of us.
“The games come thick and fast in this competition, there are eleven games still to go and that’s a lot of cricket to be played.
"There’s plenty of time to get a run going, winning breeds confidence.”
The two defeats that left the Eagles with just 2 points from their first three matches highlighted the inconsistency running through the squad in the first week of the new T20 season.
“We got off to a great start beating Somerset at Taunton, it was a true team performance and we were hoping that we could build on that going into the next two games,” McGrath admitted.
“Then we lost the next two matches and I was particularly disappointed with the defeat at Chelmsford to Hampshire on Friday.
"We got ourselves into a favourable position and you have to close those games out when you are on top like we were.
“Against Glamorgan, we were probably 15 runs short of the score we wanted, we lost wickets at crucial points and really, you need one of your top four to go and get a 60, 70 or eighty.
"When you keep losing wickets constantly, the run-rate drops and you lose momentum.
“When they batted, to give ourselves a chance, we needed to get wickets early in the powerplay.
"We didn’t manage to do that and once Glamorgan got past the 100 with only one wicket down, the game was pretty much gone. They accelerated and didn’t give us much chance.
“But you just have to dust yourself down and the key in T20 is to keep everybody confident, it’s such a volatile game, it’s up and down but when you get those close games like we had against Hampshire, you have to take your opportunity and get through them. We have to learn to turn those losses into wins.”
And the return of England batsman Dan Lawrence on Friday should help.
The two-year-old has yet to figure in the Eagles T20 line-up this year having been on duty for England in their Test series with New Zealand but he is set to bolster the Essex side in the forthcoming weeks.
“To be missing Dan Lawrence hasn’t helped but when he’s back, it will boost our batting,” McGrath acknowledged.
The Eagles were also missing Adam Wheater (side strain) and Ryan ten Doeschate (back spasm) on Sunday but McGrath believes that improved fortune awaits his charges.
“Hopefully our injury problems will ease a little bit and when you put experience and quality back into the line-up, I don’t think we’ll be too far away,” he concluded.