This seasons Natwest T20 Blast started in earnest on Friday and Essex had the chance to win two games in two days and go top of the South Group of the competition. However tactics from both Captain and Coach have cost them dearly and they only have themselves to blame for suffering back-to-back losses.
Essex narrowly lost their first game on Friday to a very good Hampshire side but it was a game there for the taking. Hampshire won the toss and batted first, scoring 173-4. Essex did not bowl well, the two overseas players disappointing going for 67 runs in the seven overs Shaun Tait and Jesse Ryder bowled between them.
This put the pressure on the team to chase, Ryder again not helping the cause taking seven balls to score one run before being bowled. With the team missing Ravi Bopara (IPL duty), the pressure told on a relatively inexperienced batting line up and only Ten Doeschate (68 from 44 balls) made a decent contribution as Essex fell 17 runs short of the total required.
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A quick regroup was needed as come Saturday lunchtime the team were taking on Surrey in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Chelmsford. It was a glorious sunny day and a belter of a pitch, bat first every time you would think.
Out come Gareth Batty and Ten Doeschate for the toss, who announces Jesse Ryder is not fit to play (meaning an even less experienced batting lineup). The coin went up and Batty called wrong, Essex had won the toss.
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Inexplicably with the conditions so in favour of batting first, Ten Doeschate elects to field first, citing Essex like to chase at home. This is clearly a tactic from head coach Paul Grayson and one that has had it's successes but it is hardly infallible!
I would argue every time that you must do what the conditions benefit not follow a tactic. With an excellent pitch and sunshine, Surrey must have been delighted to bat first and boy did it show.
They smashed 205-5 off their 20 overs. At one stage it could have been 250, Essex did pull it back at times but their bowling was a shambles for large parts of the innings, Reece Topley getting smashed for 27 in one over by the great Kumar Sangakkara.
A very poor decision from Essex to field first and the game was effectively gone as soon as that decision was made. Asking a very inexperienced line up (two 17-year-olds and a 19-year-old in the top five) to chase that many runs was an impossible thing and Essex fell 44 runs short (Ten Doeschate batting well again but everyone else around him failing).
Essex have a lot of work to do already to make the knockout stages of the tournament and they only have themselves to blame. They have never been good enough to win the tournament and to me Paul Grayson has been head coach for long enough, he has failed to get them into Division 1 of the County Championship and failed to deliver one day success for a number of seasons.
When everyone is fit and back from IPL or international duty, Essex have a team that could beat anyone. It's a pity they stick with a coach who hasn't got the know how or the experience of winning competitions.
Look at what Yorkshire have done with Jason Gillespie as coach, so well they may lose him as he is in the running to be England coach following Peter Moores' sacking. A change is needed and implore Essex to make it and get a new, better coach!
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