Worcestershire will test Essex's favourites tag
Essex's confident start to the season has brought a rush of belief that they can win the Specsavers Championship second division, so much so that their odds have narrowed from 5/1 to 11/8F with bet365.com in the first three weeks of the season.
Essex, taking advantage from Alastair Cook's presence at the top of the order, have a 21-point cushion after winning two of their first three games, but Cook is about to play his last match against another strongly-fancied side, Worcestershire, who look considerably better value at 6/1.
Worcestershire's impressive seam attack will test the mettle of an Essex batting line-up which is widely regarded as the strongest in the country.
Questions surround whether their bowling attack can last the pace especially with Matt Quinn, the New Zealand A bowler, expected to be out of action for a month with a side strain.
But Essex's form has been such that they have assumed the favourites' tag from Sussex, who have been disrupted by injuries to their charismatic captain Luke Wright, but who still came closest to victory when they met Essex at Hove. It took Cook's final-day hundred to provide protection during a faltering run chase.
The weather in April has been so foul that the season barely feels as if it has begun, leaving Essex with lots more to prove before they justify such a tight price. As things stand, Worcestershire, county cricket's perennial yo-yo side, look to be the value bet.