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Alex Winter at Chelmsford
April 12, 2013
Essex 177 for 3 (Westley 82*, Bopara 64) trail Gloucestershire 409 for 5 dec (Housego 150, Marshall 149) by 232 runs
News : Wheater denies wicketkeeping guarantee
A recurring theme has developed at Essex with several young, talented players only flourishing after they've moved on from Chelmsford.
Varun Chopra and Chris Wright left for Warwickshire and have become two of the leading young players in county cricket - Wright with the support of bowling coach Graeme Welch, also formerly of Essex - Tony Palladino has grown having joined Derbyshire and over the winter Adam Wheater became the latest to depart, before scoring an unbeaten half-century on his Hampshire debut.
But dig below the surface and what appears a concerning trend is perhaps only a matter of unfortunate circumstance and one that doesn't concern head coach Paul Grayson.
"It's not a problem," Grayson told ESPNcricinfo. "Varun was offered a new contract at the club, we didn't want him to leave but he chose to go elsewhere, that's up to him. Chris has flourished at Warwickshire and with hindsight we shouldn't have let him go but that's the game. Tony left because he needed to after the betting scandal and Adam left because he wanted to keep wicket and Hampshire offered him that chance.
"It's only ever cricket reasons that these guys move on and if they want to be somewhere else, that's not a problem at all."
Having a few talented players leave the club may actually be a very positive sign. That Essex get players to a level where they can forge successful first-class careers is a fillip for their academy. Their side against Gloucestershire contains eight home-grown players. That Wheater left confirms the embarrassment of their riches, with the barriers to his opportunities being the best gloveman in the country, James Foster, and England Under-19 wicketkeeper, Ben Foakes.
"We produce as many home grown players as any other county in the country," Grayson said. "This side at the moment has a lot of Essex lads and that's something we should be incredibly proud of."
An academy product who is beginning to thrive at the county is Tom Westley. He led Essex's response from 23 for 2 to blunt any hope Gloucestershire had of winning this game. He really went for his strokes, a number of times driving length balls off the front foot with great confidence and scored a number of his runs with pleasant strokes between mid-on and cover. The most delicious of his drives was his tenth four, straight past the bowler, that brought up a half-century from 81 balls.
Westley made his Essex second-XI debut aged just 15 in 2004 and was offered the chance to open the batting when they were struggling to find a successful partnership in 2011. Last season Essex used six opening batsman but Westley emerged as the most successful and the spot became his for the latter half of the season as he went on to finish as Essex's top run-scorer in the Championship.
"Tom is developing all the time," Grayson said. "Some people are very impatient to see the finished article but Tom has improved every year. He had a good season last year and looks a better player again this summer. He spent the winter away, he worked very hard and we've got high hopes for him."
Westley had another strokemaker - and academy graduate - for company in the afternoon; play having not begun until 3pm. He and Ravi Bopara shared an entertaining stand of 116 in 35 overs. Bopara drove past a medium-pace wobbler from Benny Howell to end his brisk innings but it was Gloucestershire's only success as batting looked as straightforward as on day one.
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