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Alex Winter at Chelmsford
April 13, 2013
Essex 353 for 6 (Westley 163, Bopara 64, Foster 51) drew with Gloucestershire 409 for 5 dec (Housego 150, Marshall 149)
Both Essex and Gloucestershire will hope that their share of the Australian invasion of county cricket has a profound effect on their seasons.
Neither Rob Quiney nor Michael Klinger can be considered star signings but both are experienced professionals with solid records and both have been given responsibility at the top of the order.
In Klinger's case he's also been given the Gloucestershire captaincy, after Alex Gidman stepped down at the end of last season. His task is an unenviable one. He flew in a week before the start of the new season to take charge of a young, inexperienced side that finished bottom of the County Championship last year.
Realistically, they are part of an unofficial Division Three with Glamorgan, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. Bettering those three sides this season would be a start but Klinger will have seen enough talent on show in the opening game to suggest Gloucestershire can secure a mid-table finish.
"For a first match, I was impressed," Klinger told ESPNcricinfo. "I'm still getting to know the guys but to score over 400 having been sent in was a great effort. Obviously the weather played a big part but there's a lot of positives.
"Talent-wise there's no reason why we can't go up the ladder. From what I've seen so far, the young guys can perform, it's just a matter of performing day in day out. I like to lead from the front and hopefully I can build my runs throughout the season and back the younger guys."
Nine points from the opening match was a solid return on a ground where Gloucestershire got off to the worst possible start last season with an innings defeat. They cashed in on a wicket that was straightforward enough to score on and put Essex under pressure with the new ball, although failed to follow it up and struggled to sit in with a plan for long periods.
That they managed a second bowling point owed much to Essex's charge for a fourth batting point. Tom Westley - who was dropped by Alex Gidman at first slip in the second over of the day - was caught at the wicket having pressed on past 150 and James Foster, enterprising in striking six fours in a half century, was brilliantly held at deep backward square leg by James Fuller to give Gloucestershire their sixth wicket.
The weather may have taken a result completely out of the equation but the dead, slightly slow pitch was unlikely to yield 20 wickets for either side in four full days. It is the surfaces at Chelmsford that could hinder Essex's chances of challenging for promotion, with head coach Paul Grayson confident that they have a squad to be competitive.
"There's a nice group of bowlers and competition for places," Grayson told ESPNcricinfo. "We had to make two big calls, Saj Mahmood and Reece Topley didn't play this game but they'll get plenty of cricket this year. It's a long season.
"There's nice balance to the batting too. Jaik Mickelburgh is our spare batsman; he's got a good hundred this week for the seconds. Ryan ten Doeschate and Owais Shah are to come back as well. Cooky will play a couple of games too. So the squad's looking good.
"If you achieve things it's not down to 11, 12 players, it's down to 15, 16. We might have to use a rotation system at some time, if guys are a bit tired we might be able to rest one or two at certain periods, especially with one-day cricket. But I'm pleased with the way the squad is shaping up."
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