County previews March 30, 2016

Bopara captaincy will make Essex believers

Ravi Bopara's one-day captaincy can renew hope at Essex © Getty Images

Coach: Chris Silverwood
Captain: Ryan ten Doeschate (Champ); Ravi Bopara (T20, 50)

Last season
Specsavers Championship: 3rd Div 2; NatWest Blast: QF; Royal London Cup: QF

In: Matthew Quinn (UK passport), Aaron Beard (academy), Ashar Zaidi (Sussex), Matt Dixon (UK passport)
Out: Reece Topley (Hampshire), Mark Pettini (Leicestershire), Monty Panesar, Greg Smith, Matt Salisbury, Saf Imtiaz (all released)
Overseas: Jesse Ryder, Adam Milne (T20), Wahab Riaz (T20)

2015 in a nutshell

The 2015 summer could prove to be a watershed in Essex cricket. Ronnie Irani's appointment as cricket committee chairman brought with it impatience at Essex's decade of near-misses in limited-overs cricket and contentment with using Division Two of the Championship as a breeding ground. Paul Grayson moved on as coach after two quarter-final defeats and his fellow Yorkshireman, Chris Silverwood, took over, bringing in a third Yorkie, Anthony McGrath as his assistant.

2016 prospects

Essex must compete without Reece Topley whose impatience for Division One cricket, especially now he has graduated to England's limited-overs sides, has seen him join Hampshire. They have responded by bringing in two fast bowlers with dual passports - Matthew Quinn, who has played for New Zealand A, and Western Australian Matt Dixon. Spin looks weak, with Ashar Zaidi, released by Sussex, carrying heavy responsibility. But Tom Westley and Nick Browne are two classy young batsmen, Dan Lawrence - the third-youngest century-maker in Championship history - is another exciting prospect and Ravi Bopara's appointment as one-day captain will bring general delight.

Key player

The suspicion that England have moved on from Ravi Bopara, at 30, will disappoint many who keep a fire burning for him through thick and thin. If Bopara can rise above that potential disappointment and bring his ebullience to bear for Essex, the final stage of his career can still be a long and successful one.

Bright young thing

With Topley gone, and David Masters and Graham Napier coming to the end of long-serving careers, young Essex pace bowlers can make a name for themselves. Aaron Beard, 18, has yet to make his county debut and has had a couple of tough years with injuries, but anybody trusted to turn out for England as a sub fielder at 15 must have something going for them. He has a two-year contract and now needs the resolve and fortune to go with it.

ESPNcricinfo verdict

Essex can make runs galore, and look bound to thrill again in one-day cricket, but to win their first trophy since 2008 they could need both their dual passport bowlers to fire.

Bet365 odds: Specsavers Championship, Div 2 9/2; NatWest Blast n/a; Royal London Cup 14/1

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • PJF54321 on April 1, 2016, 19:48 GMT

    Fair assessment on Essex's chances. First innings runs in championship cricket has been a weakness for some time, but Browne, Westley, Bopara, Lawrence etc will put that right this season. Topley leaving is a blow, but entirely predictable, and wasn't for cricketing reasons. We need one more big season out of Masters and Napier, and if Jamie Porter continues to shine, promotion is within our grasp. We're always competitive in one-day cricket, that won't change.

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