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Grayson receives Essex backing until end of season

Essex coach Paul Grayson has been granted a reprieve until the end of the season PA Photos

Paul Grayson, Essex's beleaguered coach, has been confirmed in the role until the end of the season as the club's general committee has overwhelmingly resisted a recommendation from the new cricket chairman Ronnie Irani to remove him immediately from the post.

The debate about Grayson's future could hardly have been more disruptively timed, coming only a few days before Essex's NatWest quarter-final against Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston which was duly lost in one of their most disappointing displays of the season.

The committee, clearly wary of a repeat, voted in Chelmsford on Monday to delay their decision on Grayson's future, even as Essex travelled to their final Royal London Cup group match against Sussex at Hove, another season-defining match in which victory would ensure them of a home quarter-final.

Grayson has supervised consistently excellent displays in limited-overs cricket since taking charge in 2008 with Essex second only to Hampshire in the number of victories in one-day cricket in that time. But while Hampshire have gone on to win trophies, Essex have repeatedly faltered in the final stages, encouraging Irani to press for change soon after being elected to the role last month.

It is the timing of the recommendation that has brought most unease, although in some ways that was unavoidable. Grayson was anxious to determine his future before the end of the season after the decision of the former cricket committee chairman, Graham Saville, to step down after 27 years in the role naturally introduced a period of reassessment within the county.

Grayson, it is interesting to note, is one year into an official three-year plan in which it was made clear that the priority was to secure a one-day trophy and reshape a young Championship side based on home grown players. That commitment has been followed to the letter with a whole host of debutants given an opportunity to prove their worth for a county that lacks the pace bowling depth to sustain a serious challenge.

Irani sounded more ambitious, stating upon taking office: " We need to try to get into division one of the County Championship. We've fallen short of that for quite a few years now. We have to change and we have to improve massively.

"We have an immensely talented group of individuals and it is fair to say that at this moment in time we have underachieved in the last seven or eight years.

"We are still talented and it is great to see young players coming through like Nick Browne, Tom Westley and Jamie Porter. We have to make sure we keep doing that, while getting Essex back to the level that we were in years gone by, knocking on doors and trying to win trophies.

"At this moment in time Paul is the head coach and we have to respect that position until the cricket committee decide on anything different."

Quite how much Grayson can be blamed for a prolonged failure to reach Division One of the Championship is a question worth asking. As a coach, as opposed to a director of cricket, his powers have remained limited, much against the trend in the county game and Essex's budget is considerably lower.

Essex still have one of the most traditional structures in county cricket with the outgong cricket chairman Saville, a former England U19 coach, and captain, James Foster, having had most influence on the big cricketing decisions. That way of doing things is unlikely to change.