Cricket: Essex concentrating on Surrey test
PUBLISHED: 17:07 15 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:07 15 September 2019
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Essex face Surrey in the penultimate County Championship match of the season at the Cloudfm County Ground on Monday, with Anthony McGrath's side looking to record their ninth Championship win of the season.
The 2017 champions start the game eight points adrift of leaders Somerset, who play Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl, before the two title contenders meet in a potential winner-takes-all clash at Taunton next week.
And Essex head coach Anthony McGrath acknowledges it is an exciting time for the club, saying: "Here we are starting the last two weeks of the season and we have put ourselves in the race for two titles, the County Championship and the Vitality Blast, so it's going to be a fascinating and tense time ahead.
"But we have to concentrate on one game at a time starting with the match with Surrey. We can only look after ourselves. Yes, we have to meet Somerset in the last match but before then we must make sure that we do the business against Surrey this week."
The draw with Warwickshire at Edgbaston last week ended the club's winning streak in the Championship, although the side are now unbeaten since the opening match of the campaign.
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Reflecting on the match in the Midlands from which Essex emerged with nine points after following-on, McGrath took encouragement from the batting performances of Tom Westley and Alastair Cook.
The former scored 141 and 97 whilst one-time England captain Cook contributed a typically gritty unbeaten 57 in the second innings as he joined Westley in a partnership worth 157 in 64 overs to save the game.
McGrath added: "Tom had batted beautifully, and we seemed in a good position in our first innings when we reached 230-odd for three.
"I was looking for four batting points and to avoid the follow-on and make a decision from there as to how we wanted to set-up the rest of the game. Unfortunately, we then went and had a mad session, things changed, and we missed out on a couple of batting points.
"Although we ended up following on, we were confident we could hold out for a draw and so it proved. The way that Alastair and Tom batted on the last afternoon gives us great heart going into the last couple of games.
"We need to put in a really good performance against Surrey and hopefully get the win to set us up for the title decider down at Taunton."
Essex squad: Ryan ten Doeschate, Ben Allison, Aaron Beard, Ravi Bopara, Nick Browne, Varun Chopra, Alastair Cook, Sam Cook, Simon Harmer, Dan Lawrence, Rishi Patel, Jack Plom, Jamie Porter, Tom Westley, Adam Wheater.