Essex Eagles set to start new Vitality Blast T20 season
- Credit: PA
Essex Eagles start a new Vitality Blast T20 campaign when they face Somerset at Taunton tonight (Wednesday, 6.30pm).
The Eagles won the competition for the first time in 2019 but have since made several changes to their line-up with Cameron Delport and Adam Zampa not returning following last season's campaign.
New Zealand international Jimmy Neesham has linked up with the Eagles to fill one of the two overseas slots and featured in Tuesday's Second XI double-header against Hampshire, hitting a half-century.
The Eagles once again will be skippered by Simon Harmer, who occupies the second overseas position after previously being registered as a Kolpak player.
And head coach Anthony McGrath is looking for improvements in the T20 game after a below-par performance last season.
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“Although we won the T20 in 2019, the 20-over game remains a challenge for us,” he said.
“There’s no doubt we can be successful as we showed two years ago, but we need to show consistency in our performances. We haven’t hit those heights consistently.
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“We want to solve that and want to get better, obviously. I think our home record has been poor in T20 and we want to address that too, so that is something that we need to target.”
Essex Eagles have named a 14-man squad for the fixture: 11 Simon Harmer (C); 14 Aaron Beard; 6 Varun Chopra; 16 Sam Cook; 50 Jimmy Neesham; 24 Aron Nijjar; 19 Michael Pepper; 77 Jack Plom; 44 Jamie Porter; 29 Shane Snater; 27 Ryan ten Doeschate; 22 Paul Walter; 21 Tom Westley; 31 Adam Wheater (WK).
*Essex have also confirmed that Peter Siddle has returned to Australia for personal reasons and will miss the rest of the 2021 campaign.
The 36-year-old took 20 wickets in the LV= Insurance County Championship this year, with his best figures of 6-38 coming in the rain-affected draw with Warwickshire at Chelmsford last month.
The former Australia international recently became the 164th player to be awarded their Essex County Cap and on his departure he said: “I’m sad to be leaving Chelmsford early as I love playing for Essex.
“I’ve got some great friends in the dressing room and they’re a great bunch to be around and play cricket with. I’ve built some really strong bonds with the guys, so it’s upsetting that I have to go home, but hopefully in the future I can come back and play some more cricket for this great club.
“I know I’m getting to the back end of my career, but I’ve still got some playing time left. We’ll see what happens in the coming months and in the build-up to the 2022 season, but fingers crossed there’s still a little bit more cricket to be played for Essex.”
Head coach McGrath added: “Peter is a model professional so it’s obviously disappointing that we’re losing a player of his calibre.
“He’s a great figure in the dressing room and a leader on the field. He’s been amazing with the younger bowlers and has always offered support and advice, and when playing he’s contributed with some important wickets.
“He’s a fierce competitor and always gives it his all, but we wish him nothing but the best and hopefully we see him back at Chelmsford soon.”