Essex Eagles v Middlesex
The Cloudfm County Ground
Thursday 27 August
Title-holders, Essex Eagles begin the defence of the Vitality Blast when they meet Middlesex in the first of 10 South Group matches at The Cloudfm County Ground, starting on Thursday at 2pm.
The Vitality Blast has been regionalised into the same three groups used in the Bob Willis Trophy with each side set to play 10 group-stage matches behind-closed-doors.
The Eagles won the title last year beating defending Champions Worcestershire Rapids in the Final at Edgbaston and it was skipper Simon Harmer who played a defining role.
The South African, who took over the captaincy of the T20 team from Ryan ten Doeschate at the start of last season, proved an inspiring choice as he led the Eagles to their first-ever T20 title. Fittingly, it was the 31-year-old who attracted the headlines on Finals Day when he took 4/19 in the Semi-Final against Derbyshire Falcons and then 3/16 and an unbeaten 18, including the winning runs, in the Final.
Head Coach’s View:
Head Coach, Anthony McGrath admitted that the players are looking forward to the competition.
“I think everyone is looking forward to defending the title,” he said. “It was a bit of a unique way in which we won it last year, we left it late, some people say we were lucky, others say it was good timing,” he stated with a smile on his face.
“But it was a great year for the Club last year with the Championship and the T20 triumphs but we all know that we need to start better in the T20 this year. We can’t leave it as late as we did last time around as the nerves won’t stand it!
“We got on a bit of a run, got into the right mindset and the players really started to believe that we could win the competition.
“We’ve got Cameron Delport back with us and he’s a huge plus to our line-up but there are going to be opportunities for players because there are no Overseas players available so we can expect to see guys making their debuts in this form of cricket.
“It’s a great opportunity for players to make their mark on this form of the game and assist Essex towards winning matches.”
Simon Harmer Previews Vitality Blast:
The Eagles had signed all-rounder Moises Henriques and leg-spinner Adam Zampa as the Overseas players to play in the competition but those arrangements were scuppered by the COVID-19 travel restrictions and the two players contracts were cancelled by mutual consent.
However, South African born Cameron Delport does return for his second season at Chelmsford having made a huge impression last year. The big-hitting all-rounder scored 409 runs at an average of 29.21, including a stunning 129 from 49 balls in the victory over Surrey and 55 in the Semi-Final.
Former Essex crowd favourite Stuart Law is now Middlesex Head Coach and takes a pragmatic approach to those complaining about the lack of practice ahead of the competition.
“People say we haven’t had any preparation but we have been playing cricket and cricket is the same, it’s just that the tempo will be different, so we’ll be looking forward to the challenge.”
Steven Finn (C), Martin Andersson, Joe Cracknell, Miguel Cummins, Jack Davies, Stephen Eskinazi, Nick Gubbins, James Harris, Tom Helm, Max Holden, Luke Hollman, Dan Lincoln, John Simpson (WK), Nathan Sowter.
Toby Roland-Jones (thigh strain), Eoin Morgan (England duty).
Record Between The Sides:
Essex and Middlesex have clashed on 28 occasions in T20 cricket with the Eagles shading bragging rights with 15 wins.
When the two teams met last year, Middlesex won the fixture at Lord’s by 7 wickets with AB de Villiers hitting a chanceless 88 from 43 balls to ease his side to victory by 7 wickets with 3 overs to spare.
They reached 166-3 in reply to their opponents 164-6 that included 74 not out by Ryan ten Doeschate and 40 by Tom Westley.
The reverse clash at The Cloudfm County Ground was abandoned without a ball bowled due to rain.
Watch the Match:
You can watch the opening match in the Vitality Blast on Thursday from 2pm. Our new and improved multi-camera production is free to view and available via the Essex Cricket Matchzone – here.