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Essex beat Middlesex comfortably earlier in the season.
Back Essex as the winners of this match.
Tournament: VITALITY T20 BLAST 2023 | Format: T20 | Venue: County Ground, Chelmsford, England | Toss: To BowlBet Now
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Three back-to-back losses have somewhat halted Essex’s charge, but they are still very much in contention to make it to the knockout stages. They are currently fifth on the South Group table with 14 points and a net run rate of 0.098. Currently, three teams are locked at 14 points in the group, and with two games remaining, Essex have every chance of clawing their way back to the top. They will next take on Middlesex at Chelmsford this Friday. Middlesex are at the bottom of the table and won’t be able to qualify for the knockout stage as they have only two points in the bag.
Essex were on a winning spree not too long back, clinching five games in a row and looking all set to remain in the top three. However, three losses on the trot – against Somerset, Kent, and Hampshire – have messed up their charge a bit. In their last match against Hampshire at Southampton, Essex posted a healthy 209-7 on the board but ended up losing with four balls still remaining.
The positive thing from their last game was that openers Daniel Lawrence (70 off 33 balls) and Feroze Khushi (61 off 37 balls) got some good runs under their belt.
Michael Pepper (269 runs this season from 9 games at a strike rate of 171.33), however, remains their highest run-getter. Another one to watch out for is Paul Walter (261 runs in 12 matches at a strike rate of 164.15). These two will hold the key to their middle-order.
That last match notwithstanding, Essex’s bowling has been pretty decent this season. Australian left-arm fast bowler Daniel Sams leads their bowling charts with 20 scalps in 12 matches at an economy of 7.71. Off-spinner and captain Simon Harmer (17 wickets in 12 matches at an economy of 9.18) might have been expensive, but he is likely to have some impact in this match with his bowling.
Daniel Lawrence, Feroze Khushi, Michael-Kyle Pepper, Robin Das, Paul Walter, Matthew Critchley, Daniel Sams, William Buttleman (wk), Simon Harmer (c), Ben Allison, Aaron Beard
Middlesex may have had the worst possible season, but they have shown that on their day, they can still surprise the best. After losing ten matches in a row, Middlesex orchestrated a breathtaking comeback as they accomplished the greatest successful run chase ever witnessed in Vitality Blast history, stunning Surrey with a remarkable seven-wicket triumph at The Oval.
That sensational victory was largely achieved courtesy of unbelievable knocks from captain Stephen Eskinazi (73 off 39 balls) and Max Holden (68* off 35 balls). Both, incidentally, are the top two run-getters of the season for the team with 415 and 400 runs respectively from 12 matches.
Barring these two, hardly any other batter has stepped up. Ryan Higgins (243 runs in 12 matches at a strike rate of 135.75) showed some spark in that chase against Surrey with a superb knock of 48 off 34 balls, and might come good in this match.
Middlesex has been let down more by their bowling unit this year. Barring fast bowlers Martin Andersson (10 wickets in 11 matches) and Blake Cullen (8 wickets in 8 matches) none of the others have made a significant impact. Moreover, almost all of them have gone at an economy of over 10, which has cost them dearly.
Stephen Eskinazi (c), Joe Cracknell, Ryan Higgins, Max Holden, John Simpson (wk), Jack Davies, Luke Hollman, Josh De Caires, Martin Andersson, Nathan Fernandes, Toby Greatwood
The pitch at Chelmsford is good for batting and stays true throughout the 40 overs. Bowlers do get help off the surface during the initial overs, particularly because of the slope at the venue, but once the surface settles down a bit, making runs becomes easier.
The weather in Chelmsford during the match will be mostly cloudy but no rain is predicted.
The average total batting first at the County Ground in Chelmsford in the Blast is 172. The highest total posted at the venue is 226-4 by Essex against Surrey. Hampshire’s 214-8 versus Essex is the highest total posted at the venue this season. The team batting first must look to set a target of around 190-200 runs.
Out of the six matches played at the County Ground in Chelmsford this season, five have been won by the side chasing. It’s hence a no-brainer that the team winning the toss here is likely to field first.
Essex holds a 7-3 head-to-head record against Middlesex in their last 10 matches. They have also beaten them earlier this season quite comfortably. They may be coming off three consecutive losses, but will start this match as favorites. Essex have good batting depth and also have a few in-form bowlers who can trouble the opposition. Middlesex might produce another strong batting performance, but their weak bowling is more than likely to let them down on this batting beauty of a wicket.
Back Essex as the winners of this match.
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