Coach Paul Grayson upbeat as Essex Eagles head into T20 Blast with Hampshire Royals at Ageas Bowl

Echo: Tim Phillips is back in the Essex squad after recovering from a broken finger. Picture: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo Tim Phillips is back in the Essex squad after recovering from a broken finger. Picture: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

THE Eagles head to Hampshire tomorrow full of confidence ahead of their T20 Blast clash with the Royals.

Despite being hit by injuries, Essex have won both their opening fixtures in the competition, beating Middlesex and Glamorgan.

But their injuries worries are easing as Tim Phillips is back in the squad after recovering from a broken finger, while Tom Moore and Jaik Mickleburgh are added to the team.

And head coach Paul Grayson is upbeat heading to Southampton despite knowing that the Ageas Bowl has not been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Eagles.

“We’ve made a really good start to our opening two T20 Blast matches, chasing down challenging totals on two occasions to beat Middlesex Panthers and Glamorgan,” Grayson said.

“We know that we have a tough game on Friday night; we’ve had some great contests with Hampshire over the years and generally they seem to come out on top at their place and we gain the upper hand at Chelmsford.

“But we go down there full of confidence after our two wins.

“What was very encouraging in the victory over Glamorgan last Friday was the way some of the younger and less experienced players in this type of cricket performed for us.

“Tom Westley and Ben Foakes were excellent on the night and then the experience of James Foster and Greg Smith saw us across the line.

“There’s lots of confidence running through the squad at the moment despite the fact that we have been missing some key Twenty20 players.”

Grayson was pleased that the Eagles’ batsmen had chased down “sizeable” totals but is looking for his attack to bowl more tightly, particularly in the early overs.

He recognised that Essex are currently depleted in the bowling department but is looking to restrict opponents to 160 or 170 runs.

But he added: “It’s an exciting prospect to think that once we have everyone available again, we are going to have an excellent squad to select from.”

Essex will come face to face with a couple of their former players. Owais Shah left the Eagles at the end of last season and has now joined Hampshire for the NatWest T20 Blast competition.

Frustrated by the lack of wicket-keeping opportunities at Essex, Adam Wheater left to join Hampshire and is in their squad for tomorrow night.

Essex Eagles squad: Mark Pettini, Jesse Ryder, Tom Westley, Ben Foakes, Greg Smith, James Foster, Kishen Velani, Tanweer Sikander, Monty Panesar, Reece Topley, Tim Phillips, Tom Moore, Jaik Mickeburgh.

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