Graham Napier in bid to prove fitness for Essex at Cooky's Big Bash tonight

Vital cog - Napier is close to a return

Vital cog - Napier is close to a return

First published in Sport by

GRAHAM Napier hopes to use Cooky’s Big Bash tonight as a chance to prove his fitness and stake a claim for Essex Eagles’ big T20 Blast clash with Surrey.

The exciting Colchester-born all-rounder has been sidelined with a calf injury suffered in his side’s County Championship defeat at Worcestershire last month.

Napier has resumed running again following the setback, which followed hot on the heels of the groin injury he had suffered against Gloucestershire earlier in the season.

And the former Gilberd School pupil has targeted his Essex team-mate and England captain Alastair Cook’s latest benefit event as an opportunity to show he is ready to return.

Napier, 34, is one of a number of international stars past and present who will be in action at the County Ground, where Essex take on Cooky’s All Stars in a T20 clash.

Ronnie Irani, Andy Flower, Graeme Swann, Steve Harmison and James Anderson are all expected to feature, along with Darren Gough, Peter Such and John Stephenson.

Napier said: “I had a bowl on Monday morning and I’m looking to progressively build things up this week.

“I hope to play in Cooky’s benefit match and that will be my fitness test.

“If that goes well, it’ll hopefully help me to put my name in the hat for our game against Surrey on Friday night.”

Napier has not played for Essex since May 21, missing the County Championship games against Surrey and Glamorgan.

He has also been forced to sit out their T20 Blast matches against Glamorgan and Hampshire.

“I strained my groin in our game against Gloucestershire, where we were playing in damp conditions,” added Napier, who once held the record for the highest individual Twenty20 score.

“I got fit and healthy again after that but against Worcestershire I tore the soleus muscle, which is below the calf.

“I was told that it was a Grade One/Grade Two tear and that it would take around two weeks to repair.

“Before this happened, I’d been fortunate playing for nearly two seasons of cricket without getting an injury for Essex.

“As a senior member of the squad, you know that at some point you’ll pick something up but it’s just a case of recovering as quickly as possible.”

l Colchester and East Essex host Leigh on Sea in their opening Essex League Dukes Essex T20 Group A match tonight.

The match takes place at Castle Park and starts at 6pm.

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