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Bopara and Willoughby boost Essex


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Ravi Bopara and Charl Willoughby are set to make their first LV= County Championship appearances of the season when Essex travel to Yorkshire in Division Two .

Bopara, who was on England duty over the winter, has been cleared by the ECB to play for Essex in the championship and the Clydesdale Bank 40 until May 13.

However, the 26-year-old will only be used as a specialist batsman against the White Rose, with Mark Pettini the man to make way, due to suffering a side strain in a warm-up game on England’s tour to Sri Lanka.

Seamer Willoughby missed the victory over Gloucestershire last time out with a slight groin strain, but is in contention to make his Essex debut at Headingley Carnegie after moving from Somerset over the winter.

Essex head coach Paul Grayson told the club’s website "It's excellent news for us that we have Ravi available.

“He'll bat at number four at Headingley and Mark Pettini has to make way for him in this game. It's unfortunate for Mark but that's the nature of having good competition for places.

"It's what we want; it keeps everyone on their toes and I'd much rather have this type of headache of who to leave out and long may that continue.”

Phil Jaques is in line to make his second Yorkshire 'debut' after having his status as a non-overseas player rubber-stamped by the ECB.

The Australian left-hander, who scored 2,447 first-class runs at an average of 61.92 in his previous spell with the club in 2004 and 2005, has been added to Yorkshire’s squad along with Azeem Rafiq and Oliver Hannon-Dalby.

Ravi Bopara

Ravi Bopara, pictured, and Charl Willoughby are poised to make their first domestic appearances of the season when Essex visit Yorkshire

Richard Pyrah has been ruled out for six weeks with a broken hand, Adam Lyth has been omitted and Tim Bresnan is rested.

Benny Howell will be handed his Gloucestershire debut against Kent at Canterbury.

The former Hampshire batsman, who has been registered to play in the fixture as a replacement for the injured Dan Housego (shoulder), has been playing for Gloucestershire’s second XI side this season and struck a double century against Surrey on Tuesday.

Gloucestershire captain Alex Gidman told the club’s website: "Benny has done everything right since joining us and clearly has a lot of ability. He was unfortunate to be released by Hampshire and has responded to that decision very positively.

"It's a shame that Dan has suffered an injury so early in the season. I am not sure of the exact extent of it, but I am told he will be out for at least a week.

"That gives Benny his opportunity to bat at three for us in what is sure to be a very tough game.”

Kent look set to name an unchanged line-up from the side that defeated Northamptonshire as they have no fresh injury concerns ahead of their first game at the St Lawrence Ground this season.

Ramnaresh Sarwan will captain Leicestershire in the absence of Matthew Hoggard for the trip to Derbyshire.

Hoggard is recovering from a fractured a finger on his left hand, meaning either Alex Wyatt or Jigar Naik will be given a chance to impress as Leicestershire go in search of their second win from as many games after beating Glamorgan last time out.

Derbyshire sit atop Division Two after victories over Northants and Glamorgan and they have added seamer Tim Groenewald to their squad.

Glamorgan and Hampshire will be looking for their first wins of the campaign when they meet at the SWALEC Stadium.

Hampshire have named the same 12-man squad that was defeated by Gloucestershire, while Glamorgan have added Nick James and Huw Waters to their line-up, with Robert Croft missing out due to a slight back complaint.

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