Essex high in confidence
Essex host Hampshire in the Second XI Trophy final at Chelmsford on Monday as they aim to follow in the footsteps of their Friends Provident Trophy success.
The two teams met last week in the Second XI Championship and fought to a draw, proving there is nothing to separate them and setting up the final nicely.
Essex’s squad contains seven graduates from the club’s academy, but coach John Childs, who doubles up his duties with the role of academy director, revealed the success of the youth system is not mirrored around the country.
"You have to give it (the academy system) time to work through but the current system is being looked at," Childs explained.
“Research done by the ECB has shown that out of 516 academy players at all counties since 2003 only 16 have gone on to get full professional contracts so far.
“When you consider seven of those are currently in the Essex squad that's an amazing statistic, if correct.”
The seven players mentioned by Childs include England opener Alastair Cook, as well as Maurice Chambers, Tony Palladino, Tom Westley, Jahid Ahmed, Mervyn Westfield and Varun Chopra.
Jaik Mickleburgh and Adam Wheater are academy professionals this year and Childs sees the second XI Trophy final as being particularly useful for their career progression.
“Both have had a taste of first-team cricket this year but the experience of winning a trophy - albeit a minor one to a lot of minds - is pretty vital,” he confirmed.
“On the subject of Mickleburgh, I was delighted to see him score 60 against Leicestershire on his championship debut last week. As second XI coach you look for people to come into the first-team and take their opportunity.
“Jaik did all that was asked of him in the seconds and hopefully he'll get more opportunities over the closing weeks of the season.”
Essex's 2008 second XI campaign has been a success in all areas as they also sit comfortably in the top-half of the championship table after finishing 17th last year.
A number of injuries and retirements hit both the first and second teams last season but a relatively clean bill of health has brought its rewards this time around.
"Last season and this have been like chalk and cheese," Childs confirmed. "We probably only had three professionals in the side over the second half of last season and however hard you try it's difficult to get any momentum going as a result.
“This year we have won some games and that's crucial in terms of confidence and creating a feel-good factor."
Childs believes Monday's line-up has what it takes to make it necessary to extend the trophy cabinet again at The Ford County Ground.
"There is no reason for us to fear anyone after some of the performances we've put in to date," he added. "If we focus on what we've done well previously it will take an exceptional display from Hampshire to beat us."
The second XI Trophy final is scheduled to start at 11am on Monday September 1, and entry is free to everyone.
Alternatively, you can follow the match via the Essex CCC website with live scores and regular updates.