Bates waits with bated breath
Michael Bates, one of Hampshire’s match-winners in last year’s Lord’s final, is in line for a recall as the Royals start to defend their 40-over title tomorrow versus Essex at Chelmsford.
Facing Kabir Ali’s seamers, the 22-year-old wicketkeeper stood up to the stumps as Hampshire defended seven from the last over of the 2012 showpiece to earn a tie that usurped Warwickshire.
Adam Wheater’s winter move from Essex has seen Bates demoted to the second XI for LV= County Championship games, but both are in a 12-man squad for first Yorkshire Bank 40 fixture. Both could play tomorrow, with Wheater as a specialist batsman, in the Group B contest beginning at 4:40pm.
Bates, who yesterday hit an unbeaten 179 for the seconds, said: “It’s nice to be back in the squad. I’ll prepare as if I’m playing and, if I get the nod, I’ll just try to repeat the form I showed last year and try to dominate behind the stumps.
“Going from playing every game last year to not being involved from the start this year, it’s been tough but I feel like I’ve taken it quite well and the runs I got yesterday proved that.
“I think that’s the best way to go about it - to just knuckle down and prove to people that potentially might be doubting you that you can do it and do it consistently.”
James Tomlinson and David Balcombe drop out of the XI that lost a championship thriller to Essex yesterday, with fellow seamers Hamza Riazuddin and David Griffiths coming in after impressing recently for the seconds.
Hampshire, who also won last year’s Friends Life t20, are certain to include Michael Carberry - the 40-over competition’s leading scorer in 2012 with 598 runs at 85.42.
Bates added: “It potentially adds to the pressure on us, being the defending champions but, at the same time, I’m sure we’re one of the most feared teams in the one-day comp so, if anything, the opponents will probably be feeling the pressure because of our reputation.
“There’s no reason we can’t live up to that reputation. If we do what we do day-in, day-out then we’ll hopefully repeat performances we had last year.”
Essex head coach Paul Grayson wants his charges to carry forward their momentum from yesterday’s first competitive win of 2013.
Needing 143 - the lowest score of the game at Chelmsford - for victory, Essex recovered from 31 for six to win without further loss thanks to Graham Napier’s 78 and Mark Pettini’s 35.
“140 is never an easy target, but we knew the new ball would do something,” Grayson told Essex TV. “I didn’t expect us to be 31 for six, but thank God for Graham Napier and Mark Pettini. I thought they were outstanding, held their nerve and got us over the line.”
“We had a meeting last Tuesday. A few home truths were said, a real honest chat and we were looking for a response from the players,” Grayson said.
“I think we’ve seen that this week. So it’s just nice to get over the line. We move on - it’s a win - and we look forward to Friday night’s game against Hampshire here.
“They’re the holders of the competition. We’ll be picking a strong squad, just checking a few bodies, see everyone’s fit for that game.”
Essex are without England Test and one-day international captain Alastair Cook, who played in this week’s championship contest, while David Masters is rested.
"He's only just come back from a side strain and had a big work load this week." Grayson said of Masters.
"He could be available for the game with Durham on Sunday and we want to ensure that he's definitely fit for the championship match at Old Trafford against Lancashire next week."
Masters' absence presents an opportunity to Sajid Mahmood, who is in line to make his first Essex start.
Tom Craddock, currently suffering with a badly bruised finger, is not ready for a return to action.