There is always extra pressure when starting the season as champions, especially when coming off an unbeaten season as Essex did in 2017. The inclement weather over the first weekend meant that the 2018 County Championship got off to a wretched start, with Essex and Yorkshire having to share a draw at Headingly. Notably, it was the first time in over 50 years of County Championship that every day of play was lost at the ground.
However, as the good weather started to return to the British Isles, so too did Essex return to the top of the County Championship table. They were, admittedly, not spectacular in beating Lancashire by 31 runs at the County Ground, but it was enough to get the job done against last season’s runners up. Indeed, it was that type of ‘raising their game when it matters’ performance that often defines champions.
Porter once again looking like the top man for Essex
Not surprisingly, it was pace bowler Jamie Porter who was once again the star of the show, going 9-80 and get important outs against Jordan Clark and Alex Davies. Essex struggled somewhat in the first innings when facing bowler-friendly conditions, but they began to turn it on thereafter. All in all, manager Anthony McGrath will be pretty pleased with his team’s performance. Incidentally, Porter is also the bookies’ favourite (6/1) to be Top Bowler in County Cricket this season.
The win against Lancashire put Essex on top of the table with 24 points, albeit several teams have not concluded their second matches yet. It also left bookmakers looking pleased with their decision to install Essex as favourites at the start of the season. They have remained on the same odds of 10/3. Lancashire, who have now lost the opening two matches, have drifted out from 4/1 to 13/2. If you want to supplement those odds with free bets and promotions, check out the latest 888sport bonus offers for cricket.
Hampshire and Yorkshire fixtures will test Essex’ mettle
Essex have two tricky opponents on the horizon: Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl, followed by Yorkshire once again, although this time at the County Ground. Both those sides are priced around 5/1 to win the County Championship. So, should Essex come through the fixtures unscathed, fans will begin to think of another title, not to mention the prospect of going through the season unbeaten once more.
Indeed, the team offering most concern to Essex this season could well be Surrey. They were incredibly potent in batting last season and look like they have picked up where they left off with a dominant batting performance against Hampshire this weekend. They are 9/2 second favourites at the time of writing, but those odds will drop should they continue their good form. The fixture list means that Surrey and Essex won’t clash until September (4th Sept at the County Ground, 24th at the Oval), but those fixtures could well be the season’s title deciders.