A STAR-STUDDED Essex CCC outfit are set to light up the Victory Ground when they lock horns with Unicorns in a Clydesdale Bank Pro 40 tussle on our own doorstep on Sunday (1.45pm).
Ashes hero Alastair Cook, hard-hitting Graham Napier, former England wicketkeeper James Foster and One Day International starlet Ravi Bopara are all expected to feature for the Chelmsford-based side in front of what will be one of the largest crowds for many years at Bury St Edmunds Cricket Club.
More than 300 tickets have already been sold for the eagerly-anticipated showpiece. But with a coach travelling from Essex and many expected to arrive on the day, club president David Barker is hoping for an attendance much higher.
“It is just going to be an extraordinary occasion,” he said. “If you are a cricket fan then it just doesn’t get much better than this.
“We really hope that Alastair is involved because of course he is one of the country’s leading sportsmen at this present time. I can only assume he will play because Essex are taking this very seriously. They are arriving early to warm up and even have lunch. Plus Alastair will be on England duty a lot this summer so I expect they will want to use him as much as they can, while they can.”
Opening batsman Cook – who was awarded player-of-the- series after England’s dazzling Ashes victory Down Under – is expected to return to the Nowton Road ground where he last played for Maldon eight years ago. The left-hander has also just been named the new England One Day International captain.
The match will also see the return of former Bury batsman Paul Grayson, who is now first team coach at Essex, while Bury skipper Justin Bishop was on Essex’s books during his England Under-19 days.
The last time Essex fielded a side in the town was back in 1993 when household names such as Graham Gooch and Nasser Hussain starred in front of a 4,000-strong crowd.
“Unfortunately, I can’t see us getting a crowd as big as that this time because there is a lot of other things going on in the town, but I am sure there will be a great atmosphere down at the ground. It is going to be a thoroughly decent game.”
The club were planning to erect a grandstand to accommodate the demand, but the heavy financial cost has put an end to that.
“We wanted a grandstand but then found out it was going to cost us a lot and unfortunately we are on a shoe string budget. There will be chairs around the boundary though,” he added.
Unicorns is a squad formed from players without full-time contracts at first class clubs. They won three matches of their inaugural campaign last year.
Ticket prices: Adults - £10; Under-16s or over 65s - £5; Family (two adults and two U-16s) - £25. On the day these prices will rise to £15, £8 and £35 respectively. Car parking will cost £3.
Tickets can be obtained from Intersport or from David Barker on 01449 781286 or 07876 496064.
Essex squad: Billy Godleman; Alastair Cook; Jack Mickleburgh; Ravi Bopara; Matt Walker; Tom Westley; James Foster; Tim Philips; David Masters; Maurice Chambers; Chris Wright; Reece Topley; Mark Pettini; Owais Shah; Ryan ten Doeschate; Graham Napier; Scott Styris; Adam Wheatear; Max Osbourne; Michael Comber; Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Unicorns: Jackson Thompson; Mike Thornely; Chris Benham; Josh Knappett; Keith Parsons (c); Luis Reece; Amar Rashid; Neil Shaker; Chris Peploe; Glenn Queri; James Campbell; Tom Friend; Joel Pope; Jonathan Miles.