Can Essex bowl themselves into a first T20 final?

T20 BLAST PREVIEW: A change of leadership might have cause speculation but in the form of Mohammad Amir and Simon Harmer the Eagles have the perfect blend to make a run to Edgbaston

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Coach: Anthony McGrath

Captain: Simon Harmer

Overseas: Mohammad Amir (Pakistan), Adam Zampa (Australia)

Last season: 7th in South Division

How did they do last year?

It was nothing short of a disaster. The Eagles won just two games, with only one coming at 'Fortress Chelmsford'. Their campaign was summed up when they were unable to get home off the final ball against Hampshire - Ravi Bopara was run-out in search of a second - leading to one of only two tied games during the 2018 season. Three rained-off matches didn't help the cause.

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Ryan ten Doeschate

Who are their key players?

Simon Harmer: Didn't have the best of times in last year's competition but he has been excellent in the 2019 County Championship and the increasingly drier surfaces could play into his hands. Took 12 wickets against Hampshire and similar heroics are expected in this format. The new captain for the tournament, it will be interesting to see how he copes with the additional responsibility.

Ryan ten Doeschate: It has been a tricky campaign for the Dutchman, who is no longer the skipper across all format after the T20 captaincy was reallocated on the eve of the new season. Nevertheless, even at 39 he remains a key figure with bat and ball.

Mohammad Amir: One of the stand-out bowlers of the World Cup returns to Chelmsford for eight games of this year's competition. Not the leading wicket-taker at the tournament but a stunningly accurate bowler who excels in English conditions. Part of the side which won the Championship in 2017 and the Pakistani will be eager to make another winning contribution.

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What are their biggest strengths?

The bowling department might be the best stocked in the competition. Amir might only be around for eight games but that could be enough to secure a top-four spot. Harmer is expected to be influential while Jamie Porter will offer plenty of pace. Ravi Bopara continues to excel and Aaron Beard will surely get more exposure after being rewarded with a new contract.

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Ravi Bopara remains a key presence for Essex

Where might they have a weakness?

Though plenty to be confident about, there are rightly some concerns over the batting line-up. Varun Chopra was superb in the One-Day Cup but at 32 can he be expected to play every game? Tom Westley has not enjoyed the best of campaigns and Ten Doeschate's role remains somewhat uncertain. Their One-Day Cup campaign was a mess, but this will be a vastly different side.

Chances of reaching Finals Day?

Essex are among a clutch of counties never to have played in a Twenty20 final but this must surely be their best chance in some years. If they can make Chelmsford the formidable destination it was for so many years and if they can build on their excellent Championship form they could prosper.

Strongest XI (with T20 Player Index ratings): Varun Chopra (260), Cameron Delport (48), Dan Lawrence (305), Ravi Bopara (101), Ryan ten Doeschate (191), Adam Wheater (390), Paul Walter (529), Simon Harmer (462), Mohammad Amir (84), Jamie Porter (682), Adam Zampa (88)

Fixtures: Jul 18 - Middlesex (a), Jul 19 - Surrey (h), Jul 26 - Kent (h), Jul 27 - Gloucestershire (h), Aug 1 - Hampshire (h), Aug 2 - Gloucestershire (a), Aug 7 - Somerset (h), Aug 9 - Glamorgan (a), Aug 14 - Essex (h), Aug 16 - Glamorgan (h), Aug 22 - Sussex (a), Aug 25 - Hampshire (a), Aug 29 - Surrey (a), Aug 30 - Kent (a)

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