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Ronnie’s confident of success

Ronnie Irani and his players set off for Nottingham this weekend quietly confident that they can cover themselves in glory by lifting the Twenty20 Cup.

They take on former winners Leicestershire in the first semi-final at Trent Bridge and the victors of that tie will take on the winners of the Surrey versus Nottinghamshire clash in front of a full house of around 18,000.

"We don't fear anyone," said Irani this week.

"That's not to say we underestimate our opponents because the four teams left have proved themselves the best in the country at this form of cricket and are there on merit.

"But collectively we are as good as any of the sides left.

"Everyone who turns out for us has proved to be a match-winner in the past. We don't have to rely on one or two individuals to deliver to come out on top. Of course every team needs a little bit of luck on the day, but I honestly believe we will win through."

The Essex captain believes experience will play a key part. He added: "Players like Darren Gough, Andy Bichel, Andy Flower and myself have played on some of the biggest stages in the world.

"I feel pretty confident that our younger players will not submit to the pressure. Lads like Ravinder Bopara and Mark Pettini showed they can come through tight situations as we virtually swept all before us in carrying off the Totesport League title last summer."

Irani's most ticklish problem will be team selection.

"Acute disappointment will bound to be felt by those players overlooked. But that's one of the things you accept as captain," he said.

"But we are all professionals who realise that is part of the game. Even those who don't make it on to the field will be rooting for the rest of us, such is the team spirit throughout the camp."

One of the integral parts of the Essex success has been the performances of wicket-keeper James Foster, who must have been close to an England call recently only to be edged aside by Chris Read.

Loughton-based Foster also firmly believes that Essex can lift the Twenty20.

"We have spent time working on strategy this year and it s paid off," he stated.

"We know that we need to cash in on the restrictions placed on the fielding side for the first six overs and promoting Goughie to number three has proved beneficial.

"If we are bit behind the figure we've targeted after a given number of overs, we have players who can raise the tempo, or if we need to concentrate on just working the ball around, we have options for that, so overall, that's a big plus factor for us.

"We've had a lot of one-day success over the past couple of years and once you get a couple of wins under your belt, you gain momentum and the whole thing rolls on.

"You also have the genuine belief that you are going to win each and every game from no matter what position you're in.

"We've also had different people winning games for us. It wasn't just a couple of players performing outstandingly well, a number of players have chipped in to play their part in out success.

"That's excellent because players go into a game thinking that if we do find ourselves in a tricky situation, then there are players throughout the side who can come and bail you out with either bat or ball. We know that the other teams are good but we'll go out full of confidence.

"It's not conceit, just realistic confidence."

The Essex players prepared for the Trent Bridge date buoyed by their double success at the Southend Festival.

They maintained their promotion challenge in Division Two with a 211-run thrashing of Somerset and followed it up by seeing off Middlesex by nine wickets in the Pro40 competition.

They will be hoping for similar success when they visit Colchester's Castle Park next week to take on leaders Surrey in a scheduled four-day battle followed by a Pro40 duel against Notts.

But before then comes another Pro40 clash when they make the trip to Hove on Monday for a meeting with Sussex.

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