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Essex season preview

Promotion to the top flight the major target for Pettini's troops

Bopara: All-round talent for Essex

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After a familiar look for so long Essex have some fresh faces on and off the field to try and help them fulfill their potential.

Ronnie Irani's reign as captain was cut short by retirement midway through last season, with Mark Pettini taking over in charge.

Now the batsman will be hoping he and coach Paul Grayson, as well as new seam bowling coach Graeme Welch, can inspire a talented squad.

It is in the four-day game there is work to do after their failure to win promotion consigned them to another season in Division Two of the County Championship.

Some fresh faces should help provide an upturn in fortunes, particularly with Alastair Cook unlikely to be seen much in county action.

Jason Gallian's arrival should add some stability to the top order and Pettini himself will want to do much better in terms of big scores.

All-round talent

The fact that Ravi Bopara seems to have fallen down the England pecking order should work in Essex's favour, particularly because the talented 22-year-old may have a point to prove after his poor winter.

James Foster will also be keen to impress in the hope of rekindling his international career while James Middlebrook offers useful runs in a batting order that has plenty of depth.

So if runs shouldn't be the major issue, the question is where are the wickets going to come from?

Too much in the past has rested on the shoulders of Pakistan spinner Danish Kaneria, meaning a revamping of the attack was required.

With Alex Tudor still not reliable enough in terms of fitness to contribute on a regular basis and so many young seamers on the books, Essex have signed David Masters to add some experience.

Andre Nel's presence for the first few months could also be crucial, he will make life uncomfortable for rival batsmen in more ways than one.

Big year for: Ravi Bopara - Such a difficult start to his Test career in Sri Lanka should mean he is even more determined to show it was a mere blip. Has the natural talent to play beautiful shots, now needs to make big innings.

One to watch: Varun Chopra - The young opener has been tipped to follow in the footsteps of team-mate Alastair Cook into the England set-up. He showed signs of his talent in 2007 but needs to be more consistent.