Frustrated Willoughby forced to sit out opening match

As county cricketers look forward with eager anticipation to the start of a new County Championship campaign, Essex left-arm fast bowler Charl Willoughby will be forced to view all the initial action from the players’ balcony.

The 37-year-old who made the move to Chelmsford from Somerset during the winter had been relishing the opportunity to make an immediate impression for his new county in their opening fixture with Gloucestershire – only to tweak a groin muscle while playing against Cambridge MCCU at Fenner’s.

“I can’t believe my luck,” he said. “I pulled up with a niggle the other day and have been forced out of the opening game but I’ve got a couple of weeks before Essex play again so I’ll be ready for that and ready to makes up for lost time.

“It’s a long season and there’s no point in taking any risks. Essex want to me to play in all three formats and I’d rather be fully fit and stay at a constant level than be forced in and out of the side.”

While Willoughby is forced to be patient, another new Essex recruit is being rushed into action. South Africa Test batsman Alviro Petersen flew into Heathrow on April 3 and goes straight into the side for the April 5-8 opener.

“It’s really good to be here to play county cricket again and I’m looking forward to the challenge,” said Petersen. “I’ve come straight from playing three Tests in the past couple of weeks in New Zealand where we played some good cricket, which is important. I had some good form and I hope I can take that form into the county season.”

Petersen experienced his first taste of county cricket last year when leading Glamorgan and he admits it was an interesting experience.

“County cricket is different to any other competition in the world; in South Africa we play less cricket and stretch it over a longer period of time and there is more rest, whereas in county cricket you go straight into the next game. So there is a challenge in that regard but every competition has its own challenges. From what I experienced last year, I think county cricket is almost the finishing school for Test cricket.”

Petersen is spending two months with Essex before he joins South Africa’s summer tour of England. It is a prospect that he is relishing. “It’s going to be a tough series between teams who are ranked one and two in the world at this stage,” he added.

“South Africa are playing good cricket at the moment and the difference between the two teams could be marginal but I do think it will be an exciting series.”

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