Essex criticism 'no knee-jerk reaction', says Paul Grayson

Essex boss Paul Grayson has said his public criticism of his side was based on years of failure, not just one game.

Grayson described last week's innings defeat by Northamptonshire as "shambolic", which came after a season-opening draw with Gloucestershire.

"It's not a knee-jerk reaction to two disappointing performances this year," he told BBC Essex.

"It's more about the last few years where our four-day cricket has not been up to standard."

Essex innings defeats

Essex had not lost a County Championship match by an innings for almost three years.

Yorkshire beat them by an innings and 96 runs in Scarborough in May 2010.

Essex had previously stated a determination to challenge for promotion in their third consecutive season in Division Two.

"With the form of County Championship cricket at the moment, if you make a bad start to the season you're playing catch-up," added Grayson.

"We had a good honest chat in the dressing room. There were a few things said by myself, the players and the captain.

"I'm just hoping we're going to get a good response against Hampshire on Monday."

Essex will be able to call upon the batting prowess of Alastair Cook for the first time this season against Hampshire, Grayson confirming that the England captain will open with Tom Westley, with Rob Quiney dropping to three.

"He's an outstanding player and a brilliant bloke. It's great to have him back in the dressing room," said Grayson.

"It's only for two games but his experience and knowledge is outstanding. We don't want to be over reliant on him so it's about other players stepping up to the mark.

Grayson also confirmed that fast bowler Saj Mahmood was in contention for his county debut following his release by Lancashire last autumn.