Published: 00:00, 06 June 2018
| Updated: 11:18, 06 June 2018
Matt Coles has only played one Royal London One-Day Cup match at Chelmsford in a red Essex Eagles shirt, but already The Cloudfm County Ground feels like home.
And he is preparing a warm welcome for his former Kent team-mates in Wednesday's day-night game – which Essex need to win to progress to the knockout stage of the 50-overs competition.
The 28-year-old all-rounder has taken five wickets in his two appearances for the Eagles, both of them victories to ensure fate resides in their own hands going into the final group match against a Kent side who have already qualified.
Coles has a good white-ball record at Chelmsford, though predominantly with bat in hand: his highest T20 score of 54 was there in 2014, and few who saw it will forget his devastating 91 from 52 balls in a Royal London contest two years ago.
“It was one of the reasons for coming here,” says Coles, who signed a two-year deal in October. “When you do well against a team, or at certain grounds, you think it might be somewhere you could take your game forward.
“The small boundaries help a bit, but then again you do have to bowl with them. So it’s a win-lose sort of thing. It’s about adapting to each ground you play at, and it’s definitely a ground where I’ve played enough cricket – for Kent and Hampshire – to know what roughly to bowl in certain situations.
“This being the home ground, it’s where you have to feel most comfortable. The last game here (against Glamorgan last week) I felt comfortable; it felt like home.”
Of his exit, via the Dartford Tunnel, from his native county, Coles says: “I just felt it was time to get away. I wasn’t really enjoying it as much as I would have liked, and when an opportunity popped up to come to Essex, the county champions, it was a no-brainer.”
There will be little love lost out in the middle against life-long friends and colleagues. “Last time I went back to Kent (after joining Hampshire) I got booed when I walked out! It sums it up, really," Coles adds.
"They’re opponents now, so it’s irrelevant really about who’s friends and who’s not. No doubt I’ll be giving them a bit of stick out on the pitch, and hopefully pulling my weight to give Essex the greatest opportunity to win.
“I think I’ve definitely learnt a few more tricks of the trade over the last six months. They will know most of what I do, what my plans are. It’s one of those things given I’ve played with them for so many years. But, look, I also know things about them, so it’s not one-sided.
“I know what to do against certain people. You know their weaknesses, so it’s trying to exploit them as much as possible.
“But they’ve been on a good run so it’s going to be a tough game, a fiery game. They have standout players in-form at the moment: Kuhn, Denly and Bell-Drummond with the bat; Henry and Stevo have been doing their job with the ball. But I do feel we’re a better team and I think Essex will come out on top.”
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