PROMOTION in the County Championship is Essex’s main priority of 2014 according to head coach Paul Grayson.

Last season the Eagles missed out on getting back into Division One of the competition finishing third behind Lancashire and Northamptionshire.

With the first game of the 2014 domestic season just 11 days away, against Derbyshire at the Ford County Ground, Grayson said the side are looking in good shape and are gunning for promotion.

Grayson said: “They guys are desperate to get into Division One as we want to get up and play against the likes of Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire.

“We were disappointed not to go up last year and this year the main priority is to get promoted while hopefully having a good run in the one-day competitions as well.

“About 90 per cent of our training has been with the red ball and it is going well and if the season started tomorrow we’d be ready to go.”

An added boost for Grayson comes with England test captain Alastair Cook and fellow international star Ravi Bopara both being made available for the first four County Championship games and the first T20 match.

He also believes the balance of youth and experience is right in the Essex ranks at the moment with some of the younger players starting to take more responsibility.

Brentwood Live:

Paul Grayson

“Guys like Tom Westley and Jaik Mickleburgh have gone away over the winter as boys but have come back men,” Grayson said.

“They know their role in the side and what is expected of them now.

“Having Ravi and Cooky back will be good and with Monty Panesar we have a world class spinner. We needed a matchwinner and he is certainly that.”

Brentwood Live:

Alastair Cook will be available for the opening part of Essex's season