ANTHONY McGrath is eyeing a shot at a title defence for Essex before the season is out, but he accepts it’s far more likely to be their T20 Blast crown than the County Championship.

The Yorkshireman took over from Chris Silverwood in November 2017, shortly after his former county team-mate had joined the England coaching set-up.

Since then, he has presided over an unprecedented double, which last season saw Ryan Ten Doeschate’s side bring both the County Championship and the Twenty20 trophies back home to Chelmsford.

Back in September, that prompted party time in a county that has never been afraid to let its hair down.

The atmosphere is altogether more sober currently, as McGrath prepares for what remains of the season, not at the CloudFM County Ground, but back home in Yorkshire.

It wasn’t quite what he expected when 1 January ticked round. But he’s still hoping his side can send the champagne corks popping again if and when the T20 Blast gets underway.

“We’re all frustrated, we all want to get back playing,” said McGrath.

“I think it’s more likely that the shortest format will be prioritised, whether that’s the full tournament as we know it, or whether we’re split up into different groups.

“We’re the current holders so whatever guise it comes back in, we’ll be determined to keep hold of that trophy.

“Mind you, Chelmsford will be a lot quieter than we’re used to. I think it will be a bit surreal for everyone.

“Chelmsford and the southern group, the attendances we’ve had at Lords, the Oval, Hove, everywhere really, have been incredible.

“Watching the Bundesliga on TV and other events without any crowds is just so weird,” he continues.

“It’ll be hard for the guys to get their head round it, but everyone realises what situation we’re in – we’ll try and make the best of it.

"At some point we’ll get those great nights back; where Chelmsford is full, and the atmosphere will be rocking again.”

For now, most Essex players would settle for being able to simply strap on their pads and have a hit in the nets.

But, while the future remains uncertain, one thing is clear – and that’s the fact that Essex will continue to rely on a spine that is largely homegrown, with the likes of Jamie Porter, Varun Chopra, Sam Cook, Aaron Beard, Nick Browne and Dan Lawrence having all come through the county’s youth ranks.

>McGrath was talking to the – follow @TheCountyC on Twitter.