ESSEX'S cricketers have come off furlough, out of lockdown, back to training, but into a world that has changed almost beyond recognition, according to head Anthony McGrath.

“It’s great being back but they’re not normal days,” said McGrath.

“The players can’t train with their team-mates and they’re training one-on-one [with the coaches].

The bowlers aren’t bowling at batters; they’re bowling at a net. The batters are just facing a coach throwing down. It’s very strange and abnormal.”

The double-winning champions of 2019 were released from captivity on Monday, though progress through stage one of their regulated rehabilitation has been frustratingly slow.

“Because the lads haven’t done anything for three months they’ve got to go in and see the physio and do the fitness tests to check them out physically,” said McGrath.

“Then we get about a half-hour with them for the skills stuff. It’s taken us three days to get through all 21 members of the pro squad who are here at the moment.

“We’ve got a temperature check when we come in the ground and we fill in a questionnaire, which asks, ‘How are you feeling? Have you had any symptoms?’ But we haven’t got testing in place. We’re obviously training with social distancing because it’s one-on-one at the moment. Everyone’s got their own ball.

The coaches have to wear gloves and masks if we’re inside.”

The present regime – overseen by coaches McGrath, Barry Hyam, Andre Nel and Tom Huggins – is likely to be repeated for another week, until the structure is announced for the truncated season to start on August 1.

“Until we’re clear on what comp we’re playing we’re pretty much in the dark,” said McGrath.

“We are using these two weeks to try and get through as much as we can according to the guidance we’ve been given.

“Then we’ll react to which comp we’re going to be playing in. We should know that by the end of next week.

“We’re happy to play whatever competition, be it red-ball, 20 overs or 50 overs, as long as it’s safe for players, staff and whoever’s in the ground.”