Essex eh? You either love them or loathe them. There was a time when the Essex mafia dominated English cricket. Names like Gooch, Foster and Pringle were synonymous with the England team.
Latterly of course, it’s all been about Andy Flower and Alastair Cook. Just don’t mention the name James Foster, or all those ‘he only plays for England because he plays for Essex’ assumptions completely fall apart.
I for one am quite happy that Essex have won the championship. I can’t say I’m delirious – being a Worcestershire fan my focus has been on division two – but I do think Essex’s triumph is rather satisfying and pretty good news for cricket in general. Not least because a smaller county has won the biggest prize in English domestic cricket.
What’s more, as an opponent of Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit, I’ve come to rather like Essex chairman John Faragher. Rather than being in bed with the establishment (something Essex have sometimes been accused of), Faragher was quite vocal in his opposition to the new city T20. Who can forget this principled statement back in April:
“We are focused on expanding cricket in Essex, East Anglia and Metropolitan London, ensuring there are opportunities for all age and ability groups, male and female, to be actively involved in the game.
We believe that as a result of the proposed changes, these opportunities will be reduced, that our income overall will suffer and the first-class game will be diminished, in contradiction to the ECB’s objective which is to grow the game in this country – an objective that is unlikely to be advanced by a competition which would exclude large areas of the country from any involvement in it.”
I also admire Essex for disproving the assumption that division two teams cannot be competitive in division one. We often hear that division two is a poor standard, and that runs and wickets in the second tier are meaningless, but Essex have proved there are some bloody good players ‘down there’. The fact they’ve won the championship the season after being promoted is a fantastic achievement and should give clubs in division two some hope.
Essex are also very worthy champions. In fact, they have all the ingredients that classic championship winning sides have: a strong opening partnership in Browne and Chopra (not to mention Alastair Cook), a hugely talented young gun in Dan Lawrence, plus a couple of grizzled old pros in Ravi Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate.
As for the bowling, Jamie Porter continues to exceed all expectations and I’ve always quite liked New Zealand’s Neil Wagner because he’s aggressive and wholehearted. Essex also have a good spinner in Simon Harmer (let’s sidestep the fact he’s a kolpak player) and Sam Cook is another youngster making his way. And, of course, it helps when someone like Mohammad Amir occasionally turns out for you.
I’m also a big fan of James Foster. He’s still a very good keeper, even at the age of 37, and I simply can’t believe that he hasn’t played more for England. They say he can’t bat but he averages 37 in first class cricket and has scored 23 centuries. Jos Buttler can only dream of stats like that.
So next time you mutter ‘bloody Essex’ under your breath, just think about all the above. We all love the nostalgia when a county like Yorkshire win the championship – when Yorkshire are strong, England are strong etc – but Essex have a proud history themselves. And they’ve often punched above their weight.
Chris Silverwood, their adopted Yorkie head coach, has done a brilliant job. Congrats.
Well done Essex, thoroughly deserved. The change of coach was overdue but they obviously made a very good choice in the end.
Very well done Essex. Our North London neighbours. Very pleased for you.
Interesting to see that maybe there isn’t much difference between teams anymore.. last year a mediocre Middlesex and this year Essex..
County championship weak ?
I’m not sure it’s a weak competition. The standard isn’t bad at all imho. I think Essex just played particularly well this year, as did Middlesex last year. What’s more, I do think that Essex have generally fielded very good sides in the championship. They have a lot of very good cricketers, some of which are probably just below international standard … which is probably what you want in the championship: lots of quality but but not too many international call ups. It works that way in rugby union’s premiership too.
Very pleased for Essex, even as a Warwicks man on the wrong end of the game. Harmer was a revelation in the Edgbaston game; it takes a lot to outbowl Jeetan Patel on his home turf. My only grouse was the Sky team pushing Porter and Cook as future England players. I recall when they said Woakes was too slow at 82/83, yet Porter averages 80 and Cook circa 78 but it makes no difference in their case. It would be nice to have a bit of consistency.
And Worcester. On the brink of promotion, maybe even the league title, with a team mostly of academy players. A county season for the romantics
As a life-long Warwickshire supporter, our capitulation was hard to take. It shows the imagined gap in class between divisions is not that pronounced. It’s certainly good to see a county trying to introduce home grown talent can be successful in this format. The mercenaries making a mockery of domestic 20-20, do not get involved here, as you have to make a season long commitment.
How much influence Silverwood had only Essex know. It will be interesting to see if the England set up latch onto him as a potential successor to Gibson, or if they go abroad.
How much more interesting would the premiership be if cricket’s limitations on foreign imports was copied. It certainly keeps the competition up for grabs, as no side can buy its way to instant success. It’s good to see the counties sharing the honours around more, which is as it should be long term.
Credit Essex certainly, eight wins out of twelve and won with two games to spare. Agree with the comments re their chairman who I heard on a radio interview earlier this season when it certainly sounded like his heart and mind were in the right place.
Rather too many draws in the county Championship as a whole, more with the prospect of a win/loss would add edge and might help with player development.
How would win/lose help player development ? Draw cricket has far more skill and tactical nause required. Win lose will move the game towards white ball hit-a-thon..
If you want mindless hitting then watch white ball.
All the Test matches this summer were won/lost.
When the Championship fixtures moved from 3 days to 4 the idea was for enough time for the game to be played out without declaration bowling, more positive results, players dealing with the pressures making it a better proving ground for test cricket.
If England draw their way through the Ashes this winter they will have done well and surprised many.
Remove the draw and the game becomes boring
99% of the tests this summer were also one sided and Boring.. very much how white ball is.. rarely a good game, mainly one side dominating the other
Excellent, James. You’ve really captured why this is such a good news story.
In addition, I think Essex’s success shows again the value of a bowling attack that can get you 20 wickets, following the titles won by Sidey, Brooks, Bees and co for Yorkshire (a bit off-form this season), and Middlesex last year, who’ve maybe missed RoJo this year. There’s been more rain about, it seems to me, and so Essex’s quick wins have been doubly important.
In contrast, Surrey, who’ve had half their batting line-up raved over at one point or another (Stoneman, Roy, Foakes, Burns and, of course, Sanga), have won only 1, drawn 8, and aren’t even mathematically safe from relegation.
That’s because bowlers win you matches.. exactly how it should be!
Unlike white ball where it’s bludgeoning hitting
Anyone but Yorkshire for me! However these mealy-mouthed cockneys recently played a topvsecond game at Old Trafford and demonstrated their utter indifference to cricket’s etiquette by declaring as soon as they had maximum bowling points just to deprive the Red Rose of batting points. Given their lead overall this was rather distasteful.