Gough sees bright future
Essex’s 2006 season saw them compete at the highest level in every competition, as their well-balanced mixture of youth and experience looks set to continue for several years.
Darren Gough is one of the elder statesmen of a side packed with talent and he foresees a bright future for his Essex team-mates after what he termed as a “very, very, very, very, very, very, very good season”.
Gough knows that a balanced squad is the key to success and he feels that Essex has got that sorted.
“There are six guys in the side who are quite young and then you have the likes of myself, Ronnie Irani, Andy and Grant Flower and Andy Bichel who are getting on a bit,” he told ecb.co.uk.
“But I think that it is very important to have that mix, and it is vital in one-day cricket.”
Essex won Division One of the NatWest Pro40, a title which they achieved with a week to spare. They also reached the final of the Twenty20 Cup for the first time in its history and were unlucky to just miss out on the final promotion spot in the Liverpool Victoria County Championship.
“Obviously we were disappointed not to go up in the championship. We looked to be leading the way up until the last minute when Worcestershire nipped in and bowled out Northants for just over 100,” Gough said.
“But in one-day cricket we were excellent. We won a couple of good C&G matches early on, and I thought we were the best side in the competition in the Twenty20 but we just didn’t play as well in the final. And we won the Pro40, so that was good.”
Gough found a new lease of life as a batsman in Essex’s one-day campaigns in 2006, as he was pushed up the order to be a pinch-hitter at the fall of the first wicket.
“I didn’t choose to bat at number three, but as vice-captain I did have a say with the captain. It was just something we had discussed at Essex - what we could do to improve - and one of those things was to make use of the first 15 overs. And it was a great success,” he added.
“I was chosen to bat there as I had scored a couple of quick fifties earlier in the season. If I hadn’t been at three, I’d have been at number 11 and I would have been wasted there when I can get in and score quickly.
“If I got out quickly it wasn’t a problem because they were only really losing a number 11 and there was another batsman to come in after me.
“Bichel did the same job when I was away with England towards the end of the season,” the 36-year-old added.
Bichel only joined Essex midway through the season, but Gough admired the impact he had on the squad, whilst also picking out two younger players to look out for next year.
“Bichel was only with us for a while but he had a great season,” he said. “And Tim Phillips, our left-arm spinner, really improved this season. I am looking forward to seeing what he can do next season.
“And Mark Pettini too. He struggled originally in the championship, but his one-day form has been amazing.”
Gough also paid tribute to the captaincy of former England team-mate Irani, who has been inspiring in all forms of cricket for Essex this year.
“Irani always leads from the front. He always gives 120%. He is quite aggressive, which I think must be an Essex thing because Nasser Hussain was exactly the same,” Gough joked. “But that is no bad thing.
“The main thing is that he leads from the front and people follow.”
Gough has a busy winter ahead of him after being named in England’s Hong Kong sixes squad for the tournament taking place on the weekend of 11 and 12 November.
He has also agreed to take part in a beach cricket tournament in Australia after Christmas, alongside Essex coach Graham Gooch.
“It should be good fun, which I think is the main reason for it - to be a bit of fun,” Gough admitted.
“I did something similar in Dubai last year, with Volkswagen - for whom I’m an ambassador. There were about 160 of them and Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Liam Plunkett and I went out there and played beach cricket with them. It was a good laugh, but it definitely isn’t easy.
“I hear there are going to be sell-out crowds on the beaches in Australia and that it is going to be televised worldwide, so I’m looking forward to it - as long as I don’t have to play in speedos!”