A hard-hitting all-rounder who bowls brisk seamers, Napier enjoyed brushes with stardom before he shot to fame in 2008 on the back of his remarkable feats in the Twenty20 Cup.
He was part of the England Under-19 side that won the World Cup in 1998, and his tally of 33 victims in the National League in 2003 equalled the record for the most wickets taken by an Essex player in a one-day league campaign.
Napier won a place on the England A tour to Malaysia and India that winter, and his career continued on an upward path when he was named in England’s 30-man provisional squad for the 2004 Champions Trophy on the back of 25 wickets in the totesport League.
However, he missed out on a place in the final party, and slipped down the pecking order at Essex over the next few years, with injuries also playing their part.
He played just three County Championship games in 2006 and, though he averaged 43 with the bat over nine matches the following season, a meagre 19 runs in seven Twenty20 Cup outings hardly suggested the impact he was to have in 2008.
Few present at Chelmsford on June 24 will forget Napier’s astonishing 152 not out off just 58 balls against Sussex - the highest score in English Twenty20 cricket - an innings which sparked an upturn in form in the one-day arena and saw him regain his place in the championship side later in the season.
Napier ended the summer as one of the most talked-about cricketers in the land, having collected Friends Provident Trophy and NatWest Pro40 Division Two winners medals.
In the 2008-09 English winter he was called up to the England Lions squad for their limited-overs internationals against New Zealand A.
Napier played for Mumbai Indians in the 2009 Indian Premier League and was named in England's squad for the World Twenty20, although he did not feature in the competition.
His international prospects have since been hampered by injury, not least a stress fracture of the back that ended his 2010 campaign, but he remains an important player to Essex.
In May 2011 Napier gave a reminder of his destructive batting with 196 versus Surrey at Whitgift School, including a first-class record-equalling 16 sixes.