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  • Specsavers County Championship 12m

    How Essex won the Championship, by the players

    The Essex players and coaching staff tell the remarkable story of how they become Specsavers County Championship winners for the first time in 25 years

    Back-to-back titles and delirious fans. Here, Essex's players and coaching staff explain how they did it...

    Captain Ryan ten Doeschate and head coach Chris Silverwood made a point of dreaming big this season following promotion

    Tom Westley: I think sometimes in the past our goal was to stay up, and if you set goals like that, with a negative in it, then you are probably not going to achieve much. I do believe what’s been successful at Essex in recent years is we haven’t put targets in place that are set in stone.
    Ryan Ten Doeschate: Obviously our first priority, without stating it explicitly, was to make sure we retained Division One status. Following the Middlesex win was the time to be brave and really push on.
    Jamie Porter: If I'm being brutally honest, winning the Championship was the ambition at the start of the season. A lot of people thought that was too ambitious but we thought 'why not?'

    Essex experienced a tough start to the season against Lancashire, relying on youngster Dan Lawrence (141) to bat for 7 hours & 7 minutes to save the match

    Dan Lawrence: It’s the favourite of my five centuries because I managed to bat all day and get the team out of a hole. I didn’t do it all alone, there were fantastic efforts from the other boys. But I think it is quite important not to celebrate a draw. We had our backs up against the walls, it was a tough first three days, and it took a lot of character from the boys to fight through and get a draw.
    Ten Doeschate: We took a serious drubbing against Lancashire and got away with it in the first game.
    Chris Silverwood: It is a bit of a wake-up call but you have to live experiences and go through them. The important thing for me is we take the lessons and learn quickly. There are a lot of positives going on but we need to string them all together now.
    Alastair Cook
    (talking to BBC): That was a turning point, we had the belief that we could play at this level, and it took a 19-year-old kid to do it.

    Depsite picking up a win and two draws from their opening three matches, Essex had to wait until playing Hampshire to put together a 'perfect performance'

    Ten Doeschate: We knew that eventually the points were going to come. We felt before the Royal London One-Day Cup campaign we hadn’t played particularly well and we’d got probably more than we deserved in the first three games. We were talking then about putting a game together where we got all the elements right. This game is as close as I can remember to a perfect performance.
    Porter: I was actually under a bit of pressure before that [then career-best 5-24] spell because a lot of the lads were coming off and saying, ‘This is your pitch’. And I thought, ‘What if I don’t come off?’
    Ten Doeschate
    : It was one of the best opening spells I've ever seen. He was relentless with his lengths and his line in this game.

    Young bowler Jamie Porter made a name for himself with the ball, taking 75 wickets in his first season in Division One

    Porter: I found it quite frustrating the season before this, my second full season, when people said it would be hard to do as well as I had in my first season and take fifty wickets again. I just thought it was a load of rubbish....I want to be the next Jimmy Anderson. I’d love to be where he is now in 10 years’ time. That would be amazing.
    Ten Doeschate: Jamie Porter has been phenomenal again this season. It speaks volumes for how he’s bowled and the control he’s given us and to strike at important times, backing up the other bowlers.
    Silverwood: Off the back of two 50+ wicket seasons in Division Two people always have that question about whether they can do it in Division One and he’s proved he can... I’m really pleased for him. He works really hard on his game. He loves bowling. He loves Essex. It’s great to see him do so well.

    While Porter impressed with his seam work, Simon Harmer proved to be revelation with his off-spin

    Simon Harmer: Sometimes you have days like that [against Warwickshire where he took 14/128] when everything clicks and goes your way. When it does, you need to cash in.
    Silverwood
    : He’s a very good team man and, importantly, a hell of bowler... with the ball he has been phenomenal.

    On his match-winning spell to beat reigning champs Middlesex in the day-night match

    Harmer: These are the moments you play cricket for. It makes all the hard graft worth it. You can’t really put into words. Sometimes things go your way. I’ll probably never take four five-fors in a row ever again and I’ll never take 28 wickets in two games ever again. It has just been one of those weeks.
    Ten Doeschate: To take 14 wickets in a game, nine in an innings, and that’s not even mentioning the chances he created, he was phenomenal... The manner in which Harmy did it in the last 45 minutes is a very special cricket memory for me.

    Dan Lawrence trapped Toby Roland-Jones lbw to deny Harmer the chance of taking all 10 wickets in the second innings.
     
    Harmer: He came and put his arm around me and said, ‘I’m really sorry’. But when we got to the end there, there’s nine minutes left, eight minutes left, seven minutes left, what’s going to happen? They’re taking their time to get out there. If they were nine down and I had nine wickets, and we drew, it wouldn’t mean nearly as much. It was a vital wicket that he got and I was chuffed for him.
     

    With such depth in the squad, there was lots of competition for starting places, including between the wicketkeepers

    James Foster: I wasn’t really expecting to play any cricket this year. Obviously people say it’s a silly thing to think, but it’s what I thought. Personally I didn’t think I’d play a game. I’m actually really enjoying my cricket. I’m almost having another lease of life. I had a lot of support from the changing room, the lads were brilliant. It was obviously disappointing not to start the season.
    Adam Wheater: I was fortunate to have that opportunity at the start of the season and I didn’t perform well enough to deserve keeping the gloves. It was the right decision [to recall Foster] and it was something I agreed with. Fozz is a class act. I knew when I came back to Essex this might be the situation so it’s not unexpected.

    Essex were able to call on Alastair Cook for seven matches, in which he scored 667 runs, forging a new Essex opening-wicket record with Nick Browne when hitting Middlesex for 373 in the day-night match

    Nick Browne: It’s an amazing honour to play with him, let alone have a partnership with him like that. We didn’t know about the record. When the crowd starting clapping we didn’t have a clue... Cooky’s very good at switching on and switching off. It’s interesting watching from the other end. Once we’ve got in we try and have a laugh together mid-wicket. I was telling the boys about an incident in that big stand against Middlesex. [Ollie] Rayner bowled him a ball that spun quite big and bounced, and he immediately looked up at me and started laughing. He was on a hundred or something. I went to laugh back and he kind of shuddered back into something like a trance and went back into focusing again. It was him telling himself, ‘What are you laughing at? Get back on to batting’. It was brilliant to witness the great man at work. He’s my favourite ever cricketer, so it’s nice to be able to play with him and have partnerships like that.
    Anthony McGrath: You don’t get where he has by fluke. He is one of the hardest trainers I’ve worked with. He got out [at Somerset] for a hundred and went straight to the gym. His professionalism is absolutely sensational.
    Silverwood
    : Cookie got a hundred [at Somerset] and it was the start of things really: ‘We can compete at this level’. We always said from the start of the season we wanted to make our presence felt in Division One and I think we did that day.

    When the impressive overseas signing Neil Wagner finished his first stint with Essex, in came Mohammad Amir off the back of winning the Champions Trophy with Pakistan

    Silverwood: Mohammad Amir, didn't he bowl beautifully [in the two-day win v Yorkshire at Scarbrough]?! Five for not many. He got ten in the game at Yorkshire, he knew he was going to do it, and so did we. It was ridiculous but he was like, “No, no come on now. We’re going to win this".
    Ten Doeschate
    : He’s a matchwinner and a world class bowler... You see him at training put a lot in to each session and then taking the young guys – whether it’s Porter or a young guy like Callum Taylor – through wrist positions and teaching them about bowling. And for someone like that, a young guy himself, that’s pretty phenomenal. 

    Following a break for the NatWest T20 Blast, Essex were quick to get back to winning ways in the Championship, beginning with Somerset

    Wheater: The game could have gone either way there [when Essex were 39 for three]. I came in a little bit later in the second innings which meant the ball was slightly older and doing a little bit less. So that helped and it flattened out a bit.
    Porter: We knew we only had two sessions to go all out and we gave them everything we had. We felt if all 11 blokes gave everything they had then the worst was we were going to draw the game. We didn't feel we were going to lose it.

    Porter claimed career-best match figures of 12/95 in a fierce display with the ball in the second innings

    Porter: He [Marcus Trescothick] is one I love to get. He was a hero growing up and to get him twice in the game is a special feeling. It was 2005 I really got into the game – watching him play in the Ashes, how much he pretty much dominated Test cricket for a time. Just to be playing against him is quite a special feeling. The wicket was pretty dry and when it’s dry it goes with the seam. That suits me quite well because I think my best attribute is I hit the seam and get it to seam around. Then, if needs be, I’ll try and swing it. But that pitch suited me well.

    With injuries to other bowlers, young seamer Sam Cook got his opportunity for the run-in, starting at Lancashire

    Varun Chopra: It was a really good start from him on debut. No nerves, his first ball was right on the money. He probably deserved a few more wickets to be honest.
    Sam Cook
    : I want to make cricket my career and after I finish university that’s what I’m focusing on. That’s all I’m focusing on at the minute and I’m really enjoying it.
    Silverwood
    : For Sam to come in and play for the last four games and do what he’s done shows the strength of the youth coming through at Essex. The calibre of the guys we’ve got coming through, to come in and do that straight away is amazing.

    An innings and 56-run win over Warwickshire put them on the edge of winning the Championship, but they were made to wait until the for the result between Somerset and Lancashire, their closest rival, the next day on the bus home before celebrations could truly begin

    Porter: Our openers did really well in the last session [at Edgbaston]. It was typically Browney, he doesn't really give much away and left well and, when they came to him, he took advantage of any loose balls on offer. Chopra looked top-drawer and was more aggressive.
    Ten Doeschate
    : The important thing was to do the job, irrespective of Taunton...(telling Essex Cricket TV) The circumstances where we kind of knew it would be done it was nice to get it officially. As good as the celebrations were [in Birmingham], I thought it was lovely touch for all the Essex staff to receive us.

    A trip to Hampshire showed why Essex were champions as Lawrence made a stout century to help them win by over 100 runs after being asked to follow-on

    Ten Doeschate: On the second day it felt like we’d messed that up. There was a lot of disappointment in the changing room, which was pleasing considering we’d won the league and you think it’s all done and dusted. Lawrence had a pretty quiet middle part of the season, but he showed what a good player he is, particularly in a situation like that.
    S Cook: Silverwood talked about the 1992 follow-on win against Hampshire in the dressing room when we were a few wickets down and looking down in the dumps. He said, 'It happened 25 years ago. Why can't it happen again?' It just sums up our season as a whole that history has repeated itself.

    Twenty-five years on from last lifting the Championship trophy, they got to do it again in front of a raucous home crowd after thrashing Yorkshire to go unbeaten all season

    Ten Doeschate: This couldn’t be more perfect, here with all these people. Ten wins is mind-blowing, and I can’t believe we have rolled another team. The desire to go unbeaten really impressed me. It would have been easy to coast home after we had won it [against Warwickshire a fortnight ago], but that was never happening.

    It was a season like no other for Essex, with a variety of players stepping up at different stages

    Ten Doeschate: What we have achieved has surpassed everything we expected. We’ve surpassed what anyone else has done before in this competition in terms of sheer number of wins and the ratio of wins.
    Chopra: All season it has been a complete squad effort with different guys stepping up at different moments. We have had eight guys get hundreds in the Championship.
    Silverwood: There have been incredible performances, from the youngest member of the squad to the most senior members at any given point. That’s been the beauty, someone no matter whether it’s with the bat or the ball, has always stuck their hand up. It’s incredible how the team has done that, to be honest.

    Part of their success came from the constant threat offered with the ball, as they took more wickets than any other side

    Neil Wagner: Collectively as a group everyone bowled exceptionally well, as we’ve been doing all season.
    S Cook
    :  Across the whole season we've bowled teams out in less than two sessions than anyone else. It's been a real strength to get quick wickets in clusters. Earlier in the season you saw the likes of Harmy and Ports who were outstanding. They've done that all year along with Wags and Mo.

    And they're already looking ahead to next season...

    Silverwood: That feeling they’ve got of winning this now is part of the motivation to drive us forward again next year. So what we’ll do is draw a line under it and come next January all teams are level again. We’ll start again and move forward. I’ve got to motivate these guys to do that – and I don’t think it will take much because I think they’ve found that they enjoy winning. That’s motivation in itself. Everyone talks about the Fletcher era, and Gooch. Well, what I’m saying to these guys is I’d love them to be talking about this era in 20 years' time.

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