Check out the top 10 moments in Essex's season that saw them crowned champions for the first time in 25 years
Lawrence holds on
Essex received a rude-awkening upon their return to Division One after six years away. Up against Lancashire, who would turn out to be their nearest rivals in the fight for top spot, the newly promoted Eagles found themselves calling on youngster Dan Lawrence to prevent them from what seemed heading into the final day at Chelmford as a sure defeat in their first match back. Batting for almost seven hours, the then 19-year-old Lawrence defied the international talent of James Anderson, Kyle Jarvis, Ryan McClaren and Stephen Parry to save the match, going on to score 141, his 5th Championship ton. His resistence set the tone for the rest of the season, they would not be cowed.
Cook spoils the Cidermen
Available for the beginning of the season while England comepted in the Champions Trophy, Alastair Cook made the most of the opportunity to find some red-ball form with his boyhood club. In a low-scoring thriller at Taunton, the former England captain demonstrated his pedigree with the bat, top-scoring in Essex's first innings with 52 before making a masterful century on a tricky deck to lead the visitors to their first win. Chris Silverwood cited this victory as the point the team knew they could compete in the top division.
Essex go top
It may have been a brief flirtation with first place, but the win over Hampshire gave Essex a taste of what it felt like to be sitting pretty at the top of the pile. They had been lucky to get a draw at Lord's against Middlesex, but were quick to correct their errors. Here Cook and Tom Westley both scored centuries, the latter's a timely reminder of his capabilities as chat over who could bat at three for England heated up. But it was Jamie Porter who ensured victory, nipping out the Hampshire top-order quickly in their first innings to finish with then career-best figures of 5/24, he followed that up with another two poles in the second as Essex win by an innings and 97 runs.
Having just missed out on victory over Surrey in the encounter 10 days earlier, Essex weren't about to let the possibility of a win slip away this time. Mark Stoneman had batted superbly to give Surrey the advantage in the first innings before Ryan ten Doeschate led the fight back, hitting an outstanding 168 to put his side in the driving seat. And they didn't look back. Harmer, Porter and Wagner all chipped with wickets, prior to Westley smacking another ton with help from Nick Browne to continue Essex's unbeaten start.
Harmer puts Middlesex in a spin
Nearing the midway point of the season, Simon Harmer had already shown why Essex were so keen to extend his one-year contract to three a mere trio of matches into the season, but on a dry Chelmsford surface he spun Middlesex into oblivion. Entering the match off the back of an astounding 14-wicket match-haul in the victory over Warwickshire, Harmer dismantled Middlesex with calculated effiency, winning the game for Essex with just eight balls left. Claiming nine second-innings wickets, Harmer helped dismiss the final five for 10 runs.
Record-breaking Browne and Cook
That Essex were in such a strong position for Harmer to rip through the Middlesex batting line-up was down to the efforts of the host's top three batsmen. Each of Cook, Nick Browne and Varun Chopra notched up centuries, Browne pleasing Essex sage Graham Gooch with a 'daddy hundred' of 221. Cook and Browne piled on the misery for Middlesex, putting on 373 runs for the opening partnerhsip, the best first-wicket total in the club's history, dreaking the previous best set 24 years before.
Amir trifles with Yorkshire
Off the back of clinching the Champions Trophy for Pakistan, much was expected of Mohammad Amir's stint with Essex, especially after the imapct fellow overseas signing Neil Wagner had at the beginning of the season. Unplayable at times, Amir didn't let his fans down, rattling through Yorkshire twice at Scarborough in the space of two days to defeat the White Rose and take career-best match figures of 10/72.
A disappointing finish to Essex's T20 Blast campaign was soon forgotten when the County Championship resumed following the white-ball break as they extended their lead at the top of Division One downing Somerset. Porter once more displayed his adept ability when there's even the slightest hint of movement with the ball, again claiming career-best bowling figures (7/55) to add to his five-wicket haul in the first innings. The feat was all the more important with Amir missing the second innings through a slight niggle.
Sing'in in the rain
It wasn't the moment that secured the Championship title for Essex, but the rain-affected draw at Emirates Old Trafford went some way to ruling out the possibility their nearest rival for the trophy, Lancashire, could somehow summount a late challenge. After an early clatter of wickets, Haseeb Hameed had stopped the Red Rose collapse with a stout 88 that, due to rain, meant Essex only ever had to rule out a follow-on to share the points and edge closer to the title.
While permutations were worked out, and calculators bashed within an inch of their life, the likelihood of Essex wrapping up the Championship with two matches to spare seemed unlikely. However two days into the latest round of fixtures and the prospect became a reality. Essex had Warwickshire on the brink of defeat, while Somerset still fighting hard for Div One survival were doing their part against Lancashire. Despite knocking over the Bears the next afternoon to beat them by an innings for the second time this season, Essex were made to wait until the following morning to formally be champions. At 11.58am they were finally crowned County Championship winners for the first time in 25 years, when Somerset captain Tom Abell hit the runs required for the Cidermen to beat Lancashire and in turn ensure Essex took an insurmountable lead.