It’s time to look back on the wonderful summer of 2017 for my County, Essex. I wasn’t at every match, international cricket and this year the Champions Trophy interrupted my County Cricket, but where I was there I’ll include some photos in what is probably going to be a virtual novel.
Essex v Lancashire – Star Man – Dan Lawrence – Match Drawn
The first match in Division 1 for Essex brought Lancashire and Jimmy Anderson to Chelmsford. The crowd was a good one, people were keen to see how the new boys would get on.
Lancashire made 319 in their first innings with Haseeb Hameed making 47 runs from 103 balls, it was the sort of patience that has seen him picked to play for his country. New Essex man Neil Wagner took 3 wickets and was joined by Aaron Beard with 3. Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer who would spend the summer vying for top spot in the country took 2 and 1 respectively.
Essex’s first innings in Division 1 was something of a disaster. All out for 159 with Ravi Bopara top scoring with 46. Lancashire set Essex a huge total. scoring 317 for 3 in their 2nd innings, the County Ground saw its first century of the summer as Alex Davies scored 140. Dane Vilas went close before being out for 92.
I had the wedding of 2 very good friends to attend on day 4, so missed the first outstanding Essex performance of the summer. Dan Lawrence came in when Essex were n 52 for 2, he batted for 427 minutes, over 7 hours, facing 333 balls, he made 141 runs and saved the draw. A superb effort from the then 19 year old batsman.
Somerset v Essex – Star Men – Neil Wagner, Alastair Cook – Essex Won by 8 Wickets
This was a low scoring game, where 2 Essex men shone. Somerset were bowled out for 209, with the wickets being shared around. This was being watched from afar by me, that seemed to be a good score. However Essex themselves were all out for 129, with Alastair Cook, back in the team after picking up a small injury, contributing 52 of those runs.
Essex had lost two key bowlers at the end of the 2016 season in Graham Napier and David Masters, in their place the aforementioned Simon Harmer had been signed alongside Neil Wagner of New Zealand. At the time of writing this Wagner is 7th in the Test rankings for 2017.
With a first innings deficit of 80 Essex needed to restrict the home team. Neil Wagner took 6 for 48 and Somerset were all out for 174. In a summer where 8 Essex batsmen would score a century Alastair Cook was the first to do so. He made 110 in just under 4.5 hours and was backed up by Tome Westley who made 86. Essex had their first Division 1 victory, a win by 8 wickets!
Middlesex v Essex – Dan Lawrence – Match Drawn
Essex used 8 bowlers in Middlesex’s first innings, and it wasn’t a good day at the office. 3 Middlesex batsmen made centuries, openers Sam Robson with 149, Nick Gubbins 101 and Stevie Eskinazi 100, while John Simpson got himself 90 runs. With a few bits and bobs added in the home team declared on 507 for 7. This was welcome to Division 1 with a bang!
Dan Lawrence top scored for Essex with 75, Adam Wheater made 64 but they were all out for 295. Steven Finn, a bowler who can be very erratic at times took 4 wickets. With a lead of 212, it was expected that Middlesex might make Essex follow on, but no, Middlesex batted again. It was a decision James Franklin would regret, particularly at the end of the season.
Middlesex stretched their lead to 451 as they declared on 239 for 3, a total Essex were highly unlikely to make. But, this was April cricket and Essex batted out for the draw as two hours of play were lost before bad light put an end to proceedings.
Essex v Hampshire – Star Men – Alastair Cook, Tom Westley, Jamie Porter – Essex Won by an Innings and 97 runs
Essex batted first and found themselves on 0 for 1 as Nick Browne was out in the first over. Tom Westley came in to bat with Alastair Cook, I’d spoken to Tom about what it’s like to bat with Alastair, he explained that he’s a very calming influence. The dynamics worked, Cook scored 124 and Westley 111, before they both fell to Kyle Abbot. Abbot too a further 2 wickets and Essex made 360 all out.
Over to the bowlers, they reduced a Hampshire line up that included Michael Carberry and James Vince to 34 for 7, before Kyle Abbot put up some resistance with 36, the visitors were all out for 115 and Jamie Porter had his first 5fer of the season for 24 runs.
Ryan ten Doeschate had no hesitation in asking Hampshire to bat again, the Essex bowlers did their thing again and bowled them out for 148. Porter added another 2 wickets , Simon Harmer took 3 for 23.
Essex v Surrey – Star Men – Jamie Porter, Matt Quinn, Dan Lawrence – Match Drawn
I was late to arrive at the County Ground for Day 1 and missed 4 wickets, with a 5th falling as I was walking round to my seat. Jamie Porter and Matt Quinn opened the bowling. I was listening on the radio and the view was that Porter’s accuracy was frustrating the batsmen while Quinn then capitalised by taking the wickets of the 3 opening batsmen. Porter took the next 2 and Surrey were on 31 for 5.
This was the final season for Kumar Sangakarra and I sent a message to a friend to say I hoped he wasn’t out for cheap, I wanted to see him bat. I wasn’t disappointed, I saw him score 179 of his eventual 2 runs as part of what was to be a remarkable summer for a remarkable man. I will now confess that I’m also a Surrey member so was also pleased to see Sam Curran excel, he batted wonderfully and made 90 runs.
Essex polished Surrey off on Day 2. Dan Lawrence was the Essex batsman of the match for Essex making 107 in Essex’s 383.
Sangakarra was looking for a 6th successive first class century, but his party was spoilt by Tom Westley who caught him on 84 from his own bowling. Surrey made 260 for 9 in their second innings, the game finished in a draw.
Surrey v Essex – Star Men – Jamie Porter, Neil Wagner, Ryan ten Doeschate, Tom Westley – Essex won by 8 wickets
This match took place at an Outground, Guildford and it was a Surrey batsman who scored big again in the first innings. Mark Stoneman fell just short of his double hundred, scoring 197 of Surrey’s 399. Jamie Porter took 4 for 102 and Neil Wagner 3 for 110.
A decent total but one that was overtaken by Essex, with captain Ryan ten Doeschate scoring 168 not out. Essex were all out for 435, could they despatch Surrey to give themselves a total they could chase?
Jamie Porter added a further 3 wickets to his tally and Simin Harmer took 4 for 83 to help halt Surrey at 288, a lead of 252. Essex achieved that total in just over 64 overs, with Tom Westley scoring 108, after a very creditable 77 from opener Nick Browne.
Essex v Warwickshire – Star Men – Nick Browne, Ravi Bopara, James Foster, Simon Harmer – essex won by an innings and 164 runs
The 2018 season was a bit of a horror for Warwickshire and this match was no exception. Ryan ten Doeschate won the toss and decided to bat, and bat his team did! Nick Browne opening with Alastair Cook laid down a great start, scoring 84, he batted for over 5 hours. However it was Ravi Bopara’s turn to go big and he fell just short of his double century reaching 192 before being bowled by Jeetan Patel. Another Essex man through and through James Foster made a big contribution making 121. Essex finished their innings with a declaration on 541 for 9.
Simon Harmer then put on a masterclass of spin bowling, he bowled 45.5 overs in the first Warwickshire innings, taking 6 wickets for 92 runs, it was remarkable to watch. Warwickshire were all out for 283 with only Hain with 58 and Patel with 71 making solid contributions to the runs tally.
If Warwickshire were taken apart by Harmer in their first innings he demolished them in their second. It was almost like watching a one day game, he bowled 20.2 overs and took 8 wickets for 36 runs, giving him 14 for the game! An emphatic win for the home team.
Essex v Middlesex – Star Men – Simon Harmer,Nick Browne, Alastair Cook, Varun Chopra – Essex won by an innings and 34 runs
This was a round of day/night pink ball county games, put into place with a view to giving those involved in the England set up a trial run. One of the benefits of the Champions Trophy taking place over the English summer was the presence of Alastair Cook for much longer than Essex are used to.
Middlesex won the toss and elected to bat, Essex had Mohammad Amir added to their bowling line up but it was that man Simon Harmer who got another 5fer, he took 5 for 77 in his 20 overs and Middlesex were restricted to 243 all out.
Harmer had been on the mood for a bowling masterclass, what came next was a batting masterclass as Nick Browne and Alastair Cook broke a club record with a stand for the opening wicket of 373. Those in the crowd knew the record was on the verge of being broken, it was wonderful to be there to witness it. Alastair Cook was out on 192, another very close to his double century. Nick Browne was joined by Varun Chopra and the pair put on 129 for the second wicket, Browne did reach that magic double century mark before he was eventually out for 221. Two outstanding innings!
Varun Chopra reached his century from 75 balls before his captain declared with Essex on 542 for 3 to give themselves a chance to win the match.
Nick Compton put up some resistance scoring am impressive 120, but Simon Harmer was irresistible, especially as the evening closed in, he took 9 wickets for 95 runs, another 14 for the match! He and Jamie Porter spent the summer vying for the top wicket taker spot; these 2 home matches in June certainly helped Harmer’s cause. August onwards to follow, and the duckling? Was seen during a lunchtime just outside the ground.