County kings Es­sex cel­e­brate first Cham­pi­onship tri­umph since 1992

Lan­cashire de­feat sparks Chelms­ford cel­e­bra­tion Irani salutes Sil­ver­wood and says more is to come

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Scyld Berry CRICKET COR­RE­SPON­DENT at Taun­ton

Some ti­tles are achieved with suit­able panache, like a win­ning fore­hand or last-minute goal. In the tra­di­tions of the dear old County Cham­pi­onship, Es­sex won the ti­tle when Som­er­set cap­tain Tom Abell slog-swept a Lan­cashire spin­ner for four runs, end­ing Lan­cashire’s last the­o­ret­i­cal chance of catch­ing the run­away lead­ers.

The cham­pi­onship was for­mally de­cided here at noon ex­actly, but the bells of St James’s church did not peel in praise of Es­sex win­ning their first cham­pi­onship since 1992. Som­er­set were too con­cerned with their own fate: they took Lan­cashire’s two overnight wick­ets, then knocked off the 68 runs they wanted to help stay in the first di­vi­sion. Es­sex’s play­ers, mean­while, were on the bus back to Chelms­ford af­ter their night out in Birm­ing­ham to cel­e­brate the pre­vi­ous day’s de­feat of War­wick­shire.

It was here in April that Es­sex won their first match of the sea­son and, ac­cord­ing to their head coach Chris Sil­ver­wood, gave them­selves the be­lief that they could win the ti­tle straight af­ter be­ing pro­moted; and their vic­tory was down to Alas­tair Cook who, in­stead of smart­ing af­ter his res­ig­na­tion from the Eng­land cap­taincy, scored the match-win­ning cen­tury.

“He [Cook] made it seem easy out there and the rest of the lads bought into that,” Sil­ver­wood said. “When he comes back to us [from Eng­land duty], he talks about his pas­sion for Es­sex and he gives so much to the team – what bet­ter role model?”

And, in the course of this sea­son, seven other Es­sex bats­men fol­lowed Cook’s ex­am­ple in mak­ing cham­pi­onship hun­dreds.

One per­son who can closely com­pare the Es­sex sides of 1992, cap­tained by Gra­ham Gooch, and 2017, cap­tained by Ryan ten Doeschate, is the chair­man of their cricket com­mit­tee, Ron­nie Irani. In 1992, Irani was start­ing his ca­reer with Lan­cashire as a hus­tling and bustling all-rounder be­fore switch­ing to Es­sex, where he played un­der Gooch’s cap­taincy and rep­re­sented Eng­land in three Tests.

“We’ve had two reigns be­fore at Es­sex – the Keith Fletcher reign, which was fun­da­men­tal to where Es­sex are to­day, then Gra­ham Gooch tak­ing over and lead­ing from the front,” Irani said. “They were both vo­cal – ab­so­lutely vo­cal, but they just had to look at you and you knew what you had to do.

“Sil­vers [Chris Sil­ver­wood] has got that knack. He looks at you and you know what’s re­quired. Since we brought him into the job two years ago, he’s ticked ev­ery box, he’s hon­est, he’s hard-work­ing, he’s a good man-man­ager and he knows how to achieve suc­cess.”

Irani says Sil­ver­wood has not ap­plied for the va­cant post of Eng­land bowl­ing coach af­ter the de­par­ture of Ot­tis Gib­son but adds: “I think the ECB have ap­proached to speak to him, and they must speak to him.

I ac­tu­ally be­lieve, the bowl­ing job, that’s the easy one for Chris Sil­ver­wood – what the ECB need to look at is when Trevor Bayliss de­cides to fin­ish [as head coach], that’s the time for a role for Chris. He’s more than just a bowl­ing coach.

“Me and Chris iden­ti­fied we needed a top-class spin­ner. We couldn’t find one when we were in the sec­ond di­vi­sion but we heard about Si­mon Harmer and heard he was a fab­u­lous guy. He’s come over to Eng­land [as a Kol­pak] and carved out a life for him­self, and he’s also do­ing a law de­gree.”

In 1992, Es­sex had two main spin­ners in John Childs and Peter Such; this sea­son Harmer has done the work of two by tak­ing 63 wick­ets at only 20 runs each.

Ten Doeschate is also praised by his cricket chair­man. “If you’re a good man, like he is, you’ll have good fol­low­ers. There’s no bet­ter man to walk out to bat with,” Irani said. Or per­haps the best mea­sure of what a team man their cap­tain is that Harmer’s short-leg fielder is not the most ju­nior bats­man but Ten Doeschate him­self.

Al­though Sil­ver­wood played mainly for York­shire, he is well aware of the two pre­vi­ous reigns. “Every­one talks about the Fletcher era. What I would love peo­ple to be do­ing in 20 years is talk­ing about this era – your Jamie Porters, Dan Lawrences, Tom West­leys. If they do that it means we’ve left a legacy and what more could you ask for?”

Many cricket fol­low­ers will re­gret the new ar­range­ment whereby the first di­vi­sion has been re­duced to 14 games crammed into each end of the sea­son, in April and the first half of May then Septem­ber, so the com­pe­ti­tion does not pro­vide such a wide range of con­di­tions as in 1992, when Es­sex played 22 matches and also used the out­grounds of Colch­ester, Il­ford and Southend.

But while Es­sex have raced to the ti­tle with two games to play, and twice as many wins as Lan­cashire, at the other end there is a bat­tle royal to come in the next fort­night be­cause one point sep­a­rates York­shire, Som­er­set and Mid­dle­sex. The county that comes last of these three will be de­moted along with War­wick­shire.

As York­shire next week have a home match against War­wick­shire, the county of the bear and a rather ragged staff in tran­si­tion, it is likely to boil down to the last game at Taun­ton be­tween Som­er­set and Mid­dle­sex. Mid­dle­sex pipped Som­er­set to the ti­tle last sea­son. It would be some irony if Som­er­set this time sent Mid­dle­sex down.

Win­ning feel­ing: Es­sex cel­e­brate lift­ing the County Cham­pi­onship ti­tle

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