Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Young Players Should Give Essex Good Season

With the start of the new cricket season, Essex will be looking to their emerging young stars to bring them more success than of late.

My own interest in Essex stems from having been born in the county, where I lived until I was in my thirties. Although I have now been a Leicestershire member for a good many years, I was previously a member of Essex.

In 2005, Essex were runaway winners of the one-day National League, but were unable to gain promotion to the top flight in the County Championship. This is particularly frustrating for the county who were the undisputed top team in England during the 80s and early 90s.

However, under the excellent captaincy of the former England all-rounder Ronnie Irani, Essex are developing into a very good team again, helped in no small measure by the emergence of a crop of outstanding young players.

Probably the best known of these is opening batsman Alastair Cook. Alastair was Young Player of the Year in 2005, and scored a century on his England debut a few weeks ago.

But also in the squad are Will Jefferson, the very tall opening batsman, who at six foot ten and a half is probably the tallest ever first class cricketer. Will is a very fine batsman indeed, as are the younger Ravinder Bopara and Mark Pettini.

Essex also have James Foster, the England wicketkeeper-batsman who many believe should still be in the Test team, a very fine fast bowler in Antonio Palladino, all rounder Graham Napier, spinner Tim Phillips and batsman Varun Chopra, who last year captained the England Under 19 team.

But it isn’t only youngsters, though. In addition to Irani, who no longer bowls because of injury, there are formidable players with a great deal of experience. Slow bowler James Middlebrook, for example.

And there’s a trio of very experienced opening bowlers. Darren Gough (who acquired thousands of new admirers when winning “Strictly Come Dancing”) has played many times for England. Alex Tudor is also an ex-England player, and holds the record score (99 not out) by an England night watchman. The splendid Ashley Cowan would surely have played for England, but his career has been punctuated by long lay-offs through injury.

The Zimbabwean brothers Andy Flower, once regarded as the world’s best batsman, and all rounder Grant Flower are also squad members. Andy (one of the two players who bravely wore a black armband while playing for Zimbabwe) now holds a British passport, while Grant is a Kolpak signing. The South African Ryan ten Doeschate, holder of an EU passport because of his Dutch ancestry, will also probably play sometimes.

There are three overseas players. The admirable New Zealand fast bowler Andre Adams scored a brilliant quick century on his debut in England (against Leicestershire at Grace Road), and, with the Pakistani spinner Danish Kaneria unavailable, there are two others who will play at some point during the season – the Australians Andy Bichel and Mitchell Johnson.

Several of the Essex players have scored double centuries – Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Foster, Irani and Jefferson. Cook scored a double century last year against the Australians, in a non first class two day match. Jefferson scored a not out triple century for the seconds last year.

Hat tricks have been achieved by Adams, Cowan, Gough and Middlebrook. The last two have also registered the four wickets in five balls achievement.

Andy Clarke, Justin Bishop and Paul Grayson have left the playing staff. Grayson, however, is now on the coaching staff.

All in all, it should be a good season for Essex.