It was a familiar feeling for Essex in 2015 as they remained bridesmaids in all three competitions.
The failure to secure silverware for the seventh consecutive season was the final straw for coach Paul Grayson who relinquished his role at the end of the season. The team now faces a period of transition with key players such as Reece Topley, Monty Panesar and Mark Pettini already leaving for pastures new.
There was early season promise for Essex in the County Championship as they edged a low scoring opening match against rivals Kent. Hope soon turned to frustration as three losses in succession effectively ended their pursuit of four-day glory.
They bounced back strongly in late summer as they did in 2014 but it was too late to halt the charge of Surrey and Lancashire.
The biggest positive for the county in the longer form was the improvement of youngsters Nick Browne and Jamie Porter who shone from start to finish. Browne was unlucky to miss out on an England Performance Programme call-up, whilst Porter should provide a wicket-taking threat for years to come.
Tom Westley also continued on his path to international honours and was well supported by the experience of Ryan ten Doeschate and Jesse Ryder in the batting ranks. More of a concern for Essex fans will be the form of David Masters whose body finally seems to be catching up with him. The lack of a quality spin option continues to hold the team back and will have to be addressed over the winter for promotion to Division One to become a reality rather than a distant dream.
The Eagles suffered defeats in the quarter-finals of both limited overs competitions for the second season in a row. They did well to qualify for the T20 Blast knockout stages after a slow start but could not keep the momentum going against the Birmingham Bears. A lacklustre bowling and fielding display saw the reigning champions rack up 189, a score that could not be overhauled by a powerful Essex batting line-up.
Supporters would have been disappointed that the county could not go further in the shortest format with a strong team spearheaded by overseas stars Jesse Ryder and Shaun Tait. There were also glimpses of homegrown talent from Westley and Topley but no one shone when it really mattered at Edgbaston.
The Royal London One-Day Cup also ended in despair as Essex lost out to Yorkshire at Chelmsford. A destructive all-round display from Liam Plunkett did the damage as the Eagles collapsed from a promising position. Supporters voiced their displeasure at the end of the match and Grayson handed in his resignation a week later.
Pettini and Topley were the star men in the 50 over tournament and will be missed in 2016. A season of ifs and buts once again for Essex whose new coach will have a big job on his hands to change their fortunes in the future.
LVCC: 3rd, Division Two
T20 Blast: Quarter-Finals (4th, South Group)
RLODC: Quarter-Finals (2nd, Group B)
Leading run-scorer: Tom Westley, 1,625 runs
Leading wicket-taker: Jamie Porter, 61 wickets
Win %: 43%
Player of the Season
Tom Westley was Essex’s star with the bat in 2015 as he continued to excel in all forms of the game. The stylish right hander has developed a recipe for success using a combination of solid defence and strokeplay to collect ten half centuries this summer. He has gained plaudits from James Foster and Alastair Cook for his performances and will now have a chance to impress England selectors as he joins the Performance Programme this winter.
One of the highlights of Essex’s season was the breakthrough of Jamie Porter. The 22-year-old was plying his trade for Chingford in 2014 but made the leap into professional cricket like a duck to water. A haul of 56 wickets in the County Championship was just reward for his consistency across the season that Eagles’ fans will hope continues into next year.
Could have done better
Wicket-keeper James Foster has been a wonderful servant for Essex over the years but he will not remember 2015 with fondness. A poor performance with the gloves contributed towards the T20 Blast quarter-final loss whilst his form with the bat was also below his usually high standards. At the age of 35, the Eagles faithful will be hoping his best years are not behind him.
Need to work on
It is difficult to put your finger on the reasons for Essex’s struggles in recent years with such a strong squad available to choose from. The first objective for the new coach will be to keep the county’s star players whilst acquiring a quality slow bowler. The team spirit also needs to be addressed to ensure the vocal members are onside. Only then will they have a chance of securing the trophies that have eluded them in recent years.
Tweet of the Season
WICKET! All over. Reece Topley is bowled by Tim Bresnan for 0. Jamie Porter 5 not out. 232 all out. Yorkshire win by 20 runs. #EssvYor
— Essex Cricket (@EssexCricket) August 27, 2015
It was déjà vu for Essex in 2015 as they missed out in all three competitions. There were undoubtedly positives from the likes of Tom Westley and Jamie Porter but the blend of youth and experience needs to blend more effectively in 2016 if they are to avenge another disappointing summer. 6/10