Simon Harmer insists that Essex can turn their successful 2019 campaign into a sustained period of success for the club.
Essex completed a Vitality Blast and Specsavers County Championship double — the first time a team has achieved the feat — by drawing at Somerset, claiming the Division One title by 11 points.
And Harmer believes that with the squad largely homegrown — nine members of the team who played at Taunton are local to Essex — further success is inevitable.
“Only myself and Ryan didn’t come through the academy or are local Essex boys,” he said. “If we can nurture that talent, if you look at the young guys that are still waiting in the wings, there’s a lot of potential for us going forward to dominate county cricket for the next five years.
“If people thought 2017 was a fluke we’ve shown them that we’re a good four-day team. We’ve now shown that we can compete in the T20 format as well. I think going forward Essex can definitely be a force to be reckoned with in county cricket.”
Captain Ryan ten Doeschate, though, was quick to try and remain level-headed about their triumphs.
“It’s very easy to get drawn into saying we’re the best team in the country or we’ve improved so much and we’ve managed it over two formats,” he said. “I’ve always said with county cricket that is 95% of it. Can you turn up every day and give your best? You’re not going to be at your best every day but can you turn up every day and try and give your best. Essex have been very good with that.
“A couple of games where we’ve turned things round and been dead and buried, bowling Kent out for 40, at that stage of the Championship we needed to win pretty much every game so I think it’s just a testament to the coach and the coaching staff that they remain calm.”
The key to things working so well, in ten Doeschate’s opinion, is not only the self-belief among the talented youngsters, but also the impact of Harmer and overseas player Peter Siddle, who was not at Taunton for the celebrations but of whom the players did have a cardboard cutout. Similar cutouts of Mohammad Amir and Adam Zampa were present at Edgbaston for the Blast victory.
“You can’t stray too far away from Simon Harmer, ten five-wicket-hauls in the season. Our model has been to get runs on the board for him to bowl to and he delivers nearly every single time.
But I think Sids [Siddle] has been particularly influential in bringing guys like Sam Cook through, he’s become a lovely young bowler. Aaron Beard’s thrived under Sid’s guideance this year and Andre Nel. To have a good overseas player is one thing, to have a quality person who really buys into everything is a little bit rarer to find and we’ve been very lucky with Sids.”
Essex entered the final day at Taunton knowing they needed simply to bat all day and the Championship was theirs. It was not so simple, collapsing from 102-1 to 141 all out either side of tea, leaving Somerset to forfeit their second innings and set a target of 63.
Jack Leach took five of the Essex wickets but he and his fellow spinners, Dom Bess and Roelof van der Merwe, could not induce the same tumble second time around, with the players shaking hands on a draw at 5:21pm.
Particular credit must go to Alastair Cook, whose 53 in the first innings got Essex would have left the engravers making final preparations, and whose 30 not out second time around ensured the Chelmsford trophy cabinet would have another addition.
“Him and Browney were fantastic both innings,” said ten Doeschate. “It was probably a 140-150 wicket. We knew today was going to be a dogfight and wiithout the overs out of the game I think it would have been a very messy affair. Alastair Cook he was so nervous, he’s so keen for us to win this.”
Ten Doeschate was also highly critical of the wicket, which turned noticeably from Harmer’s first over on day one — the ninth over of the match — and continued to do so throughout 148 overs, a reduced number owing to rain on all four days.
Harmer was dismissed by one that spat and bounced viciously from van der Merwe. “I’ve been stressing the severity of how bad that pitch was,” ten Doeschate reflected.
The title represents an impressive turnaround, with Essex losing their first game and at one stage trailing Somerset by 50 points with a game in hand.
But seven home victories out of seven and seven wins from eight before visiting Taunton meant few could argue against Essex being deserved winners. Still, though, Harmer was relieved to get over the line.
He said: “These last couple of weeks have been quite difficult for me, the anxiety of not knowing what was going to happen, whether we’re going to win a trophy, no trophies, two trophies.
“You always play through a million scenarios in your head, especially coming here, the wicket the way that it was, we knew it was going to happen like it did today and it was going to be tough for us to get a result.”