For the second time in three years the County Championship trophy is calling Chelmsford its home, after another impressive First Class campaign, but for the first time in their history it will be sharing pride of place in the trophy cabinet with the Vitality T20 Blast trophy. A domestic double done, no one could deny it has been a successful season for Essex.
However, it could have been very different.
Essex finished fourth in the South Group of the T20 Blast, by the skin of their teeth, and then faced Lancashire who were forced to play at Durham due to the test match at Old Trafford. They gave up their home field advantage and made it a lot easier for Essex to reach finals day.
Had the weather been kinder, Somerset may well have beaten Essex in the final game and they may not have won the Championship title. I am not the first person to use the phrase “by the finest of margins” this summer, but Essex have won two trophies this season and, when you carefully review that season, it is clear that that phrase is as equally pertinent to them as it was to England in the World Cup final.
Essex have relied heavily on the outstanding Simon Harmer to take their wickets, and he has a fine squad to back him up. They have batsmen such as Alastair Cook, Tom Westley, Ravi Bopara, Ryan ten Doeschate and Dan Lawrence who would be the envy of many county sides. They also have Jamie Porter, who continues to be on the edges of England selection, and a brace of young bowlers in Sam Cook and Arron Beard who, given time, will grow into genuine match and Championship winning bowlers.
Essex will be looking for those other players to support Harmer and Cook as they move into the 2020 season. They have already secured Peter Siddle for next season, which is an excellent piece of business and will help the side. If they can add consistency to their other performances, then those victory margins may not be as fine next season and perhaps Essex can win yet more trophies.
SSCC: 1st, Division One
T20 Blast: Champions
RLODC: Group Stage – 8th South Group
SSCC: Alistair Cook 913 runs avg 45.65
Vitality T20 Blast: Cameron Delport 409 avg 29.21
RLODC: Varun Chopra 421 avg 84.20
SSCC: Simon Harmer 83 wickets at 18.29
Vitality T20 Blast: Simon Harmer 17 wickets at 20.47 Economy 8.16
RLODC: Peter Siddle 12 Wickets @ 22.08 Economy 5.41
Player of the Season
Since Simon Harmer signed for Essex, no other bowler has taken more domestic wicktes than him. He has bowled Essex to two County Championships and shown South African cricket what they are missing. He has been superb for Essex this season, taking 83 championship wickets – 12 more than any other bowler and 19 more than any other finger spinner.
Despite not being renowned white ball bowler, he also lead the county in wickets taken in T20 cricket and on Finals day was the difference between Essex and the two sides they vanquished to secure their double. When you consider as well that Harmer captained the side to their T20 victory, his all round contribution to the side is invaluable and Essex are very lucky to have him.
In Aaron Beard, Essex have a young bowler who is a genuine wicket taking threat. This season he took 17 wickets at 23.88. In an attack which has included Mohammad Amir, Peter Siddle, Porter and Harmer, there are not always many wickets to share around to the junior members of the attack. In seven games Beard took his wickets at a strike rate of one wicket per 40 balls, which is three better than Harmer. If Beard continues to develop at the rate he has, then expect him to be contributing even more next season.
Could have done better
It is hard to pick a player that could have done better in a side that has won two trophies, but Adam Wheater could have done better. In the modern era you expect more than 177 runs at an average of 16.09 from your wicket keeper batsman, even considering he missed four matches through injury. Wheater is generally considered a better white ball player, but his return in T20 cricket was equally disappointing, his average being very similar to his first class one. When Wheater was injured, Essex brought in Robbie White from Middlesex, as they didn’t feel they had an adequate replacement on staff. With this in mind, a wicket keeper may be on radar as a recruitment target over the winter.
Need to work on
Essex will want to replicate their successes this year, of course. To do this, they will need to ensure their batting stands up to the season. Cook has committed to another season but Bopara, ten Doeschate and he are not getting any younger and they will need to look to bring through some young batsman, as they have done with Sam Cook and Beard in the bowling.
Enjoy the Winter and celebrate the successes, but Essex then need to ensure their squad is fully covered for next season. They have already signed Peter Siddle as their overseas player, who will add strength to their bowling attack and hep continue the development of Sam Cook and Beard. They may look to bring in another wicket keeper batsman who can challenge Wheater and push him to be the player he can be, or to replace him if he continues to struggle.
Season Rating: 9/10