Summary/description of season
The Essex boys have, it is fair to say, had a pretty reasonable 2023 season having come close to silverware in two of the three competitions.
On paper, the club can be happy with their on-field performances, but next season is likely to be a transitional one if, as expected, they lose two of their key batters in Sir Alistair Cook and his rumoured upcoming retirement from professional cricket, and Dan Lawrence’s post season move to Surrey. This is likely to leave a significant hole in their batting line up and may provide a few headaches as the management team figure how to replace two high-class batters on a shoestring budget.
The bowlers have once again been exceptional in the red ball game, with the trio of Jamie Porter, Sam Cook, and Simon Harmer terrorising opposition batting line ups once again, with 166 wickets between them. Outside of that trio is where Essex have been lacking and look short of bench strength as the likes of Shane Snater and overseas signings Umesh Yadav and Doug Bracewell failed to really provide the firepower needed of them.
The batting provided more consistency this year as captain Tom Westley had an excellent year, backed up by Matt Critchley and Dan Lawrence. Other established players such as Nick Browne and Adam Rossington will be highly disappointed in their own output this year, as both averaged early to mid-20’s.
The Eagles once again flew high in the Vitality Blast, with overseas signing Daniel Sams providing batting firepower and bowling penetration. The batting had a youthful, local flavour to it as the likes of Robin Das, Feroze Khushi, Michael Pepper and Paul Walter showed their hitting power to provide undoubted dynamism in the T20 game. This should augur well for the future if the club is prepared to give them the chance to flourish in the other formats.
The One Day Cup was an eminently forgettable campaign, as Essex managed one win in eight games and finished bottom of their group. Another Australian overseas, Beau Webster, led from the front, after being plucked out of Essex club cricket. Despite the results, a number of promising youngsters gained valuable experience in the professional game, with the likes of Noah Thain and Charlie Allison showing enormous potential with the bat, and seamer Jamal Richards showing flashes of potential with the ball.
LV=CC: 2nd – Division One
Vitality Blast: 4th – Southern Group / Losing finalists.
ODC: 9th – Group A
Leading Run scorers
LV=CC: Tom Westley – 1130 runs at 45.20
Vitality Blast: Daniel Sams – 419 runs at 29.92 (SR 173.14)
ODC: Beau Webster – 260 runs at 37.14
Leading Wicket Takers:
LV=CC: Simon Harmer – 61 wickets at 28.95
Vitality Blast: Daniel Sams – 25 wickets at 21.00 (8.40 runs per over)
ODC: Beau Webster – 14 wickets at 25.57
Player of the Season:
Matt Critchley – FC – 990 runs @ 39.60 / 23 wkts @ 20.39 T20 – 279 runs @ 23.25 / 23 wkts @ 19.30
Matt Critchley was the model of consistency last season, especially in the Championship with nine 50+ scores as he fell agonisingly short of the magical 1000 run mark. He was a dependable, calming presence in the middle order, who also provided useful wickets both in the red and white ball games. He is the type of three-dimensional player that the England selectors will be looking at, and if he can add the ability to make the big eye-catching scores then he will not be far away from deserved international recognition.
Paul Walter – colloquially known as ‘yeti’ in Essex club cricket circles, had an excellent season in the white ball game with some explosive hitting and extracting bounce with his tall left arm seamers. This resulted in being picked up by Manchester Originals for the Hundred and becoming a key component of their line up as well. The confidence from his white ball game also seeped into the red ball game with some useful runs in the middle order.
Other notable youngsters include the likes of Charlie Allison, brother of Ben, who was the club’s 2nd highest run scorer in the One Day Cup. He could well be one to look out for in the coming years.
Could have done better:
Nick Browne – the opening batter had a disappointing 2023 campaign, with only 543 runs at 24.68, with 159 of them coming in one knock on the batting paradise that is Canterbury. He only managed one other 50+ score, and with the expected retirement of Sir Alistair Cook, more will be expected of him next season.
Need to work on:
In the red ball game, the top order batting is likely to need looking at for 2024 if the rumours are true, and the back up seam bowling will need to produce more as they cannot continue to rely on the continued excellence of Sam Cook and Jamie Porter.
In the white ball game, the club has some talented young players to rely on who will continue to blossom if given more opportunities.
The club may look to dip into the transfer market to replace Cook and Dan Lawrence, and they may look to address this through the overseas route as there are rumours of South African test batter Dean Elgar being signed as a direct replacement for Cook.
However, the club are in something of a financial vice, in large part due to the potential liabilities arising from the internal historical racism review conducted by Katherine Newton KC, and additionally from the County Ground’s obvious inadequacies as a sporting venue and its facilities stopping the club generating the types of revenue that would enable to invest more in the on-field side.
Season Rating: 7/10