Essex Eagles: 2020 Profile

Essex achieved a remarkable double in 2019, but can they do it all again this year? Take a look at our preview, which is also featured in The Official Googly Handbook: Volume I. 

 

2019 Recap:

County Championship Division One - Champions 
Royal London One Day Cup South Group - 8th 
T20 Blast - Champions

Ins: Josh Rymell (Youth, Bat)
Outs: Ravi Bopara (Sussex), Matt Coles (Released)
Overseas: Peter Siddle (Aus), Adam Zampa (Aus, T20), Moises Henriques (Aus, T20)

Essex head into 2020 as the team to beat following last year’s historic County Championship and T20 Blast double. While it’s difficult to look past Simon Harmer’s contribution, the whole squad, largely made up of local lads, played their part in Essex claiming a second Championship title in three years after hanging on against Somerset on the final day of the season.

Their maiden T20 title win was no less dramatic, with Harmer holding his nerve to smash a four off the last ball to beat Worcestershire. Essex’s squad this year still looks imperiously strong, but it will be strange not to see Ravi Bopara playing for the Eagles at Chelmsford.

Main Man: Simon Harmer

As is often the case with Kolpak signings, Simon Harmer’s move to England was underpinned by issues back home in South Africa. More specifically, the off-spinner was left feeling short of both long-term security and opportunities as a result of inconsistent selection policies and complex internal politics; the very same issues that many South Africans have experienced and often referenced upon arriving on English shores as Kolpak players.

In the face of uncertainty, and after making just five Test match appearances for South Africa, Harmer took a gamble at the end of 2016 and joined Essex. Now, following another remarkable year of performances, Harmer undoubtedly sits atop the throne of spin bowlers in the English domestic game at present, and rightfully so. Several personal accolades, including the PCA County Championship Player of the Year, Cricket Writers’ Club Championship Player of the Year and PCA MVP Award are evidence of that.

Taking a closer look his 2019 stats, Harmer took 17 wickets in the T20 Blast, including a match-winning 4/19 and 18* against Worcestershire in the final. Add to that 83 wickets at an average of 18.28 in the red ball format, comfortably the most of any player across both divisions, it wouldn’t be outrageous to suggest that the 31-year-old is one of the greatest bowlers that the County Championship has seen in recent times, or indeed ever, so impressive are his numbers.

For reference, Harmer now sits 13th on the all-time Division 1 leading wicket takers list since the competition split into two divisions in 2000 with 212 wickets at an average of 20.25. Amazingly, he’s only been there for three seasons.

Big Expectations: Dan Lawrence 

 

On April 28th 2015, a then 17-year-old Dan Lawrence announced himself to the cricketing public against Surrey by becoming the third youngest player to hit a County Championship century. Writing this now, it’s still glaringly obvious how talented Lawrence is, but there’s an argument to be made that he’s not yet realised his full potential or played with the level of consistency many believe he’s capable of often enough. We needn’t worry, though.

After all, Lawrence is still only 22-years old, his professional career still in its infancy despite a debut nearly five years ago. Averages of 38.15, 33.75 and 35.09 in 2019 across the County Championship, One Day Cup and T20 Blast respectively represent a pretty good campaign for Lawrence, during which he scored a total of 1,381 runs across all formats as Essex won the double.

However, his outstanding form for the England Lions over the winter proved that he has more to give. In a tour that could perhaps be described as a coming of age, the right-hander hit 190 against a Cricket Australia XI, 52 in a draw against New South Wales and 125 as the Lions famously beat Australia A at the MCG.

It might be a big call, but if Lawrence can manage and embrace the growing expectations of those around him, then he is surely only one brilliant county season away from a genuine shot at either the Test or ODI side.

On the Rise: Sam Cook 

Sam Cook might not be one of the most well-established names on the county circuit, or indeed in Essex’s star-studded side, but the value of his contributions cannot be underestimated. Last year, the 22-year-old took his 32 County Championship wickets at 21.03 apiece as Essex stormed towards the Division One title.

Despite those prolific numbers, Cook’s efforts have gone somewhat unnoticed, perhaps because his bowling style is not as fashionable as other young quicks within the domestic game. Unlike Saqib Mahmood or George Garton, for example, who have been held in high regard from a young age due to the raw pace they offer, Cook relies more heavily on control.

While it’s obviously a much less thrilling discipline, the Chelmsford-born seamer’s ability to consistently bowl the same unrelenting line and length is producing excellent results. If his rapid development continues at this rate then a call-up to the England Lions, alongside his opening partner Jamie Porter, is surely just a formality.

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