On the boundary - Chris Silverwood is the right man to lead Essex to a trophy, says Don Topley
- Credit: Nick Wood/Action Plus
It couldn’t have been a better start to the 2016 season for Essex: a comprehensive win in the Championship, a successful pre-season trip to UAE, good runs for their batsmen at Cambridge and a full complement of bowlers to choose from.
Bowlers win championship matches, having to get 20 wickets (bowl the opposition out twice) to win. Batsmen set the game up with their runs in four day cricket, but batsmen win you one day matches. The County seems to have most bases covered especially in the fast bowling stakes. They possess a mixture of swing bowlers and seam bowlers with some pace too.
During the reign of Paul Grayson (previous coach), I always felt the club were short of fast bowling which put pressure on the limited fast bowling stocks. David Masters and Graham Napier are getting older and having just six full time fast bowlers was never going to win a championships.
Most successful counties look at eight proper fast bowlers within their squad. With a former bowler now in charge in Chris Silverwood the Yorkshireman has remedied that. Silverwood has brought in Matt Dixon (Western Australia on a British Passport), Matt Quinn (New Zealander on a British Passport), to add to veterans Masters, Napier and the exciting Jamie Porter. Tom Moore hopefully continues to improve and there is the youthful Aaron Beard who may get a odd game or two.
International Fast bowlers Adam Milne (New Zealand) and Wahab Riaz (Pakistan) will share the second overseas spot and join main overseas pro, Jesse Ryder, for t20NatWest Blast. All-rounders Ravi Bopara, Ryan Ten Doeschate and Jesse Ryder will obviously fill in where necessary but Essex finally have a stock of healthy bowling options.
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Essex have enough decent batsmen (especially when Alastair Cook is about for the first four matches) and I expect a massive return from most of them, especially Bopara who endured a rough season in 2015 and only averaged around 20.
The reason for the disappointing 2015 batting returns was the poor wickets produced at Chelmsford. Not only were they seam friendly but they were uneven too which is not what any batsmen wants. To support my opinion the consistent Nick Browne averaged about 60 runs per championship innings away from home and under 30 at home. If ‘Silvers’ requests good cricket wickets or better from his groundsman then I expect a few home batsmen to complete over 1,000 runs for the season.
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I applauded Essex for elevating ‘Silvers’ to Head Coach, as he is a good, honourable, personable and hard-working guy with good communication skills.
He won’t shy away if something is needed to be said or even challenge the older statesmen.
I was aware he felt the need for a change in captains and this was duly done one cold winter’s night. James Foster can return to the ranks and work on his wicket-keeping as 2015 was his annus horribillis.
Ten Doeschate and Bopara will split the captaincy and some cynics will suggest giving Bopara the One Day Captaincy has kept him at the club after years of interest from Surrey and Warwickshire.
Should Bopara, Ten Doeschate and Foster perform to their ability then Essex can win a trophy.
On interview ‘Silvers’ offered a most impressive presentation to the cricket committee.
Other applications were received from Mickey Arthur, Andy Moles, Stuart Law, Paul Nixon – they all may have wanted to bring in their own assistant coaches, which could have been expensive for Essex.
So Chris Silverwood was rightly their chosen man.
Many positives to take from an emphatic win to start the season
Essex made a great start to their championship campaign by defeating Gloucestershire by an emphatic 10 wickets.
No doubt the West Countrymen will regret choosing to toss a coin and electing to bat, as all other Championship matches exercised the new rule to have no toss where the visitors can bowl first.
Any start to the season on 10th April, in English conditions – even in Essex – will have dampness in their wickets.
Upon reflection the Gloucestershire management got it awfully wrong by batting and that proved costly.
Not taking any credit away from Essex, Alastair Cook and Tom Westley laid a profitable foundation for their 223 run partnership, both raising their bats for their splendid centuries and importantly, Essex’s tail wagged too with some valuable runs.
Jamie’s Porter match figures of 7 for 112 were impressive as he continues to enhance his reputation.
Porter attracted some interest from the ECB and trained with the Lions in the winter.
Not surprisingly Tom Westley, Essex’s solitary spinner, only bowled two overs in the game as the other 13 Gloucestershire wickets were encouragingly shared between the County’s faster men.
Another positive sign from the victory was Essex’s impressive catching both in the outfield and, importantly, in the slip cordon.
The last couple of years have seen personnel chop and change in the slips and spill many chances to the disdain of their bowlers.
On Sunday, Essex travel to Sussex who should be a sterner test for Silverwood’s men but for the moment it’s been an excellent month at Essex CCC. Things are on the up at Chelmsford!
A cruel blow for a lovely young man
A good number of column inches have been afforded to the immediate retirement of current England Batsman, James Taylor.
James has been diagnosed with the heart condition ARVC, which is not too dissimilar to that of Bolton Wanderers football player, Fabrice Muamba, who famously collapsed at White Hart Lane in 2012.
James is now robbed of the very best years of his career just as he has become a regular cog in England’s middle order, in both Test and ODI cricket.
Life can be cruel and on hearing this news last Tuesday I too, was devastated for Taylor.
The 26 year old Nottinghamshire player will undergo a heart operation at the end of the week and all in cricket, both professional and recreational have been saddened to hear his news, especially his England and Nottinghamshire team-mates.
I have got to know James over the last six months as he has welcomed and kept an eye on my own son, Reece, since he has been in the England set up, often driving him around and spending time away from cricket enjoying each other’s company.
Clearly at 5ft 6in, this diminutive young batsman who is the son of a horse racing jockey, has had the determination to beat off stiff competition to get into a strong England batting line up: Bell, Trott, Bopara, Compton, Pietersen etc.
Others have enjoyed an easier passage into the team but James has shown resolve and resilience to get selected, dropped and then re-selected many times.
Taylor is a polite and unassuming man who is generous with his time. I recall that he went out of his way to greet me in Kimberley (SA) after he scored a century, and then again in Cape Town after the recent One Day Series.
I shall remember his brilliant ODI hundred versus Australia at Old Trafford, last September and those two stunning sharp bat-pad catches in UAE, which helped England win the Test Match v Pakistan. Everyone within our great cricketing fraternity sympathises with James and wishes him a speedy recovery.
Whilst his cricket career is now brutally cut short, it will be little consolation for the moment to know that the medics have diagnosed the heart issue where he will live longer and a normal life, but sadly, not on the cricket fields of England.