Porter sees no reason Essex can't retain their title with big games coming up
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Jamie Porter has been studying the Specsavers County Championship form with the eye of an optimist as Essex approach the halfway point in their title defence, writes Martin Smith.
The champions start back-to-back red-ball matches against Nottinghamshire tomorrow (11am), followed by the visit of current leaders Somerset on Monday (2pm), as they attempt to recreate last season’s midsummer surge that underpinned their Championship success.
Essex crushed both Warwickshire and Middlesex by an innings in successive games 12 months ago to open a lead at the top that grew and grew. Porter hopes to be experiencing a spot of déjà vu in the next week or so.
With wins in their last two four-day games against Worcestershire and Lancashire, Essex sit third in the table, seven points off Somerset. And Porter believes the Championship pennant could still be flying over The Cloudfm County Ground at the end of the season.
“Yes, I think we can win the Championship,” he says.
“We won’t have too many excuses if we don’t. I don’t think we’ll do it in the same fashion we did last year – that was very convincing. I think it’s going to be tighter this time, but we always knew that was going to be the case.
“If we keep winning, and we keep winning the way we are, and put on a run like we did this time last year, I don’t think we’ll be too far away.
“We’ve just beaten Lancs, and if we beat Notts, and get a result in the pink-ball game, then we’ll probably be top at the end of this little block, with maybe a 15-point gap – depending on how other teams do, of course.
“Notts is a huge game for us, but it is one we can win. They’re missing some big players, so if we can take advantage of that and beat them, we go into the pink-ball game against Somerset in a very strong position. If we look at how we did last year in the day-nighter we must feel very confident.
“It’s only been after the Lancs game that I looked closely at the table. At the start of the season there’s no point really because there’s results everywhere; it moves quickly. To come away from that with three wins, a draw, one loss, and that abandoned game at Yorkshire, is pretty good going. I’m happy.”
Porter has been an integral part of Essex’s solid start to the season. He is again the county’s leading wicket-taker with 23, one fewer than he had after five games played last year, and with a second five-wicket haul in his most recent outing at Old Trafford.
The 25-year-old took five for 30 in a stunning spell of new-ball bowling that had Lancashire dismissed inside a session for 105.
He said: “I feel I did what I usually do: try and hit a length, hit it hard, and I got my reward. I feel good, I feel confident. But, to be honest, it’s not really about getting 75 wickets again, it’s about winning the Championship.”
Porter spent a day training with England at Headingley ahead of the second Test against Pakistan earlier this month.
“It was just good to be involved and see what that environment is like,” he says.
“They said a few encouraging things, but ultimately it means nothing if I don’t hold up my end. I’ve still got to keep taking wickets. I’m very ambitious – I want to play for England. I don’t think I’ll ever lose that hunger. I’m going to keep trying to take wickets and keep pushing for a place in that side.”