Essex have secured a second Specsavers County Championship title within the space of three years after resisting Somerset on a turning Taunton pitch on the final day of the season.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the key men behind their triumph:
Sir Alastair Cook
Twelve months ago, Cook ended a record-breaking England career spanning 161 Tests across more than a decade, saying “there is nothing left in the tank”. While that may have been true in the international sphere, the opener’s innate appetite for runs means he is still among the best operators at domestic level. A haul of 913 runs at an average of 45.65 may seem underwhelming but Cook has been plying his trade on difficult Division One decks that have been heavily weighted in favour of bowlers. More often than not, he has laid decent foundations at the top of the order.
Another whose tally of 794 runs at 36.09 hardly leaps off the page, Westley has nevertheless made some important contributions on some troublesome surfaces. The former England batsman with a penchant for clipping into the leg-side ensured there would be no hiccup chasing 105 against Nottinghamshire, sealing Essex’s first win of the season with an innings of 49. Meanwhile, stellar knocks of 141 and 97 meant they avoided defeat against Warwickshire earlier this month to keep Essex hot on the heels of Somerset in the title race.
One of Essex’s most instrumental performers over the last three summers, the South African spinner has bamboozled a number of batsmen this year to the tune of a Division One best 83 wickets at 18.28. Harmer has featured in five Tests for his native Proteas but admitted recently he would “love to play for England”, having joined Essex on a Kolpak deal. While any call-up from national selector Ed Smith would lead to an outcry, there is no denying Harmer is one of the best at his occupation, as his 10 five-wicket hauls and two 10-fors this season would attest.
While Porter stole the show two years ago, he has been in Harmer’s shadow this summer although 48 wickets at 25.7 is not to be sniffed at. Calls for international recognition have quietened down in the last year, with the suspicion being he may be found wanting on flatter pitches in Tests, but England’s loss is Essex’s gain. The seamer delivered his best performance earlier in the season against Somerset at Chelmsford, bowling an attacking length and exploiting helpful conditions to claim match figures of nine for 73 in Essex’s 151-run win.
Before helping Australia retain the Ashes courtesy of a 2-2 series draw, Siddle warmed up for the contest at Chelmsford. The 34-year-old Victorian rejoined Essex at the start of the season, having first signed for the county as an overseas player last year, and was instrumental in wins over Yorkshire and Warwickshire. Before departing in mid-July, Siddle, renowned for bowling a metronomic line and length, had taken 34 wickets at 20.08 in eight matches, putting them firmly on the right path for another title.