Dan Lawrence was the man for Essex during a tough start and it proved so crucial in County Championship Division One title win
PUBLISHED: 11:00 15 October 2017
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Classy batsman reflects on memorable campaign and what the future holds ahead of a trip to Australia with the England Lions squad
It is easy to say it in hindsight, yet you can’t help but wonder how Essex would have fared in the County Championship this season had Dan Lawrence not saved them in their Division One opener against Lancashire.
The classy batsman, who was only 19 at the time of the match at the beginning of April, struck an unbeaten 141 against an attack containing James Anderson.
It helped Essex survive four sessions and end on 316-6 chasing an improbable 478 to win at the County Ground, which ensured they didn’t make a losing start.
Lawrence was wonderfully modest when quizzed about the innings, but after that draw, Ryan ten Doeschate’s team slowly made their mark and the rest is history, as they went on to win 10 times during the next 13 fixtures and in the process become Division One champions for the first time since the class of 1992.
“A few people have said it was a key moment, but it didn’t feel like it at the time,” admitted the former Trinity Catholic High School student when asked about his ton against Lancashire.
“I do think we would have been all right even if we had lost that game, but just to get off to an unbeaten start was important.
“Of course if we hadn’t drawn that match then we wouldn’t have had this season where we haven’t lost once, but it is not me. It is hats off to the bowlers that have done the job and it has been great to have Alastair (Cook) around and everyone else. It’s been really special.”
After Essex had drawn two of their opening three games, the likes of Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer began to get on a roll for the 2016 Division Two winners.
In the end the pair claimed 147 scalps between them and were crucial during a period when ten Doeschate’s side won five fixtures in succession to suddenly be on the verge of sealing the title.
Lawrence added: “We had a tough start, but thankfully we managed to salvage a couple of draws and we just found ways to win games every time we stepped onto the pitch.
“How we have managed to go a season without losing once in the division is beyond me and you have to say hats off to Simon and Jamie because they have been unbelievable, but everyone has chipped in at different times, so it’s been incredible.”
Porter and Harmer, deservedly so, take a lot of the plaudits, but Lawrence is right and everyone at Essex will tell you this has truly been a team effort.
Nick Browne scored close to a thousand runs again, while Cook hit three centuries and eight players scored a hundred during the season.
A glance at the bowlers and Neil Wagner’s haul of 31 wickets was crucial, while Mohammad Amir and Sam Cook chipped in when called on by ten Doeschate.
The end result was Essex being crowd champions with a points total of 248, some 72 ahead of their nearest challengers Lancashire, which brings us back to that first game of the campaign.
If the Red Rose had dismissed Lawrence early at Chelmsford on day four of the season opener and rolled the hosts over quickly it may have been so different for both clubs.
But although Essex’s talented right-hander was reluctant to label his first Division One century as a pivotal moment for the team, he admitted it was important for his own self-belief.
Lawrence said: “I have always been a player who has aspirations to play at the highest level, but I was quite anxious going into the season to see what the step up was like, so to get an early score was very special.
“The personal highlight for me would be that Lancashire game and that hundred because I proved to myself that I could score runs in the first division and it helped the team start without a defeat.”
It wasn’t the only contribution Lawrence would make, though, with the Chingford star reaching three figures twice more and ending up with 761 runs.
He finished with an average of 44.76 and was more prolific than Ben Foakes and James Vince despite a run of eight Division One games without passing fifty during June and August.
A gutsy 75 at Lord’s in a drawn match with Middlesex in April was important, while a classy 107 against Surrey in a stalemate at Chelmsford in May highlighted his obvious quality again.
Even during his run without a fifty, Lawrence still managed to be at the crease when Essex secured wins at the Kia Oval (32 not out) and Headingley.
Then came a productive end with 78 at Warwickshire and 101 at Hampshire, before 83 in the last match with Yorkshire.
Lawrence admitted it is hard to have a perfect season, but he was “happy” with his 2017 and now a trip to Australia with the England Lions squad awaits.
He concluded: “I just want to keep trying to help Essex win games and establish myself in the side, and then hopefully if all goes well I can play international cricket, which is my main aim.”
You suspect it won’t be long before he achieves that goal...