Essex star Jamie Porter believes he is close to the top of his game
- Credit: PA
Jamie Porter reckons he is near the top of his game as Essex’s designs on the Bob Willis Trophy gather pace.
The prolific seamer added eight wickets – including his first five-wicket haul of the season – in the victory over Sussex at Hove this week to take his tally to 18 from the opening three games. Only team-mate Simon Harmer, with an incredible 28, has taken more.
“I feel I’m back to my best now,” says Porter, “especially in the last two games. I probably didn’t bowl too well in the first innings of our opening game against Kent – but still managed to pick up four wickets. But I thought I bowled really well in the second innings.
“I’ve managed to grab that form and take the confidence from that performance. I thought I bowled beautifully against Surrey [in the next game]. That was probably the best I could have bowled. And then I managed to take that with me to Hove and get a few more wickets.
“On a personal note, I’m feeling good. I’ve managed to tidy my game up from a disappointing season last year to what I think is near my best.”
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Porter’s reward is a corporate one rather than personal: Essex have won three out of three Bob Willis Trophy matches and head to Arundel tomorrow to face Hampshire 16 points clear in the south group.
Porter goes into the game needing three more wickets to not only pass 350 in first-class cricket – and that just six years after his Essex debut – but also 400 across all formats. They are the sort of figures that should have attracted international recognition by now, and Porter admits: “I don’t know how big the numbers have to be to get other interest, but I’ve kind of stopped focusing on it.”
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There is a perception that his pace is short of the 90mph-plus required by England from their Test match bowlers. But the man himself counters: “The feedback I’ve got this year is that I’m bowling quicker. That’s from Wheater [the Essex wicketkeeper, who would know] and the Surrey batters I spoke to.
“Honestly, all I can do, unless a selector or someone turns around and tells me I’ve got to bowl quicker, is keep trying to take more wickets than anyone else. That’s all I can do. It seems to be working for Essex because we’re winning trophies and we’ve been very successful. I’m happy with that.”
The majority of his wickets so far this summer have been snaffled behind the wicket or by the slip cordon, most notably in the bucket hands of Harmer.
“At Hove, on that wicket, bowling down the hill with that extra bounce, I felt my best option was to try and find the outside edge.
“I felt when I bowled in that channel area, they tended to flirt with it. There was that little bit of hope outside off-stump, so I didn’t need to go searching. If I attacked in the right areas enough times, then there would be a little nick eventually.”
As for Harmer’s contribution, Porter says: “That guy just makes my life so much easier. I mean, he takes wickets, takes catches, scores runs. I don’t think you could put a price on that guy, to be honest. He’s incredible.”
The partnership between the 27-year-old seamer and the South African off-spinner has been phenomenal: so far this season the pair have accounted for more than three-quarters of Essex’s victims between them. “I enjoy bowling with him because I feel we complement each other pretty well,” says Porter.
“We bowl well in partnership. If we’re got a left-hand, right-hand pair against us, I know he might want the left-hander if he’s getting turn from around the wicket. So if I’ve got the left-hander on strike I might drop the square leg and offer him one so Harmy can bowl at him. Little things like that. We do try and help each other as much as we can.
“He’s the best spinner I’ve seen in the flesh. And I’m lucky enough to play with him week-in week-out. Hove wasn’t a wicket you’d expect a spinner to take eight wickets on. That shows how good he is; he does it anywhere on any wicket. He’s so important to us.”