East London to Essex: a cricketing hotbed

PUBLISHED: 13:00 05 September 2015

Daniel Lawrence hits four runs for Essex against Surrey (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)

Daniel Lawrence hits four runs for Essex against Surrey (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)

Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO c/o 27 Plaiters Way, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3LR - Editorial Use ONLY - FA Premier League and Football League images are subject to DataCo Licencing restrictions

County squad builds on historic link

Jamie Porter brings out fresh bats for Ravi Bopara during his benefit match at Upminster (pic: Mick Kearns/TGS Photo).Jamie Porter brings out fresh bats for Ravi Bopara during his benefit match at Upminster (pic: Mick Kearns/TGS Photo).

Young Essex batsman Dan Lawrence’s first-class career has already gotten off to a brilliant start.

In his second match for the Essex 1st XI, former Trinity Catholic High School pupil Lawrence, 17, became the third-youngest centurion in county championship history, scoring 161 against Surrey.

In July he made his first appearance for the England under-19s team, and over the past few weeks he has played a major part in their ODI series against Australia, hitting tons in each of England’s victories.

Lawrence was born in Whipps Cross, Leytonstone, and joined the Essex system in 2010, playing for East London club Chingford.

James Foster in batting action for Essex (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)James Foster in batting action for Essex (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)

And he is not alone as an East Londoner playing for the county 1st XI, rather he has joined a host of others from the area playing across all three formats of the game.

Club captain James Foster, Ravi Bopara, Jamie Porter, Nick Browne and Kishen Velani all hail from East London.

Team wicketkeeper Foster, known affectionately by fans and team-mates as Fozzy, was also born in Leytonstone and played for the Wanstead & Snaresbrook Cricket Club.

Between 2001-2003, Foster was called up to the England squad for seven tests and 11 ODIs and in June 2010 he was named Essex captain.

Nick Browne in batting action for Essex Eagles (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)Nick Browne in batting action for Essex Eagles (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)

Bopara has succeeded equally well as an all-rounder for Essex and has three Test centuries for England to his name.

However, Bopara has devoted much of his career to the shorter forms of cricket as, besides appearing regularly for the Essex T20 squad, he plays for the Sydney Sixers in Australia’s Big Bash League and Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League.

Porter, Browne and Velani are the younger East Londoners in the side and have shown great promise for the future.

Left-handed opener Browne recently scored his sixth County Championship century, scoring 129 against Glamorgan, and received his county cap.

Kishen Velani hits out for Essex as Surrey's Gary Wilson looks on (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)Kishen Velani hits out for Essex as Surrey's Gary Wilson looks on (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)

The talent coming up from East London is not a new phenomenon. One of the greatest cricketers ever to play the game, Graham Gooch OBE, was born in Whipps Cross, Leytonstone, in 1953.

Gooch, who captained Essex and England, scored over 100 first-class centuries during his illustrious career, a feat accomplished by only 24 other players.

He also held the record for most English Test runs scored until earlier this summer, when another Essex man, Alastair Cook, finally surpassed him.

Gooch has retained ties with Essex since his retirement as a player in 2000, serving as head coach from 2001-2005 and, after stepping down from that role, spending time as a specialist batting coach.

Maurice Chambers of Wanstead and Essex (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)Maurice Chambers of Wanstead and Essex (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)

Leytonstone has produced an impressive percentage of Essex’s East London players, with seven of the 29 players born there.

Foster is from Whipps Cross, just like Gooch and Lawrence, while Porter and Browne hail from other parts of Leytonstone.

Graham Saville, Gooch’s cousin, is another Leytonstone native and was a regular on the Essex squad from 1963-74, representing the county on 170 occasions.

The first cricketer from Leytonstone to represent the Essex 1st XI – and one of the earliest documented East Londoners to play for the county – was Kenneth Farnes, who was born in July 1911.

Aron Nijjar took four wickets for Ilford against Chelmsford (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)Aron Nijjar took four wickets for Ilford against Chelmsford (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)

Farnes debuted for Essex in 1930 at 19 years of age and was an early success as a bowler, taking 5-36 against Kent in just his second county match.

He never achieved the same heights as a bat, spending most of his time as a tail ender, although in 1936 he nearly scored a century against Somerset. Unfortunately for Farnes, the final wicket fell too soon and stranded him on 97 not out.

Farnes went on to play 15 Tests for England, and in 1939 was named Wisden’s Cricketer of the Year.

At the start of World War II, Farnes volunteered for the Royal Air Force Reserve and was sent to Canada to train.

He received his commission and returned to England late in 1941; but his career, as a pilot and a cricketer, was cut short when his plane crashed during a night exercise later that year. Farnes was just 30 years old.

Farnes was not the only East London cricketer to die tragically as Peter Spicer, who played 17 first-class matches for Essex, mainly during the 1962 season, was killed in a car accident in 1969, whilst John Douglas drowned in a shipwreck, aged 52.

Douglas, nicknamed ‘Johnny Won’t Hit Today’ by Australian fans for his defensive batting technique, was an excellent bowler who played for Essex and England. Born in Stoke Newington on 3 September, 1882, he is the first known East Londoner to play county cricket for Essex.

Douglas was an accomplished sportsman and played once for the England’s amateur football team, and also won a gold medal in boxing in the 1908 Olympic Games in London.

As a cricketer, he achieved great success as a fast-medium bowler for Essex after coming up through Felsted School and Wanstead CC.

Douglas captained Essex from 1911-1928 and during the 1920 season he took 147 wickets, one of seven times he gathered over 100 scalps in a year.

He went on to play for England and was named captain for 18 Tests, most notably during the Ashes series of 1911, which England won 4-1.

Sadly, Douglas and his father drowned off the coast of Denmark when the Oberon collided with another ship.

Whilst Douglas and Gooch share the distinction of being the only two England captains to come from East London, three additional East Londoners have captained Essex.

Besides the current captain Foster, Doug Insole CBE and Brian Taylor have also held the reins at the County Ground.

Insole, born in Clapton in 1926, is still renowned for his involvement with cricket, both during and after his playing days.

He had a rather unorthodox batting style and his development was hampered by World War II, as he was evacuated to Herefordshire between 1939-1943 and gave up two further years of playing time to Army service in the mid-1940s.

But from there Insole moved forward to have a successful career with Essex, whilst appearing in several tests for England during the 1950s. Insole followed in the footsteps of Douglas as a two-sport athlete and captained the Cambridge football team in 1948.

The East London cricket system has not only produced many great home-grown cricketers, it has also cultivated overseas players for Essex.

Maurice Chambers, born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, and Tanveer Sikandar, originally from Islamabad, Pakistan, both moved to East London at a young age and worked their way up through the system.

Chambers played for Leyton County and Wanstead after arriving in England as a young boy, making his Essex 1st XI debut in 2005, and played for the club until the end of the 2013 season. Sikander also played several first-class matches for Essex.

The stream of East Londoners reaching first-class status with Essex shows no signs of ebbing, with several talented players from the area currently playing in the Essex Premier League.

Essex played a warm-up T20 match against the Essex Premier Leagues XI in May and five players from East London appeared for the Premier League side, including wicketkeeper Saf Imtiaz and Aron Nijjar from Ilford Cricket Club, and Saurav Prabhakar of Wanstead.

Nijjar was called up to the Essex squad just 18 days later for the county championship match against Leicestershire, whilst Imtiaz and Prabhakar have both played for the Essex 2nd XI this season.

And Essex will always look for more ways to further develop the East London hotbed of cricket, as Essex coach Paul Grayson said: “If you look at our academy, we have a lot of boys from the east end of London involved with Essex cricket.

“There’s some serious talent out there, and it’s our job to identify those lads, and we get them into our system as quick as we can.”

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