Essex batsman Browne buoyed by red-ball plans

PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 July 2020

Essex's Nick Browne and Alastair Cook celebrate with the County Championship trophy at Taunton

Essex's Nick Browne and Alastair Cook celebrate with the County Championship trophy at Taunton

PA Wire/PA Images

Nobody was more relieved than Essex opener Nick Browne when the ECB announced that the delayed 2020 county season would include a mix of red and white-ball cricket.

Nick Browne in batting action for Essex as Somerset wicketkeeper Steven Davies looks on from behind the stumps (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)Nick Browne in batting action for Essex as Somerset wicketkeeper Steven Davies looks on from behind the stumps (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

One of the alternative plans for the mini-season that begins on August 1 was for solely one-day matches, and Browne’s more patient approach has not been seen in the 50-over format for three years or in the helter-skelter of T20 since 2016.

“Yes, I was relieved,” he said. “I really thought they were just going to do T20s and 50 overs. I thought on the financial side it probably made sense. But obviously I love four-day cricket, I love playing it, so I’m happy.

“But I would’ve tried to play both [white-ball] formats. You’ve got to try and adapt, haven’t you, to get some kind of cricket in. Now I’ve got these five [red-ball] games to play and then I’ll try and get into the T20 team!

“There might be an opportunity this year, you never know: if Dan Lawrence is still away with England; we don’t know if Cameron [Deport] will make it over from South Africa, and we’ve obviously lost Rav [Bopara]. So that’s three batting spots available!”

The 29-year-old left-hander, back in training for the past fortnight, has not visited the middle since Essex clinched the Specsavers County Championship title at Taunton last September. “It’s the longest since I was probably 15 that I haven’t picked up a bat,” he added.

“It felt a bit strange putting the gear on when we went back, but once you’ve faced a couple of balls you’re back into it. It’s amazing how quickly you pick it up again, how quickly your eyes pick up the ball and your feet move to it.

“Mind you, it takes me a bit longer than some of the more talented boys, I must say. Someone like Adam Wheater, Dan Lawrence or Tom Westley can just walk into a net and hit everything out of the middle straight away.”

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Essex were midway through their pre-season training camp in Abu Dhabi when the coronavirus pandemic struck and Browne said: “To have put so much work in and then it doesn’t happen, that’s the frustrating bit.

“You’ve trained really hard on your fitness for three or four months after Christmas and you’re good to go. Also, for us, we’d just won the title, we were on a roll and wanted to make hay while the sun’s shining, keep winning competitions.

“We felt like we could have won it again this year. But, yeah, it’s one of those things. The boys are really excited to get going.”

With a maximum of a dozen red-ball innings available – and that assuming Essex reach the final of the Bob Willis Trophy – Browne has had to readjust his season’s target.

“Over the years my goal has always been to score 1,000 runs. It’ll be tough to do that this year! Obviously you want to score hundreds and maybe something in the 300-400 range would be nice,” he said.

“What we’ve done quite well at Chelmsford the last few years is, because they’ve been results wickets, us batters have tried to pride ourselves on out-scoring the opposition and not looking too much at your own average. It’s more about what the average was for the game, if that makes sense.

“Anthony McGrath [the head coach] has done really well with instilling that into us. Rather than worrying, ‘Oh, I’m only averaging 20 at home’, try and see that you’re doing well compared to the average of the other top six or the opposition top six. It’s a better way of looking at it and puts a positive spin on things. I think if I can look at an average above 40 then I’d probably take that.

“Hopefully it won’t nip around that much at this time of year. It’ll be interesting to see how the wickets play. When we first heard about the delay to the season I spoke to Cookie [opening partner Alastair Cook] and he went, ‘Great, we’ll get away from the April new ball a bit and come back in May and the wickets will be nice and flat for us’.

“It went on a little longer than we thought at the time.”

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