Essex v Somerset: Browne glad to be back
PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 August 2017
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Nick Browne can reel off a series of personal milestones when Essex resume their push for the Specsavers County Championship title over the next four days against Somerset at Chelmsford.
The stop-start nature of the fixture list, with each format played in blocks, and the fact Browne has sat out the T20 section, has made it seem a strange season to the left-hander. Yet he needs just nine more runs to overtake Alastair Cook’s 667 total and become Essex’s leading run-scorer in the Championship this summer.
Additionally, he requires 146 to reach 1,000 first-class runs for the third year in a row, and just 36 to pass 4,000 career runs in red-ball cricket.
“I didn’t think I’d had a great season,” he said. “I struggled a bit at the start and then came into form and scored some runs. There’s been this big break and it seems ages ago that I’ve actually batted in first-class cricket.
“Then I looked at the stats and they’re actually all right. I only realised that the other day. I was talking to Dan Lawrence, who lives with me, and we were talking about the averages. I looked at them and went, ‘Blimey, I’ve scored more runs than I thought’.
“That’s obviously nice, but I’ve still got a lot more work to do this year. I don’t feel I’ve shown the lads quite what I’m capable of. Hopefully I can get two or three more hundreds and really secure this position we’re in.”
Essex start the hectic, five-game run-in, 41 points clear in Division One and within sight of their first Championship since 1992.
“All the lads are super-excited,” added Browne, “and I especially am. I haven’t stopped thinking about it for the last month!”
Browne has spent the best part of two months in the 2nd XI while the first team flattered to deceive in a disappointing T20 campaign. He showed he is in good nick with 61 last week on a difficult wicket at Taunton Vale against a strong Somerset XI.
Browne is typically positive about his experience away from the senior team, adding: “It’s an attitude thing. If you go into it thinking, ‘Oh, let’s just get through this game and see how it goes’, the week’s going to take forever, it’s going to drag.
“I’ve felt like a leader in the side, helping the young lads through. It’s a bit like being a scout. Tendo will come up and say, ‘What do you think of this lad?’ The boys in the 2nd XI impressed me a lot and I’m sure they’ll get their opportunity.”
The highlight of Browne’s season to date has been the 221 he scored in the innings defeat of Middlesex two months ago, and his record first-wicket stand of 373 with Cook.
Indeed, their last five opening partnerships in the Championship have been in excess of fifty, with the average 120.
“Cooky’s very good at switching on and switching off. It’s interesting watching from the other end. Once we’ve got in we try and have a laugh together mid-wicket,” added Browne.
“I was telling the boys about an incident in that big stand against Middlesex. [Ollie] Rayner bowled him a ball that spun quite big and bounced, and he immediately looked up at me and started laughing.
“He was on a hundred or something. I went to laugh back and he kind of shuddered back into something like a trance and went back into focusing again.
“It was him telling himself, ‘What are you laughing at? Get back on to batting’. It was brilliant to witness the great man at work. He’s my favourite ever cricketer, so it’s nice to be able to play with him and have partnerships like that.”
While the Tests are on, Browne finds himself batting with Varun Chopra, and added: “You can’t replace Alastair Cook, you just can’t, the greatest-ever English batter, but Chopra has been great. He’s a serious player, he’s scored 1,000 runs for numerous years when opening for Warwickshire. We’ll be fine together.”