T20: Lawrence looking to lead Essex into last eight
PUBLISHED: 07:00 29 August 2019
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Dan Lawrence's swashbuckling approach to this season's T20 campaign had paid some handsome dividends already - now Essex Eagles are banking on the biggest pay-out coming in the shape of a place in the Vitality Blast quarter-finals.
The 22-year-old Lawrence took his career tally in the shortest form of the game past 1,000 runs with back-to-back fifties in his most recent innings - both on the south coast, against Sussex and Hampshire chronologically.
Thoose knocks came immediately after he had received tangible reward for a personal summer of success by signing a contract extension through to the end of the 2021 season.
This has been something of a breakthrough year in the Blast for Lawrence as four of his five career T20 half-centuries have come in a season when he has raised his bat towards the pavilion on 13 occasions across all formats, though none yet for reaching three figures.
"I've gone about it in quite a different way this year," he said. "I've tried to be on the side of ultra-aggressive - especially at Chelmsford where the boundaries are quite small. Generally, if you get half a hit, it goes for four or six.
"I've put a lot of effort into T20 cricket this year, trying my best if I get the ball in my half to be able to hit it for six consistently. It just comes down to trusting in your ability and if it's in your area, have a swing."
A total of 190 of his 302 runs have come in boundaries, an equal number of fours and sixes (19 each) contributing to an average of a tad over 50 every time he goes to the wicket.
His strike-rate of 167.78 is only marginally lower than his big-hitting team-mate Cameron Delport, whose average is just half of Lawrence's.
For a wider context, both batsmen are only significantly eclipsed by the 191.67 rate that the South African AB de Villiers struck during his brief spell at Middlesex.
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"We've spoken quite a bit about playing fearless cricket this year and I've gone out there and done that," added Lawrence.
"It's not as simple as going out there and slogging. It's being aware of certain situations, when you can and when you can't have a go. It's about erring on the positive side."
Essex go into the climax of the group stage knowing that they need to win successive games in the competition for the first time in two years to stand a chance of making it to the knockout stages.
Going into tonight's visit to the Oval to play Surrey, followed by tomorrow's concluding game against Kent at Chelmsford, Essex are unbeaten in five fixtures, albeit with three rain-offs and a tie in that sequence.
The southern group is so congested that the Eagles could potentially soar from their present place one off the bottom to a top-four finish. It is not entirely in their own hands, however.
"We've talked about peaking at the right time in the competition," said Lawrence. "Hopefully we can sneak into a quarter-final spot.
"I think this year when we've played well we've actually been excellent, and when we haven't played so well we just haven't got everything together.
"It's not about one player performing on the day and everyone else having an off-day, it's about four or five of us putting our hands up and performing.
"If you look through our order there's so much experience and talent there - we've got over 1000 games in our squad. If we do click we're going to be a really hard team to beat."
Indeed, when he put pen to paper on his new deal - ironically two days after collecting an uncharacteristic pair in the Specsavers County Championship, against Kent - Lawrence said: "I believe we're on the cusp of a long and successful era here at Essex."