Natwest T20 Blast: Essex’s Foster fully focused on final fixtures

PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 August 2017

Essex wicketkeeper James Foster looks on from behind the stumps during a Natwest T20 Blast clash with Kent (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Essex wicketkeeper James Foster looks on from behind the stumps during a Natwest T20 Blast clash with Kent (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

©TGS Photo +44 1376 553468

Experienced wicketkeeper ready for Kent and Sussex

James Foster can’t remember a NatWest T20 Blast campaign like it, where all nine teams in the south group can still qualify for the knockout stages with a game or two to play – and he’s been around since the competition started in 2003.

Essex will go through, and maybe even land a home quarter-final tie by finishing in the top two, if they win their remaining games against Kent tonight at Chelmsford and tomorrow in the televised match at Hove against Sussex.

Yet three weeks ago, after a mauling by Middlesex at Lord’s, followed by a rain-off at home against Gloucestershire, Essex were bottom and, for all intents and purposes, dead and buried. Four wins in five since, the last three in a row, have altered the picture significantly.

“As we’ve seen throughout the competition, everyone’s beating everyone else,” says Essex’s 37-year-old wicketkeeper. “It’s one of those formats where, on the day, if you don’t bring your ‘A’ game you can be exposed.

“From experience over the years, you get on a bit of a roll and momentum can go one way or the other – in a positive way, also in a negative way. We’re just on a roll at the minute and we’re confident ahead of our next two games.

“We’ve won our last three games and that breeds confidence. Having said that, we’re still coming up against two extremely good sides. But with this format, someone from either side can have a day-out, which can completely turn the game on its head.

“A batsman can score a wonderful knock off not many balls, and the same with the bowling: a magical couple of overs can rip the heart out of a side.”

Essex had one of each in their low-scoring victory against Gloucestershire at Bristol last time out. Jamie Porter posted his best T20 figures with 4-20 and Varun Chopra took his season’s tally past 300 runs with a whirlwind 44.

“Ports showed his ability and nous, especially the way the batters play in this format, where you have to use your skill-set and try and think one step ahead,” said Foster.

“Varun’s knock got us so far ahead of the game chasing 121, it was a match-winning innings. He’s got some really good ball-striking ability, good long levers and good skill levels – he can hit square and straight, which is very important for a top-order batsman, and he uses his crease exceptionally well.”

Foster has also chipped in with some important contributions lower down the order, with his unbeaten 33 at Hampshire carrying Essex over the line in the first of their three recent wins.

He added: “It would be nicer to score runs every time. But I’ve been around long enough to accept that sometimes it doesn’t work out. You just try and trust yourself, back yourself every time and hopefully it comes off.”

Quite how much longer Foster will be around behind the stumps is a matter of conjecture. His contract is up at the end of the season and as yet there has been no rush to offer him an extension.

He said: “I expressed my interest last season that I wanted to continue beyond this year. The club know where I stand, so we just wait and see what they want to do.

“They’re going to have to do something one way or the other because it is towards the end of the contract. So one way or the other we’ll find out soon.

“It’s down to the club; I just perform and it’s up to them whether they want to keep me beyond this season. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing this season.”

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