Cricket: Nijjar reflects on stunning season finale with Essex
PUBLISHED: 07:49 02 October 2019 | UPDATED: 07:50 02 October 2019
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Essex County Cricket Club’s Aron Nijjar has the photographic evidence as proof of the most memorable week in his cricket career.
There he is, second left, spraying champagne, in both the Vitality Blast and Specsavers County Championship celebration shots.
Then, to round off seven glorious days, he is snapped, suited and booted, with Sir Alastair Cook's arm draped around his shoulder at the end of season gala dinner after receiving the 2nd XI player-of-the-year award.
For all that, the slow left-arm spinner might still be considered an interloper at the Essex double-winning parties.
After all, it was four years almost to the day since his previous Championship outing, and his appearances at Edgbaston on Finals Day were only the second and third of his nascent T20 career.
But this is Essex: no one is an outsider. "We've got a very tight-knit squad," said Nijjar. "Everyone is very close in terms of the celebrations, whether you've played all the games or not. Everyone gets stuck in. Everyone's truly happy for each other and how well they've done.
"But it was nice to be involved, to have contributed to the wins and been part of the celebrations.
"Yes, it has been a long time coming. We've signed [Ashar] Zaidi, who's come and gone since then, and [Simon] Harmer, so it has been tough to get in the side when we've been playing with one spinner. But the wicket at Somerset [for the Championship decider] was conducive to spin, so it was slightly easier to get in."
Nijjar's call-up to the climax of the T20 campaign was pretty straightforward, too, once Adam Zampa, the leg-spinner, was required at home by Cricket Australia.
"With Zampa going, and the fact we wanted to keep the same sort of formula, it was clear we'd be needing two spinners. I had an inkling I might play the way the wicket played in the first semi-final [Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire]. Again it was a wicket that was conducive to spin," he added.
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"I was quite nervous and anxious beforehand, but once I got into the swing of things it was all right. You don't have too much time to be nervous with everything that's going on.
"It was just really nice to get on the board early with a wicket and build my way into that first game and set myself up for the final."
Nijjar took 3-26 against Derbyshire Falcons in the semi-final and his Twitter feed carries further evidence of his contribution with film of him bowling danger man Wayne Madsen around his legs with a beauty.
He may have gone wicketless in the final, but bowled tightly enough to help strangle the life out of Worcestershire.
Two days later it was a no-brainer for Essex to pick him on the spin-friendly pitch at Taunton.
"It was one of those wickets that was going to turn the longer the game went on. And as you could see from how hard we had to battle with the bat, I'm sure it would have been lovely to have bowled on," he said.
Despite 17 of the 21 wickets falling to spin in the match, Nijjar bowled just 28 balls. However, he did mark his 25th birthday with the key wicket of Roelof van der Merwe, bowled trying to reverse sweep, just when the South African looked set to take the initiative away from Essex.
Nijjar's 2nd XI award was hard-earned: he claimed more than 90 wickets across all formats, including 32 in the Championship and a 10-wicket haul in a friendly against Middlesex three weeks ago.
To underline his all-round potential, he also posted a half-century in the same game.
"It's been a long time since I played for the first team, but I think it's testament to myself that I've kept my professionalism and tried to work hard and improve my game," he added.
"I've reaped the rewards when my opportunity has come. Obviously I'd like more playing time, but I hope I've shown I can perform at that level and I can force my way into the team next season on a more regular basis."
Celebrations over, Nijjar has been immersed this week on a level-two coaching course alongside team-mates at The Cloudfm County Ground. "It's brought us back down to earth," he admitted.
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