Westley admits Essex need to address lack of one-day silverware
PUBLISHED: 08:00 17 April 2019
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The County Championship club regularly make it through their group in the Royal London Cup, but struggle in the knock-out phase
Tom Westley is as mystified as anyone by Essex's perennial failure to turn their undoubted prowess in the Royal London Cup into regular trips to Lord's for the final.
Essex have qualified from the group stages in each of the five seasons since the 50-over competition's inception in 2014, but have not won a single knock-out game.
As the Eagles prepare to launch the 2019 campaign today against Glamorgan in Cardiff, Westley said: “We've played some fantastic cricket leading up to the knock-out stages, but we've never been able to quite get over the line on the day.
“I can't put my finger on why that is. We've just come up against teams who performed better on that day.
“For it to happen consistently, though, there's something not quite clicking. It's something you don't want to dwell on, but I think it's certainly something we do have to address.”
Two years ago, in their Specsavers County Championship-winning season, Essex won seven of their eight group games, yet lost an exhilarating, high-scoring home semi-final against Nottinghamshire.
Last year it was Yorkshire who repeated their 2015 quarter-final win; before that, in 2014 and 2016, it was Warwickshire who dealt the knockout blows.
Westley, now 30, has been there for all the Royal London spills and thrills, and admits: “It's been quite frustrating, hasn't it?
“I think we've achieved quite a lot by getting to the quarter-final stages, but I think in any knock-out tournament in any sport there is an element of luck: if you have a bad day and the opposition have a good day, you will get knocked out.
“So hopefully we can string together a few more good days and take ourselves right through to the final.”
This season's eight-game group programme is crammed inside three weeks with play-offs and semi-finals to fit in before the final at Lord's on Saturday, May 25.
Essex play three of their first four games away from Chelmsford before returning home for the run-in.
Westley said: “If you get a bit of a run of winning games, before you know it you could have won four, five, six games and you've pretty much qualified.
“But equally, if you start poorly and get yourself into a bit of a rut, then the tournament's over before you know it. We've got to be conscious to be on it from the start.
“But as we've said, we've qualified for the knockout stages every year, so I think we are one of those teams who do start well. It's just whether we can maintain that over the course of the whole campaign, and then push for honours.
“I think with the squad we've got we can realistically challenge in all three formats. I know every county says that at this time of year, but whether they believe it is another thing.
“We've actually got a squad who won Division One two years ago and came third last year. We've got to the knock-out stages of the white-ball tournament for goodness knows how long, and now I'm saying this is the strongest team I've played in at Essex. That bodes well for this season, surely.”
The Royal London Cup has been good to Essex's stroke-making number three. Westley has scored centuries in each season – the most recent in last year's opener against Middlesex, visitors to Chelmsford on Friday (11am start) – and averages 43 for his 1,651 runs.
“That was an important knock for me last year,” he said. “I was going through quite a tough time in the red-ball stuff, hadn't scored many runs, got a few starts but never kicked on, so it was key.
“It is one of the positives of going from one format to another, particularly red-ball to white, that you can free yourself up and express yourself. Sometimes that is what you need to get your confidence back.”