Essex great Gooch hails ‘remarkable’ record and says title repeat is possible
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
Graham Gooch won the County Championship title six times with Essex – as well as all other domestic trophies – during his own hugely successful playing career.
But he says the nature of the modern game makes it harder for the current champions to retain their title – although there is no reason why they cannot enjoy further success.
Gooch, now 64, helped Essex win the Benson & Hedges Cup in 1979, the first major trophy in their history, which provided a springboard for a golden period at the county.
And those six first-class titles followed between 1979-1992 as opening batsman Gooch rewrote the record books for Essex and also became England’s leading run scorer in Tests.
Delighted to see Ryan ten Doeschate’s side end a 25-year wait to be crowned the champion county, Gooch said: “We’ve got to try and back it up and repeat that. It will be a bigger challenge to have another good season.
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“Whether you’re going to win it or not, you can’t say. You’re not going to repeat that record but what you’ve got to hope for in the county season is if you’re in the mix come August, then you’ve got a chance.
“You’ve got to look at the way the league is structured. Last year, apart from ourselves and Lancashire possibly, all the others were in the mix. One minute you could be third, then next minute you can be third from bottom.”
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This time last year, Essex managed to salvage a draw from their first match of the season against Lancashire at Chelmsford – having been promoted from Division Two in 2016.
And after beating Somerset at Taunton, they managed to avoid defeat against Middlesex at Lord’s thanks to some help from the weather.
After that escape they never looked back, winning nine of their remaining 11 matches, with four of them by an innings.
Gooch added: “It was an amazing season. The remarkable thing is the record – 10 wins, four draws, no losses.
“In our playing days when we won the championship, you worked on if you won half the games you’d be close to winning it. To win 10 out of 14 is an outstanding record and the players deserve credit.
“They showed great character, they ground out draws when they weren’t in the ascendancy in some of the games and they trounced some sides.”
Hampshire, Warwickshire and Middlesex were all beaten by an innings at Chelmsford, with Essex also beating Warwickshire after batting just once in the return meeting at Edgbaston.
They completed their historic campaign with a 376-run rout of Yorkshire back on home turf as Jamie Porter (75) and Simon Harmer (72) did most of the damage with the ball.
Alastair Cook topped the averages with 667 runs at 66.70, while Nick Browne led the run charts with 952, as six Essex batsmen averaged over 40.
Gooch continued: “They all played their part. Jamie Porter had a fantastic season and Simon Harmer and some of the younger ones came in, Sam Cook at the end, Dan Lawrence made progress, as well as some of the older guys.
“Alastair Cook was a big influence in the first half of the season, not just by his performance but the simple fact of him being in the dressing room and being a role model for the younger players.
“To see how he performed and went about his cricket rubbed off on the other players. That was a big bonus for them. You have to play as a team and squad. They showed character and believed in themselves and it just shows what you can do. We were being tipped to be relegated!”
Head coach Chris Silverwood received plaudits for the way he moulded the team into such a successful unit, to win titles in successive years.
And Gooch is delighted to see Essex have such a strong local core to their squad, adding: “It all fell into place for Chris Silverwood. Two years, two promotions, we played some brilliant cricket.
“He put together a very varied squad and the really impressive thing for me as an Essex man, is we had eight home-grown players generally in that side for most of the season.
“Not just eight English players, eight from Essex and surrounding counties. That was unheard of really in the modern age and it is gratifying to know, having been involved in youth cricket and the scholarship I run where I support our academy financially, we are producing good cricketers still.
“That lineage of players coming through now is carrying on the tradition of your Nasser Hussains, Paul Prichards, John Stephensons and Nick Knights. All these guys down the years we used to produce. It’s good news.”