Essex’s wretched start to the new season has so far only had the consolation of the form of the three younger members of the team.
While 17-year-old Reece Topley continued his superb start to his career with another five-wicket haul in the eight-wicket defeat by Middlesex, following the one he took in a losing cause on debut against Kent, young batsmen Jaik Mickleburgh and Tom Westley provided the batting highlights at Lord’s.
Mickleburgh hit 41 in the second innings but that was surpassed by Westley who followed up his 36 in the first innings with the only half-century recorded by any batsman in the match, before he fell for 59 to Steven Finn.
Cambridge-born 22-year-old Westley is still at Durham University and admits he faces a dilemma in the forthcoming weeks as he attempts to juggle his academic obligations with his cricketing ambitions.
“I don’t actually know what my schedule is to be honest,” said Westley. “I have exams to take and heard the other day that I need to go back to Durham next week but I think that Essex are speaking with them to see if something can be sorted out. I’d love to be playing for Essex but it is my final year at University so that’s something I need to get out of the way.”
The former England Under-19 captain admitted that although he performed well, a second defeat for Essex in as many matches clouded the satisfaction. “Yes, it was a good match for me but they are only important and valuable when it helps the team to win,” he added. “It wasn’t a good match for the side and that obviously takes the gloss off any satisfaction I take.
“I did hope that when Chris Wright and I started to put a bit of a partnership towards the end of our second innings (they posted 79 for the eighth wicket), something extraordinary might happen but it was not to be.
“The Middlesex seamers all bowled well, made things difficult for us and their fielders held the catches and so it was hard work for myself and all our batsmen. Maybe I just had a little more luck than some.”
Essex have now lost their opening two matches after Middlesex were left with just 54 runs for victory in their second innings. Yet they were pre-season favourites to reclaim their Division One place at the start of the season but Westley believes that the alarm bells should not be rung at the moment.
“You have to remember that it’s still only mid-April and the wickets are going to do a bit in terms of seaming around and swinging. In both our matches so far, no side has scored 300 so that would suggest that maybe the Tiflex ball is having some effect or it may be just that it’s April and it’s early season. But as a batsman, I am looking forward to the pitches flattening out a bit more.
“We’re not panicking, we know we haven’t got the results we expected but we are all working hard to turn things around.”