Essex batsman Matt Walker has spoken of his relief that his unbeaten 70 at Northampton last week helped his side to stave off a third defeat in as many LV County Championship second division matches.
The former Kent left-hander is now enjoying his 18th season of domestic cricket but he admits to having been concerned about his own form and that of the much-fancied Essex side in the first couple of weeks of the season.
Essex lost to Kent and Middlesex and Walker managed just 38 runs in four innings in those two games before scoring only five in the first innings against Northants.
However, with the responsibility to rescue the team from a parlous lunch position on the final day, the 37-year-old called on all his reserves of experience, temperament and discipline to bat for more than three hours to get his season back on track and also save his county.
“When you are a batsman and not scoring runs, obviously it is a concern but it’s also very frustrating when you genuinely feel that you are in decent touch and there’s nothing really to work on,” said Walker. “But it’s just a case that you are going through a bad patch.
“To be honest, I was feeling a bit down after we had lost at Lord’s. Every player is looking to start the season well both from an individual perspective and also from a team perspective. Players are enthusiastic, they have worked hard and it’s really upsetting both for the players and the fans when things don’t work out as planned.
“It’s at those times you need strength of character and, having been through all that before in my career, all you can do is to retain your self-belief and know that you are doing all the right things in practice and in the middle.
“You keep going and hope that you get a bit of a break and that’s what happened at Northampton. We were under a bit of pressure having lost four wickets before lunch and still a dozen runs short of making them bat again.
“I don’t think, with the way the game was going, that we were ever going to be in a position to go and win with the pitch getting better all the time, but it was certainly a game that we didn’t want to lose. I guess we stopped the rot and it gets us back into a positive frame of mind that we can take into our game with Glamorgan.”
Walker is cautiously optimistic that despite their poor start Essex, who find themselves propping up the Division Two table after three matches, can start to make up ground.
“It’s important that you don’t get into a rut and continue to lose games,” he added. “So much has been talked about this Essex side having a big year but it doesn’t always happen like that. There are plenty of good sides around but there’s a long, long way to go this season and once you get on a roll and win a few games, the habit starts to kick in.
“Hopefully, that’s what will happen to us and we’ll be right up there come the end of the season.”