Shah relishing “new challenge” of life at Essex

Owais Shah is not yet ready to start the autumn of his career. At 32, indeed, and in the peak years of his career, the former England batsman is targeting both personal success and team silverware with his new county Essex.

Shah was surprisingly released by Middlesex after 15 years at the end of last summer but jumped at the chance to move to Chelmsford and the challenge of a fresh environment.

“It’s an exciting challenge for me at Essex,” he said. “Leaving Middlesex came at an interesting time for me and I think that the move could work quite nicely for both Essex and myself. It freshens things up for me and, obviously, I’m here to score a lot of runs for the team and to try to help them win trophies.”

Shah made a belated County Championship bow for Essex last week having been involved in the IPL and, with a twist of irony, Middlesex provided the opposition. It almost proved to be a fairytale start for the England batsman who failed by just four runs to record a century in the first innings although he did register a duck in the second knock.

“It would have been amazing to have got the hundred against them and it would have been a dream come true but I got out to a decent delivery so I can’t feel too bad about it,” he added.

“But to be honest, I think that I would have been more disappointed to have got out for 96 in my last game for Middlesex as opposed to my first game for Essex. It was very satisfying to go with a century on my last appearance for Middlesex. It seemed a bit special and fitting although I had nothing to prove, as they know what I’ve achieved.”

He admitted that it was a weird experience watching his former colleagues from an opposition view when the two teams met at Chelmsford.

“It was very strange watching Middlesex warm up on day one on the left side of the field, which is where I would normally have been, and then, when they lost their first wicket, watching Dan Housego walking in to bat because  that was my position.

“But that’s in the past, and I enjoyed my career with Middlesex. It was really good fun although it didn’t quite finish in the way that perhaps I would have liked. But now I’m with Essex, it’s the start of a new chapter.”

Neither has he given up hope of adding to his six England Test caps. “My main focus is playing my part to bring success to Essex and the more successful the team become, the more chances you get to play in finals and televised matches and people notice you,” added Shah.

“It’s amazing how things like that can work in your favour and if I can keep scoring lots of runs who knows what could happen?”

When Middlesex surprisingly decided not to offer Shah a new contract, there was a queue of suitors for his signature although the player admits that a move to Chelmsford was always his preferred option.

“I know Essex want success as much as I want success and so it was an easy option really,” he said. “Plus, I’m very much a London person, I wanted to stay down south and so the move ticked all the boxes and everything fell into place.

“Although I don’t have to prove myself, I do have to prove to myself that I can raise my performance and continue to be consistent.”

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