Having now completed his three-year course at Durham University, Tom Westley is now ready to commit himself to a full-time career with Essex.
A former England Under-19 captain, the Cambridge-born player has impressed with some stylish batting performances for the county, who are hoping he may be able to prove the answer to their problematical opening bat position.
Westley recorded his first County Championship century in 2009, scoring 132 against Derbyshire when Essex clinched a promotion place in the final match of the season. He also matched that score last season against Kent. Moreover, he is a more than useful off-spinner and will provide useful support to front line slow left-armer Tim Phillips.
He makes one last trip to Durham for his graduation day today (June 30) but thereafter cricket is the only subject on his itinerary. “My studies are all done and dusted now and I’m free to concentrate on my cricket,” said the 22-year-old. “I’m looking forward to being able to commit fully with Essex and I’m really excited at the prospect.
“All I’ve ever really wanted to do was to play cricket but going to university was a fall-back plan, if you like, just in case things didn’t work out for me.”
Westley, who hit 99 against Sri Lanka two weeks ago, also played a significant part in Essex’s success this week when they became the first side this summer to beat Northants in the County Championship.
Opening the innings, he top-scored with 61 out of 183 in the first innings and then chipped in with two second innings wickets as Essex swept aside the league leaders. Yet he has spent little time on the cricket field so far this summer.
“Cricket has been on the back burner this year because of studying for my exams, although I kept myself ticking over playing a bit of club cricket up in Durham, but I felt good at the crease against Sri Lanka and it was nice to take that sort of form into the match with Northants.
“Obviously my batting is my main strength at present but I’ve been working hard on my bowling to bring another dimension to my game. My target now is to play well enough to hold down a first team place. Beating Northants was a terrific result for us and, hopefully, the rest of the season will pan out well for both Essex and myself.”
One of the features of the Essex attack in limited-overs cricket this year has been the effectiveness of left-arm spinner Phillips, and Westley is hoping that he can offer the side another useful spin option.
“It would be nice to play the one-day game and Essex have always been prepared to play their spinners in the past. Touch wood, I’ll get some opportunities this year but, if not, then hopefully in the years to come, spin will become an integral part of my game as well. I’ve got a lot to learn as a cricketer but, hopefully, I’ve got some good years to come.”