With the race for promotion from Division Two in the County Championship hotting up, Essex are looking to former England and Middlesex batsman Owais Shah to continue to act as the mainstay of their batting line-up as they bid for an immediate return to the top flight.
It has been almost a year since Shah learned the shock news that he was being released by Middlesex but there was no shortage of interest from other counties eager to add the classy batsman to their ranks and Essex were delighted when they secured his signature.
Despite missing the first two months of the season due to commitments in the Indian Premier League, he has continued to demonstrate his prowess in typically stylish fashion with an average of 51.00 in the County Championship having scored 510 runs, going into Essex’s current match, including two hundreds and two other half-centuries.
The 32-year-old believes that cool heads over the next few weeks may bring about the required results leading to promotion for his new county. “I guess people are starting to think that every game is like a cup final now but, personally, I think the key is not to get sucked into the pressure scenario of ‘we could go up or we could win this and we could win that’,” he said.
“Teams I’ve been involved with in the past with that outlook generally get ahead of themselves and that only increases the pressures. For me, it’s more about getting the process right in each session of four-day cricket because one bad session can change the course of the game. We are playing some good Championship cricket and if we can stay on course and look after each session in each four-day game, then results will take care of themselves.”
Apart from harbouring hopes of promotion, Essex are still in with a chance of qualifying for the Clydesdale Bank 40 semi-finals and Shah admits that it would be ideal if they could gain some success in either or both competitions to help the future development of their crop of emerging youngsters.
“For whatever reason, things didn’t work out for us in the Twenty20 this year but as a player you want to be playing Division One cricket, you want to be playing in Twenty20 Finals day and you want to play in a Lord’s cup final. If you could achieve all that it would be a perfect season,” added Shah.
“We have some good young players coming through at Essex and that’s a bigger picture of the way the club is going. But youngsters always want to be associated with a club that wins trophies. That’s what keeps players happy and keeps them performing for those clubs.
“Success is contagious and the more successful they are, the more chance there is of them playing for England.”