While promotion, relegation and the County Championship title itself were being determined this week, one player was deservedly putting his feet up after enjoying a remarkable 2011 season.
Although Essex, who completed their 2011 schedule last week, had a season that could be best described as an underachievement, their seam bowler David Masters surpassed all expectations. The 33-year-old’s herculean efforts saw him send down 637 overs in 16 County Championship matches and take 93 wickets.
“I sensed that a big season was coming along for me but I never believed I would get as many wickets as I have done this year,” Masters said. “You’ve got to have a bit of luck somewhere along the line but if you keep doing the right things and bowl the amount of overs that I do, then you do give yourself the opportunity to get plenty of wickets.
“I think that, as a bowler, the more experience you get the wiser you become and the more relaxed you become as a cricketer. You also need a bit of luck but confidence is also a big factor. The more confident you are with your own game, the more confidence people seem to have in you.
“I felt on top of my game throughout the season really and it’s probably the best that I’ve ever bowled. I was told some years back that when you get on a roll, to ride it out because there will be times when you are bowling well and you don’t get your rewards. So, when things are going your way, you must make the most of it.”
The former Kent and Leicestershire bowler, who joined Essex for the 2008 season, took five wickets or more in innings on eight occasions in the four-day game this summer – including a career-best 8 for 10 in the win against Leicestershire at Southend.
“It’s been a great season for me and it’s just a shame that the team couldn’t win something in one of the competitions because that would really have topped it off for me,” added Masters.
Former England, Yorkshire and Middlesex paceman Chris Silverwood is the Essex bowling coach and he was quick to pay this tribute to Masters’ achievements.
“All bowlers can learn from him, especially the young bowlers,” said Silverwood. “You look at how he has gone about his business this year, he set his stall out early on, stuck to his plans and he’s been magnificent.
“And long may that continue for him. They say nowadays that if you get 50 wickets in a season you’ve had a great year, so what David has achieved has been phenomenal. To do what he’s done, to keep motivated and lead from the front has been outstanding.
“As a coach, you can talk all day to a bowler about the right things to do but if any young bowler watches him, sees what he does, watches the lines and lengths that he bowls, he can learn so much.”