Despite a disappointing season in all three domestic county competitions, Essex believe there are reasons to be positive. Their bullish mood is largely based on the advance of a number of younger players and particularly a couple of fast bowling prospects, neither of whom were in the first team squad nine months ago.
The rise of teenager Reece Topley has been well-documented but it is the progress of his fellow fast bowler Tymal Mills that is equally exciting for the Essex coaching staff.
First team coach Paul Grayson said: “We are really pleased with the progress Tymal has made since coming into the first team set-up. He is a player with genuine pace and he has done some excellent work with our bowling coach, Chris Silverwood.” Indeed, Mills was rewarded with a two-year contract in August.
The left-arm paceman, whose impressive rhythm helps him to reach 90 mph, has received further recognition with the ECB promoting the 19-year-old into the full England Performance Programme having initially named him in their group of potential EPP players.
“I got a call the other day from Paul Grayson informing me that because Ajmal Shahzad needs surgery at the end of this month, I fly to South Africa for a training camp with the other bowlers at the end of November.” said Mills.
Mills’s rise through the ranks is nothing less than startling as he only started playing cricket when he was 14 and it remained a purely social pastime for two more years before he began to take the game seriously.
He came to the attention of the Essex scouting network while playing for Suffolk Under-17s and so impressed with his raw talent and natural pace that he was offered a place in the Essex Academy. Last season he forced his way into the England Under-19s and Essex’s County Championship side.
The engaging youngster admits that he enjoyed his meteoric rise in 2011. “I was in the Essex Academy at the start of the year and really my target was to win a permanent place in the second team and improve my performances to a consistent level,” he added.
“But I started off well in pre-season and went with the first team on their pre-season trip to Barbados and did okay. Paul Grayson and Chris Silverwood, who has been a massive influence, kept telling me that if I continually bowled well in the second team then my chance would come for the senior side. I played in the tour match against Sri Lanka and then got a few more first team games later in the season, so it’s been a really exciting year.”
Mills is currently studying for a sports journalism degree at East London University and he is intending to continue with his studies. “I’m going to try to stick with it,” he confirmed. “I’m determined to get all my essays done now; they are not due in until December anyway so there is a bit of time.”