Essex have been crowned County Champions at the end of a incredible undefeated 14-match campaign. The MS Amlin sponsored County achieved their first title in 25 years - just 12 months after promotion from Division Two.
The remarkable season saw eight different batsmen register centuries in a triumph of teamwork. Tom Westley earned an England call-up during the season for his work at the top of the order and Dan Lawrence, 20, hit three hundreds to match England opener Alastair Cooke in the century-making stakes.
On the bowling side, Jamie Porter, with 75 wickets, and Simon Harmer, with 72, were at the spearhead of the attack, but Kiwi Neil Wagner, Pakistan quick Mohammad Amir and 20-year-old Chelmsford-born Sam Cook all weighed in with match-winning performances.
Porter, 24, was the leading wicket-taker in the Championship this summer and has signed a two-year contract extension. His new deal ties him to Chelmsford until the end of the 2020 season.
“Ever since he emerged onto the scene he has been exceptional and met every challenge he has been faced with,” said head coach Chris Silverwood.
“His contributions during this season have been immense and we want to continue to give Jamie the platform to express himself and pursue international honours in the near future.”
Essex are the first non-Test hosting County to win the County Championship in ten years.
Essex captain, Ryan Ten Doeschate is a natural leader within the team and tried to articulate the secret formula that turned his team into an unstoppable winning machine.
He said: “It’s difficult to put a finger on it, but I think the best you can do is make the players feel like you back them and help create the environment where guys, a) enjoy their cricket and, b) take pride in their performances. As a group I think we got that right this year.
“You need good players, there’s no doubt about that. To win ten games, as we did, you need more than two or three good players because not everyone can perform every week.
“There’s also the intangible things that go on behind the scenes, the socialising, the mood we’ve always set. In the tougher times we didn’t panic, didn’t come down hard on guys. First and foremost the credit goes to the guys that had fantastic seasons - Harmer, Porter, Dan Lawrence, Nick Browne, and Tom Westley.
“A lot of times in the past we would have rolled over in some of the pressure situations that we faced this year. The fact we didn’t comes back to how you make people see themselves and how they relate to the rest of the club.”
At the beginning of the season there was a very positive atmosphere around the newly-promoted club, but did Ten Doeschate really believe his side could win the championship?
“The honest answer is no,” he confessed. “I always knew we had good players but I was worried about the depth in the bowling but that was covered by Porter and Harmer taking as many wickets as they did.
“I thought we’d be fighting to stay in the division. But after we won three games in a row in June I thought we had a real chance.”
Essex now faces the challenge of retaining their title in 2018 and Ten Doeschate is quietly optimistic about their chances.
“There is a lot of long-term planning going on,” he said, “but, with the age of the players we have, there is now a platform for this group to be successful for a decent amount of time.”