Aaron Beard set for season finale in Canterbury


Essex head into the final Specsavers County Championship match of this season this week against Kent with promotion secured and a chance to see more of the talent coming through the Essex ranks. Aaron Beard is high on that list and has been named in the squad ahead of the game.

With Graham Napier officially retired, and Jamie Porter struggling with an injury, it looks as if Essex’s new-ball attack will comprise 38-year-old David Masters and 18-year-old Aaron Beard for the first and last time.

Masters joins Napier in hanging up his boots after one last hurrah against his old county, and in the process Essex will lose two stalwarts who have contributed a combined total of 99 Championship wickets this season.

Beard, on the other hand, represents the future. The 18 year old pace bowler was named in a 17-strong Young Lions squad for winter training camps in Loughborough and Dubai ahead of a five-match tour in January and February to play India Under-19s.

Team mate Dan Lawrence benefited considerably by spending last winter playing for England in the Under-19 World Cup and Beard said: “That is the sort of step-up I want to make.

“Dan was in the Under-19s last year and look at what he’s done this year. He’s had a great season, hitting nearly 1,000 runs in the Championship and playing all formats, which is something I’d like to do in the future. I’ve just got to wait until I get my chance like Dan and take it like him.”

Beard has made three first-class appearances for Essex this summer, all in May before he joined up with the England Under-19s to play the series against Sri Lanka. He took nine wickets at an average of 33.33, including career-best figures of four for 62 against the senior Sri Lankan tourists.

He said: “At the start of the season I didn’t expect to break into the first-team squad or make my debut. I thought I was just going to try and play regularly for the second XI and work with the coaches. But I had the opportunity to get three first-class games under my belt – and hopefully a fourth tomorrow.

“It will be great to play with Hoddy because he has been such a big part of the Essex bowling attack for so many years and someone I look up to for advice. I’ve had chats with Napes and Hoddy because they’ve been there before and they know what I need to do.

“They’ve said I’ve got the basic skills and the ability to do what I need to do to get wickets. They’ve told me I just need to be patient, work had and not fall into bad habits, especially in respect to my action.

“They are big players who have done really well at the top end of cricket for many years and we’ll miss them, but we have players who can hopefully fill the hole left.”

Beard has enjoyed his first injury-free summer after enduring two operations for a double stress fracture in his back between the ages of 15 and 17. “It’s been a long wait,” he says, “but it’s been worth it.”

Next season Essex will be playing in Division One and Beard said: “It’s going to be a big step-up for me. There are some big international players in that division and I’m going to have to up my game and play as well as I can to make sure I fit in straight away.

“My dream is to play for England. That’s what drives me and hopefully I can train as hard as I can, get as strong as I can, bowl as quickly as I can and take as many wickets as I can – then who knows?”