As the County face up to life back in the top-tier of domestic County Cricket, we look back at some memorable matches from the past against opposition we are scheduled to meet in the forthcoming campaign.
In this feature, two memorable games with Warwickshire fall under the spotlight.
Essex v Warwickshire at Ilford on 9, 11, 12, June 1984.
Warwickshire 334 (AI Kalicharran100, TA Lloyd 72, JK Lever 5-89) and 119 (DR Pringle 4-13, JK Lever 4-46. Essex 114 (AM Ferreira 4-44) and 374 KS McEwan 97, C Gladwin 92, GA Gooch 54, N Gifford 4-144).
Essex won by 35 runs.
An amazing match took place at Valentine’s Park where the home side overcame the ignominy of following-on before ending winners of an absorbing contest.
It was only the second occasion in the County’s history that they had achieved the feat and very few present at the outground would have envisaged an Essex victory when they started their second innings trailing by 220 runs. Consistent batting by Chris Gladwin, Ken McEwan, Graham Gooch and others set the visitors a fourth innings target of just 155 but it proved beyond them. John Lever and Derek Pringle, with assistance from David Acfield, saw the Midlanders bowled out for 199 with nearly ten overs of the match still remaining.
Norman Gifford bowled 47 overs in the Essex second innings and some years later, the match still featured prominently in his memory.
“Over the years playing against Essex, first with Worcestershire and then with Warwickshire was always a challenge and even more when you had to play on Mr.Lever’s home patch, Ilford,” he reflected. “For us, it was a challenge we could look forward to, having a strong pace attack in Willis, Old, Small and Ferreira, and I was looking forward to an easy match with the ball but not with the bat.
“We finished our innings on a very good score of 334 thanks to Chris Old and Anton Ferreira. When we bowled Essex out for 114 and enforced the follow-on, the only result you could possibly envisage was a Warwickshire win or at least a draw. Making a side follow-on is always hard as the first thing you have to overcome is their dented pride, the next with a side like Essex is the strength of batting, and theirs was as strong as any in the eighties. With Chris Old only bowling four overs, someone was going to have to bowl plenty and that fell to yours truly. Gooch 54, Gladwin 92, McEwan 97, Essex 374. The plusses for me were the four wickets, and bowling Gooch, which did not happen to me very often. The minuses were conceding 144 runs.
“After all that, we still only needed 155 to win. At the start of the match, if someone had offered us that to win batting last, we would have said thank you very much, yes please. The wheels came off in a big way for us succumbing to some top class seam bowling from Lever and Pringle, finally losing by 35 runs and Essex recording a memorable victory. Looking back that is what made Essex a very good side in those days, total belief in the ability of the team together with some fine cricketers and a very good captain. Thanks for the memory, but not for losing, and not for all the overs in the second innings.”
Essex v Warwickshire at Chelmsford on 13,14,15,16 September 2000.
Warwickshire 400 (MA Wagh 137, MJ Powell 106) and 8-0 declared. Essex 208-5 dec (DDJ Robinson 92, RC Irani 72*) and 202-4 (SD Peters 77*, RC Irani 64*).
Essex won by 6 wickets.
The final round of championship matches for the season saw Essex start the match in third place, level on points with second-placed Glamorgan and knowing that the victors from this game would earn a place in Division One for the following season. With as much attention being cast towards the clutch of other teams vying for the two remaining promotion places – Northamptonshire had already secured their place in the top-flight for 2002 – Essex had a far from profitable opening day.
Ronnie Irani opted to field in overcast conditions that persisted for the opening two days. Warwickshire, missing star fast bowler Allan Donald, posted 230 before losing their first wicket and had reached 348 for 5 in a match broadcast by Sky Television. By the end of the second day, the home side were 192 runs behind their opponents with half of their first innings wickets still intact. However, there was controversy when Warwickshire bowler Mark Wagh had to be taken out of the attack after being warned off by umpires Barry Duddleston and John Hampshire who had concerns regarding the legality of his action.
Matches elsewhere were affected by the weather and the inclement stuff duly arrived at Chelmsford resulting in the complete loss of play on the third scheduled day. That however favoured the home side. Rain was again in evidence on the morning of Day Four. The position at this stage of the two teams involved in the Chelmsford contest was that Essex required a further 7 points for promotion whilst Warwickshire needed to win. The dilemma for Irani, in his first year of captaincy, was that his side could have achieved their objective by continuing to bat provided they reached 350 from their remaining 53 overs and then claim points from the inevitable draw but with only 5 first innings wickets standing, it was a risk.
Irani decided against such a risky course instead preferring to barter with his opposing captain Neil Smith in the hopes of setting up the chance for either side to go for the victory that would realise promotion for the eventual victor. In truth, Irani held the ace cards and after intensive debate, he negotiated a challenge for his side of making 201 to win form 56 overs.
A great start was made by openers Paul Prichard and Paul Grayson who took 27 form the first three overs but they both fell in quick succession to be followed by Darren Robinson and Stuart Law leaving the home side 64 for 4 in the 17th over. However skipper Irani typically led from the front and was joined by ultra-confident and stylish batsman Stephen Peters as both addressed the crisis with commendable intent and positive play.
The pair took Essex across the winning line and into Division One with a wonderful unbroken partnership worth 138 in 25 overs with Peters clubbing 13 boundaries from 84 balls that brought him 77 runs whilst Irani hit an authoritative 64 not out, including the winning run, from 77 deliveries sending the ball to the boundary boards on 11 occasions. Thanks to the supreme performance of the pair, incredibly, Essex reached their target with 17.2 overs to spare. The victory left the County with the runners-position as the champagne corks were still popping long after the shadows had fallen on the County Ground.
Peter Such was the pick of the Essex bowlers as they struggled for wickets in the Warwickshire first innings although rain subsequently meant that the off-spinner played little part over the remainder of the march. On the final day, he watched Irani and Peters complete the successful run chase and was full of praise for the role that the 21 year-old Peters played on that memorable final day.
“Stephen Peters was the difference in that game,” Such acknowledged. “He played very well and was a very fine young player at the time. Credit for him for starting to turn that potential into genuine runs over the latter part of his career (with third county Northamptonshire). He also played an excellent knock in the 1998 Benson & Hedges quarter-final at Lord’s in a very tight game so we knew he had the ability to play important innings.”