The Essex 2nd XI will enjoy the setting of Arundel Castle this afternoon for T20 finals day, and at the beginning of September contest the Championship final, the culmination of a season in which they have lost just 2 games in the short format and remain unbeaten with the red ball.
Record-making run machine Rishi Patel has been a backbone in the understudy side, and was rewarded for a phenomenal season in which he averages just under 100, when elevated for his first-team debut against India 2 weeks ago.
Speaking on the match, the former Brentwood School all-rounder said: “It was a really great experience, it has definitely shown me that I want to play at that level, and I want to get into the first team more regularly and hopefully kick on. It’s made my desire grow and grow.”
Although he averages just below 20 in T20 cricket, having hit 141 runs with a highest score of 53 not out, it is in the longer game that Patel has excelled. The 20-year-old has a sequence of 104, 133, 54, 75, 15*, 11, 36*, 117, 151, 118 and 70 in his 11 visits to the crease for a total of 885 runs, an average of 98.33.
He also has the chance to break Darren Robinson’s 25-year record of most centuries (5) in a 2nd XI season, with a maximum of 4 innings in which to do so.
When talking about his individual performance this year, Patel said: “It’s been an amazing season, it’s gone better than I expected. Once you get the first 100 out the way, you just grow in confidence, and I’ve gone from strength to strength. We’re coming towards the end of the season and I just want to push on and get as many runs as I can.”
Patel is nearing the end of a gap year and is heading to Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge next month. During his break from education, he spent time in the Melbourne suburb of North Balwyn playing club cricket for St Barnabas, finishing as the top run-scorer and top wicket-taker, and that provided the platform for this summer of success.
“I came back a better player, I think. I’ve been able to concentrate on cricket and not worry about schoolwork or any of the other distractions. I’ve been able to just focus on performing to the best of my ability. It’s been really important.”
With the likes of Paul Walter and Michael Pepper making the step-up to first-team action in recent weeks, Patel is very aware that progression through the ranks is possible.
“You can see there’s a path, and you just have to keep performing and bide your time until that call comes. Then you have to make the most of it. We’re all fighting and pushing to try and play in the ones. I’ve just got to knuckle down, work hard and hopefully I’ll get there.”
Essex 2nd XI face Durham 2nd XI in their semi-final today (1.45pm start), with the winners meeting Gloucestershire or Lancashire in the final (5pm). Then the already-crowned Southern champions play Surrey 2nd XI at New Maldon next Monday in their remaining Championship fixture before the final against the champions of the North, starting on September 4.