It was 28 April 2015 when Daniel William Lawrence burst onto the county scene with a spectacular century against Surrey at The Kia Oval. It unsurprisingly stole the headlines in a match that ended in a draw at the beginning of the campaign but set him on his cricketing journey.
That innings of 161 off 206 balls at the tender age of 17 years and 290 days sparked the beginning of his rise which now sees him making his England Test debut against Sri Lanka seven years on.
It saw him become the Club’s youngest first-class centurion and third youngest batsman to score a County Championship ton, behind Kent’s Godfrey Bryan and Worcestershire’s Dipak Patel in 1920 and 1976, respectively.
Lawrence said at the time:
“When I hit the cover drive off (Zafar) Ansari on 96 I knew it was going for four and I could start celebrating,” he said.
“It was a great feeling. I’ve had quite a few messages already, especially from my old school friends.
“It was quite an easy decision for me to leave after just one year of the Sixth Form. I did my AS Levels but, in that last school year, I wasn’t really into my school work and I just wanted to go and play cricket. I went to Australia last winter, which was a great experience, and now I’m getting my chance with Essex.
“At Essex, we have some great players too – like Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara and Jesse Ryder – and they have all been fantastic to me. All the coaches at Essex have been great, and the bowlers like David Masters and Graham Napier have also helped me a lot by telling me how they would look to get me out and things like that.”
Lawrence went on to hit 409 runs in the 2015 season with an average of 37.18. His figures continued to grow year-on-year en route as the team geared up to the 2017 campaign.
By this point, Lawrence had become a pivotal batsman at the top of the order as number 4 and showed a different side to his game in the first game back in Division One with his side up against the wall.
Lancashire were the visitors to Chelmsford and after a second innings declaration of 317-3, thanks to 140* from Alex Davies, they set Essex a target of 477 for a first win in the 2017 campaign.
It was Dan Lawrence who dropped anchor in the Essex innings as wickets fell at regular intervals around him. A 135-run contribution with Tom Westley was the notable partnership of the innings but ultimately his knock of 141, spanning 333 balls and 427 minutes in the middle, clinched a draw from the hands of defeat and again highlighted his grit and determination in red-ball cricket.
Dan reflected on the innings after the match, saying:
“It’s the favourite of my five centuries because I managed to bat all day and get the team out of a hole.
“But I think it is quite important not to celebrate a draw. We had our backs up against the walls, it was a tough first three days, and it took a lot of character today from the boys to fight through and get a draw. Personally, it is very satisfying, but we will look to push on and get a win next week at Taunton.”
Little did Dan know that there would only be three further draws in a season, which saw Essex dominate an unbeaten campaign with six victories and a County Championship trophy.
The batsman was also awarded his County Cap that year during the game against Surrey at The Cloudfm County Ground to mark a spectacular season both for the team and him personally.
Lawrence earned himself an England Lions call up that same week with Head Coach and now England Head Coach, Chris Silverwood saying, “He has gone on to become a key member of our squad and if he continues to work as hard as he has done over the last couple of years he will have a very bright future in the game.”
Averaging 44.76 (second to only Alastair Cook), he was the second-highest run-scorer that season with 761 first-class runs, which included three 50s and three centuries.
Following a second County Championship title with the Club in 2019 and a successful year with the bat in all three formats, it was at the beginning of 2020 when Dan Lawrence made his real claim for a spot in England Test squad.
The Lions’ tour of Australia at the start of a turbulent year saw Dan surpass his highest career score, hitting 190 against a Cricket Australia XI in Hobart.
This was followed up with 125 against Australia ‘A’ in an unofficial Test at the MCG and half-century v a New South Wales XI.
Dan’s form continued into the white-ball format during the tour as he ended with a combined average of 98.60 across the six unbeaten games.
It was only a matter of time before he would get his chance with the full Test side…