Essex CCC was formed in 1876 as a result of a meeting held at the Shire Hall, Chelmsford on 14th January of that year.
A ground was acquired at Brentwood and a number of matches were played, some against First-Class opposition. However, it was not until 1894 that Essex were accorded official First-Class status and they competed in the County Championship for the first time in 1895.
In 1886, the Club moved from Brentwood to Leyton and this remained the headquarters until the 1933 season. During this impecunious time, Essex developed a policy of taking cricket around the County, venturing to Clacton, Southend, Chelmsford, Colchester, Westcliff and Romford as well as continuing to play at Brentwood and Leyton. Because of pressure on the Club’s finances and a need to serve the rapidly expanding centres away from London, the Club had to sell the Leyton ground in 1933 – offices were set up in Chelmsford and Ilford was added to the festival weeks.
The Dominant Years
In 1979 the Club won its first honours – the Benson & Hedges Cup and the County Championship. These successes heralded relative prosperity and further success for the Club, making it a cricket force to be reckoned with in the eighties, nineties, and beyond.
Keith Fletcher built a team in the late 1970s that dominated domestic cricket from 1979 to 1992, when Essex won six of thirteen County Championship titles. Two cricketers wrote their names into club history and earned legendary status. Both were integral in the side of 1979 that lifted the County Championship title just a few weeks after they had won the Benson & Hedges Cup to secure their first piece of silverware in the club’s history. East had a memorable career during which he took nearly 1300 and scored more than 8,300 runs ensured he was an influential force in four more title achievements for the County until he retired.
Limited Overs success in mid 2000s
Essex found a winning formula in limited overs cricket in the mid-2000s with the signings of David Masters, Chris Wright and Jason Gallian. They lifted the Totesport League trophy in fine style in 2005 and followed that up by retaining the crown in 2006. Essex continued their impressive Limited Overs form in 2008 with the Friends Provident Trophy and NatWest Pro40 Division Two titles.
In the Friends Provident Trophy Essex were runners up to Kent in the group stage, but comfortably qualified for the quarter-finals. Essex inflicted a crushing defeat on Leicestershire in the quarter final with a margin of 118 runs. Ravi Bopara scored a memorable 201 not out off just 138 balls to lead Essex into the semi-finals much to the delight of the Essex fans. The Eagles then beat Yorkshire at Chelmsford before winning the Battle of the Bridge contest at Lord’s against Kent in front of 30,000 people.
Essex clinched the Pro40 Division Two title and sealed the Limited Overs double in 2008 with a victory against arch rivals Kent again. Needing a win away, the Essex fans turned out in force at Canterbury cheering The Eagles onto the victory target of 247. Mark Pettini was given out first ball of the innings before an unbeaten 68 from Grant Flower and fifties from Jason Gallian and Ravi Bopara helped Essex pick up the Pro40 Division 2 title.
Although Essex did not win the Twenty20 tournament in 2008, making the finals at The Rose Bowl with a young team was a success. The tournament also saw the emergence of club legend Graham Napier as a big-hitting batsman (hitting a world record 16 sixes in his 152 not out off just 58 balls against Sussex at Chelmsford).
One point promotion in 2009
Essex secured top flight cricket for the first time since 2003, beating Northamptonshire to promotion by a single point. Ryan ten Doeschate smashed a stunning 108 off just 59 balls as Essex snatched a shock five-wicket win at Derby to earn promotion back to Division One. Dutch international ten Doeschate hit eight sixes in an unbroken stand of 156 with Mark Pettini (85) as Essex won the match with five overs to spare.
All-rounder ten Doeschate spoke following promotion and said: “The belief in the camp is very strong and it was a must- win game, so there wasn’t really any other choice. Whatever Derby had set us we would have given it our best try.”
Although Essex would only stay in Division One for a season, some of the younger players gained valuable experience of the highest level in the game which would only stand the club in good stead going forward.
Coaching changes bring Championship success
Three consecutive third place finishes in the County Championship, plus two years of Quarter-Final appearances in both Limited Over competitions, saw Paul Grayson leave his position as Head Coach towards the end of the 2015 season. In December, Chris Silverwood was announced as his replacement and the County embarked on a fresh start. A considerable focus on youth ensued with players such as Jamie Porter, Dan Lawrence and Tom Westley forming the backbone of the side for 2016. Chris Silverwood was looking to claim the one promotion slot on offer in his first season in charge.. He did it and Essex were crowned Specsavers County Championship Division Two Champions.
Graham Napier and David Masters embarked on their final seasons in professional cricket looking to claim silverware and go out on a high. Napier went on to have his most successful season ever being the leader in all three formats, including 63 wickets in his final County Championship season. Jamie Porter backed up 50 wickets in a Championship season again, claiming 55 wickets to continue to show maturity beyond his years. Tom Westley and Nick Browne both scored 1000 runs again whilst captain Ryan ten Doeschate was to prove to be the leader Silverwood expected and score over 1100 runs with the bat in Championship cricket.
Essex clinched the title after the second day against Glamorgan at Chelmsford attaining the 5 bonus points required to be promoted. Although Chris Silverwood’s team went on to lose the game, they claimed a draw against rivals Kent and lifted the trophy in front of jubilant fans at Canterbury.
Championship promotion was the number one aim at the start of the year but The Eagles also had some success in the shorter forms of the game. Essex reached the quarter-finals of both the NatWest T20 Blast and Royal London One-Day Cup before being knocked out by Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire respectively.
With the return of Essex academy players’ Adam Wheater and Varun Chopra who have proven Division One credentials, and the influx of some exciting signings over the winter, Essex will look to maintain their position in Specsavers County Championship Division One in 2017.
Essex Eagles Twenty20 – Through the Years