Cricket: Essex hoping for double celebration
PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 September 2019
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Simon Harmer promised that Essex Eagles would temper their Vitality Blast celebrations ahead of what could be the biggest week in their 143-year history as they attempt to add the 2019 Specsavers County Championship to their collection.
The Eagles edged out holders Worcestershire Rapids in a last-ball thriller at Edgbaston on Saturday to win the T20 title for the first time with captain Harmer taking them over the line with 18 off seven balls to add to his seven wickets for 35 runs across the two games on Finals Day.
But while previous Blast winners have enjoyed legendary nights at Birmingham's infamous Walkabout bar, Essex knew they could not afford to allow hangovers to impair their judgment at the business end of the season.
Simply, if they avoid defeat against Somerset at Taunton over the next four days, starting today, Essex will be crowned county champions for the second time in three years.
"I definitely think we'll be allowed to celebrate tonight," Harmer said in the immediate aftermath on Saturday.
"It isn't often that moments like this come around and I think you need to enjoy them.
"I think we can pay for the consequences on Sunday. I don't think we will go nuclear but we will enjoy the night."
Head coach Anthony McGrath added: "The guys these days are super professionals - it is not like days gone by! Of course, you have to enjoy these occasions - friends and family were all at Edgbaston - but we know we have a massive four days coming up.
"It is about turning up and making sure we are mentally prepared for that first delivery."
Essex arrived at their fifth Finals Day having snuck through the group stage with a late run of three wins and a tie from their last four matches.
But Cameron Delport's fifty put them on their way to beating Derbyshire Falcons in the semi-final, before Harmer's four-wicket haul, and 3-26 from T20 rookie Aron Nijjar, handed them a comfortable 34-run victory.
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In the final, Essex restricted Worcestershire to 145 before a stuttering innings left the Eagles requiring 23 from the last two overs - which Harmer and Ravi Bopara navigated with nothing to spare to set off rapturous scenes.
Harmer had led by example as he produced record Finals Day bowling figures, now the off-spinner is expecting more work at the Cooper Associates County Ground with a spin-friendly pitch expected to have been prepared to assist Somerset to the win they need.
But Harmer has warned their rivals that they are also ready for turning wickets.
The South African said: "I am pretty sure that with the way the weather is forecast that they need a result wicket, so I can guarantee that it will turn and they will try to win it in two days.
"But we hold all the cards. We have played extremely well after losing the first game of the season. We are unbeaten at home where the wicket does turn. We've found a formula which works for us and hopefully we can take that to Taunton.
"If the weather plays a part then so be it. But personally I would like it to be four days with no weather and we can beat them and be rightfully named four-day champions."
Essex went unbeaten in 2017 when they lifted the Championship for the first time in 25 years, but Harmer admits they have been kept more honest this time around.
"There were still two games to play after we had confirmed the title in 2017," Harmer added.
"We have had to work harder this time; Somerset have played some extremely good cricket this season. They have possibly stumbled at the wrong time by losing to Hampshire last week and letting us go ahead of them. We've had to play to win and that has helped us."
No team have won both the Blast and Championship in the same season, and McGrath is eyeing an historic double.
"Every county sets out at the beginning of the year to win a trophy," he said. "You try and win every match and put yourself in contention and that is what we spoke about going into Finals Day.
"We are going into the last week of the season with the possibility of winning two trophies. We have done the first bit, but this week is going to be tough as we know what Somerset are going to be like down there.
"All we have to do is be us. It is no bigger a game than the other ones. We will go there and stick to our method and if we are good enough in the four days then we will have another trophy. If not, it will be congratulations to Somerset."