Porter hoping to bloom for Essex in season finale
PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 September 2019
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If it's September in the Specsavers County Championship garden it must be time for that hardy perennial Jamie Porter to produce a late-summer flourish.
Porter is a late bloomer in more ways than one: he was 21, after all, when he made his Essex debut five years ago this week.
And the final knockings of the season have usually found him in outstanding wicket-taking form.
Two years ago Porter struck 18 times in the last three games as Essex celebrated winning the Championship for the first time in quarter of a century; last year the maturing seamer claimed 23 victims in the same time-frame, including career-best figures of 7-41.
Today, the 26-year-old returns to Edgbaston, where Essex sealed that title success in 2017 and provided lasting memories.
But that, Porter says, is in the past; the present is a new challenge.
He has 39 Championship wickets to his name this season (44 in all first-class matches) as he looks to pass the milestone 50 mark for the fifth year in succession.
"One thing I've learnt over the years is not to panic," said Porter as the magical figure looms.
"As long as you know you're bowling well, and you're doing the right things, then the rewards will come.
"Last year the wickets came in great clumps at the end of the season. I'm just hoping I can finish this season the same as I did then, and if I do I think it will play a big part in helping us win the title."
With three games to go, Essex lead Somerset at the top of Division One by two points.
Porter knows the permutations required to lift the trophy; they're quite simple really.
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"I think the only way we can win it is if we go three from three. If we win our next two that will put a lot of pressure on Somerset because they've got two tough games [against third-placed Yorkshire followed by Hampshire away]. As do we.
"We've got Warwickshire away, which won't be easy, then Surrey at Chelmsford. They won the title last year and beat us at home; they're a seriously tough side.
"But if we can win those two, I'm hoping it will give us a bit of breathing space going into the last one at Taunton [against Somerset]."
With 320 first-class wickets, Porter is now an experienced member of a dominant Essex red-ball attack, adding: "It's been a crazy five years. It all happened quite quick.
"All I'm looking to do at the moment is keep getting better, keep improving, and hopefully I'll win some more titles for the club in the years to come."
He would also like to win some international recognition. He has seven caps for the England Lions, for whom he has taken 19 wickets, and was called up for three senior squads last summer without progressing into the XI.
"Obviously I want to get picked," he added. "I want it more than anything. But if I'm being honest I probably feel further away from playing for England than I felt a year ago.
"At the moment my focus is trying to win the title for Essex, keep taking wickets and hopefully if I keep doing what I've done for the last four or five years then my chance will come."
Essex could almost take up residency in Birmingham this month as they are due back at Edgbaston on Saturday week for Finals Day in the Vitality T20 Blast, where they are paired with Derbyshire Falcons in the afternoon semi-final.
Porter described the scenes surrounding their quarter-final win against Lancashire last week as "pretty mental" after picking up eight wickets in the three games he played at the climax of the Eagles' campaign.
"Obviously getting injured at the start of the competition wasn't ideal," he said.
"I pinched a disc in my back on day three of the Lions game [against an Australia XI in July], which was rather painful and took me a bit longer than I'd hoped to come back from.
"But thankfully when I got my opportunity I was able to contribute. I'm fighting fit now and ready for the high point of the season."