Opener Browne reveals Essex are gunning for Surrey
PUBLISHED: 09:00 11 April 2019
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After losing their opener at Hampshire, the 2017 champions will look to get off the mark at the Oval this week
It would take more than one crushing defeat to wipe the ever-present smile from Nick Browne’s face.
Besides, he believes Essex will bounce back immediately and open their season’s account against Surrey, the reigning champions.
“We’ll win down there this week,” said the left-handed opener ahead of today’s Specsavers County Championship match at the Oval, his smile both beguiling and convincing.
“I’ve always felt like we’ve done well against Surrey; we’ve always competed or beaten them. I think everyone is pretty confident going into the game.”
There was little evidence to support Browne’s assertion in the first game of the season last week when the deposed champions lost by an innings and plenty against Hampshire at Southampton. Essex, Browne admits, were completely outplayed.
“We just got out of the blocks slowly,” he said. “I think we got done a little bit by the wicket. Two days under cover, we thought it was going to nip around a fair bit.
“Fair play to their groundsman: he produced an absolute belter. We stuck them in, they played well and it was difficult to come back from that. Their bowlers were brilliant. [Kyle] Abbott was really good, Fidel [Edwards] also.”
Browne fell in the first innings to arguably the ball of the match to give Edwards the first in a five-wicket haul.
“He swung it a fair bit and bowled a few of the lads with yorkers with that awkward action that he’s got.
“Sometimes you’ve got to put your hands up and say our skills weren’t quite there last week, and it’s got to be better this week.
“You’ve got to learn from it and move on, dust ourselves off, without wishing to sound too cliché. It’s obviously a massive game against Surrey. [Peter] Siddle coming back will make a great difference to our bowling attack.
“When we won the title in 2017 we started in very similar style against Lancashire and we managed to scrape a draw. It’s still early days.”
Browne had a particularly disappointing match at the Ageas Bowl, scoring one and seven, following on from a downbeat 2018 when his only three-figure return came in the pre-season match against Cambridge MCCU.
He was within two runs of repeating that at Fenner’s last month and said: “I feel like I’m hitting the ball nicely.
“I feel I got a decent-ish ball in the first innings [against Hampshire], and just got outside the line in the second.
“But that’s opening the batting, to be honest. We just didn’t get through the new-ball. I’ve just got to make sure that when I’m in I do kick on and score a big one. But I genuinely feel pretty happy with my batting at the moment.”
Browne is without a Championship century in two and a half months short of two years. But the 28-year-old will take guard at the Oval requiring 65 runs to reach 5,000 in first-class cricket since he made his debut in 2013.
He averages just over 40, and has 14 tons in that aggregate, so the milestone shouldn’t be too long in coming.
“I didn’t realise I was that far along,” he said. “To be honest, if you’d told me when I started my career that I could play one or two games, I would have snapped your hand off.
“But now I’m a little further down the line, five thousand runs would be a good achievement for me. My target for my career is to finish with 50 first-class hundreds and win trophies for Essex.”
Back to the more immediate past, Essex pulled off a memorable victory at the Oval in the last game of last year to prevent Surrey going through the season unbeaten.
The tables had been reversed three weeks earlier when the champions-elect won comfortably at Chelmsford.
The timing of the fixtures disappointed Browne, he said: “The season had gone by the time we played them.
“They’d already beaten everyone else and we didn’t really have the chance to put them under pressure earlier. It’ll be different this year.”