(Photo: Getty Images)
By Jeremy Blackmore
Essex’s South African off-spinner Simon Harmer says an “unbelievable” team effort has helped propel the county from newly-promoted hopefuls to top of Division One.
Essex are serious contenders for their first County Championship title since 1992 following a comprehensive eight-wicket win over rivals Surrey.
Harmer, who joined Essex this season on a Kolpak deal, said: “It’s an unbelievable club. I couldn’t have asked for a better club to be involved with and I’m really enjoying my time here.”
Harmer extracted plenty of pace and bounce from a wearing surface, picking up four vital wickets, including Surrey dangerman Kumar Sangakkara to a turning delivery. He created a stranglehold on Surrey’s batsmen in partnership with paceman Jamie Porter, who remained a constant threat the other end.
The pair helped restrict Surrey’s scoring rate to just over three an over, after the first two days had seen both sides post scores of 399 and 435.
“If you look, it’s always different people putting up their hands,” said Harmer. “We haven’t relied on one player. Jamie Porter has bowled exceptionally well and he’s cracked open a few games for us. We’ve been patient, done the right disciplines, been able to control where we bowl.”
Indeed, this was a determined, disciplined performance in an attritional game, befitting the status of both sides as title challengers. As well as plenty of attack from the Essex bowlers, there were some fine innings from the batters, Tom Westley and Nick Browne combining in a 95-run stand on the final day to take Essex to the brink of victory.
Harmer also paid credit to the influence of former England Test captain Alastair Cook, who had modest returns of two 31s in this match, but has scored prolifically for Essex in all formats.
“The players draw from him a lot. He brings a calmness into the dressing room and a lot of belief. He’s an unbelievable guy, so it’s nice to shoot the breeze with him standing in the slips, or sitting in the changing room.”