T20 Blast 2022 team guide: Essex Eagles


The Cricketer takes a look at the Eagles setup ahead of the new season, going in-depth on batting strength, bowling variation, key players, and problem areas

Coach: Anthony McGrath

Encouragingly for Brendon McCullum, the former Yorkshire allrounder has found the job of succeeding Chris Silverwood more than achievable. Indeed, under McGrath Essex have become a contender for silverware regardless of format and they often get their way.

They went all the way to Finals Day in 2019, beating Worcestershire Rapids. His abilities are starting to lead to alluring glances from elsewhere – he was among the candidates to take over at Yorkshire before Ottis Gibson’s appointment and worked with England again over the winter. With the LV= Insurance County Championship Division One title race more competitive than ever this might be the clearest route to silverware.

Captain: Simon Harmer

The South Africa spinner has led the Eagles since 2018, leading them to their only title during the double-winning campaign in 2019 – a year after which he was named one of Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Year. But the other three seasons have been poor, losing 22 out of the remaining 38.

While Harmer doesn’t have things completely his own way with the ball, he has still managed 61 scalps in 59 innings and is five away from eclipsing the club’s leading wicket-taker in the format (Tim Phillips has 65). Even if his retention means filling one of two overseas slots, it is hard to imagine Essex without him.


Simon Harmer captains Essex in 2022 [Getty Images]

Overseas stars

Daniel Sams

A history of left-arm seamers – think Tymal Mills and Mohammad Amir – continues with the addition of the Australia quick for his first spell in county cricket. Sams has played seven T20Is for his country and more than a year on from his last appearance but is staking a real claim to be involved in the next World Cup on home soil later in the year.

He’s been among the few positives for Mumbai Indians in the IPL, matching Jasprit Bumrah stride for stride with a dozen wickets each, and sits 13th in the all-time list for Big Bash wickets. His left-arm angle and deceptive slower balls will make him a menacing presence in the Essex attack.

English stars

Sam Cook

The 24-year-old is rapidly emerging as the leader of the Essex attack. He claimed 78 wickets across the formats for Essex in 2021, 20 of which came in the Blast. His new ball prowess helped him pick up a late Hundred contract with Trent Rockets, for whom he claimed four wickets in as many games, and belatedly saw him feature on England’s radar and travel with the Lions to Australia.

Cook has never been the quickest, but he has expanded his range of skills – namely the development of his swing and wobble seam deliveries – to go from a solid quick to a potent powerplay wicket-taker.

Adam Rossington

On loan for the season from Northamptonshire, after losing the captaincy. A reliable keeper and a welcome addition to the batting line-up in the Championship, Rossington is an altogether different animal against the white-ball. He struck 1,406 runs for Northants in 65 innings, at a strike-rate of 142.45 and guided them to glory in 2016. Last summer saw him struck another 140 in The Hundred for London Spirit.

Rossington’s arrival fills a berth at the top of the order, void since Cameron Delport’s days at the club, and gives McGrath an extra option with the gloves alongside Adam Wheater, whose retirement has been confirmed for the end of the season. He went past half a century of dismissals and 10 fifties in the format in last season’s Blast.

Dan Lawrence

Essex can expect to start the Blast with the Whipps Cross allrounder, whose reputation goes before him even at the age of just 24, after being overlooked initially by England. Lawrence has been there through every step of Essex’s success across the formats but experience in the BBL and for England means he has gone from a talent to a genuine asset.

Flamboyant, cool and yet destructive with the bat (strike rate 140.12) Lawrence will also be key with the ball as a partnership breaker and middle-overs disrupter. Ignore the pirouette at the crease, he is a canny tweaker and an economy rate sitting below eight runs an over proves he cannot be totally dismissed.


Dan Lawrence is a fixture in the Eagles’ team [Getty Images]


Power hitters

Only red-ball skipper Tom Westley has more Blast boundaries for Essex than Lawrence, with 261 fours and 47 sixes (a figure the allrounder has already eclipsed in 20 fewer innings). Lawrence struck three half-centuries last season and in the 2019 title charge hit another four, with his strike rate climbing into the 150s.

Rossington, however, trumps them all with 272 boundaries in the 20-over format. The former Middlesex man is not one for expansive movement at the crease or a great deal of flair, but instead trusts his eye and timing and is a muscular hitter of the ball.


Will Buttleman made all nine of his senior T20 appearances last season, scoring 158 runs at 19.75 but it his strike rate of a rather sedate 119.69 that makes him so well suited for this role, with a low risk approach meaning he can turn the explosive hitting to his other accomplished teammates. Indeed, Essex have no shortage of players capable of taking the heat out of a batting display.

Paul Walter scored at 115.38 last season (though his career strike rate is considerably higher) while Westley can easily perform whatever role is required of him in the lower order.


Essex’s flood of allrounders allows them to bat deep and gives them plenty of options to finish off the innings. Without Ryan ten Doeschate or Jimmy Neesham, the onus to find late runs will likely sit upon the shoulders of Harmer, whose successive fours off Wayne Parnell in the final over to win the Blast title three years ago will live long in the memory.

Harmer rolled back the years last season with a boundary four off the final ball to best Middlesex at Lord’s. He’ll have help from new arrival Matt Critchley, who hit a career-best 80 against Leicestershire last term, though he is more of a reliable figure who can polish off an innings rather than an explosive finisher in the Carlos Brathwaite or MS Dhoni mould.

Problem areas

This feels like a very safe, almost underpowered line-up. Michael Pepper was Essex’s chief six-hitter last season, sitting joint-28th in the standings. While the Eagles were never skittled out for a low score, they never breached 187. Batting first, they averaged 142 which isn’t going to frighten too many chasing teams.

That lack of fireworks goes all the way down, meaning catching up late in the innings isn’t particularly possible either. A lot is dependent on the top three to get ahead of the game. One area of encouragement is the production line, which should hopefully see more opportunities for Josh Rymell and Feroze Khushi.


Paul Walter offers something with bat and ball [Getty Images]


Speed merchants

Paul Walter: Previously part of the ECB’s winter pace programme, the 6ft 7ins left-armer can be a difference-maker in an otherwise moderate-looking attack. Coming through the Essex county system with Billericay and Hornchurch CC, his reputation was largely as a batter after hitting six sixes in an over. But now he is an intimidating quick, who aside from the angle he creates can cramp batters for room with his height and the bounce he generates. Played all but three games as Essex won the title in 2019 but was underused last season. Form this season has come with the bat, which leaves Essex with a decision to make given the volume of spinners at their disposal.

Jack Plom: The 1999 World Cup was a forgettable occasion, particularly for those of us that had to actually witness it. Mercilessly for Plom, he wasn’t even born during England’s rain-filled catastrophe on home soil but there is every chance he might be part of a future world title tilt.

A right-armer who has settled very quickly into senior cricket. He had to wait two years after his first-class debut aged 19 to return to the senior ranks, and last term made eight Blast appearances and five more in the One-Day Cup. He claimed 15 wickets across the competitions with Lewis Gregory, Joe Denly and Tom Banton among his victims in the 20-over game. Plom took some punishment in the victory over Somerset at Taunton, going for 33 in a single over, but those experiences will be vital going forward. There is real excitement around Chelmsford.


Critchley adds a leg-spin option, which delivered a dozen wickets last season and an economy rate of 6.76, giving Essex another string to their bow alongside Harmer. How that impacts on the involvement of Aron Nijjar remains to be seen, who made 13 of his 25 T20 appearances last season, keeping things tight and claiming 13 scalps.

Another survivor from their Edgbaston success, he replaced Australian Adam Zampa for Finals Day following just a single senior outing in the format and finished with combined figures across the semi-final and final of 3 for 57. Throw Lawrence into the mix and McGrath has one of the best spin attacks in the country to call on.

Line and length

Cook leads the way it’s hard to get excited about the other options at Harmer’s disposal. Jamie Porter is a bit quicker and shouldn’t be ignored but 25 T20s (not to mention an economy rate above nine runs an over) in five years shows where his priorities lie. Shane Snater is perhaps next in the pecking order but he is neither a wicket-taker nor particularly reliable.

Problem areas

It is important that Sams builds on his IPL form and takes into the start of the Blast. While the spin battery is well-stocked, the seam attack doesn’t possess quite the same depth of quality or variation. Another good campaign is needed from Cook, Walter’s workload will need to increase and Plom’s progress must continue. There are more question marks than Essex would ideally like.


Who takes the gloves?

It is a straight fight between the incumbent Adam Wheater and newcomer Rossington, both of whom are likely starters. Both are formidable behind the stumps – though neither are remotely close to James Foster’ 114 dismissals in 160 innings. Michael Pepper is the back-up.

Fixtures: May 27 – Kent Spitfires (a, 7pm), May 29 – Somerset (a, 4pm), May 31 – Hampshire Hawks (h, 7pm), June 2 – Glamorgan (a, 6:30pm), June 3 – Gloucestershire (a, 6:30pm), June 7 – Kent Spitfires (h, 7pm), June 9: Hampshire Hawks (a, 7pm), June 10: Middlesex (h, 7pm), June 17 – Sussex Sharks (h, 7pm), June 19 – Somerset (h, 2:30pm), June 23 – Middlesex (a, 6:15pm), June 24 – Surrey (h, 7pm), July 1 – Sussex Sharks (a, 7pm), July 2 – Glamorgan (h, 6:30pm)

Squad: Ben Allison, Aaron Beard, William Buttleman, Sam Cook, Matt Critchley, Robin Das, Simon Harmer, Feroze Khushi, Dan Lawrence, Michael Pepper, Jack Plom, Jamie Porter, Adam Rossington, Josh Rymell, Daniel Sams, Shane Snater, Paul Walter, Tom Westley, Adam Wheater

Possible XI: Adam Rossington, Adam Wheater, Will Buttleman, Dan Lawrence, Tom Westley, Matt Critchley, Michael Pepper, Simon Harmer, Aron Nijjar, Daniel Sams, Sam Cook

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