Browne refreshed and ready for Guildford challenge


Nick Browne has had plenty of time to contemplate whether he has turned the corner in a frustrating season. Much of that contemplation took place on a beach in Malaga as the Essex players were given a week off ahead of a busy schedule.

The left-handed opener was able to raise his bat for the first time this season after digging in for a gritty fifty in his last innings, against Surrey last week. It was only the second time in eight Specsavers County Championship innings he had scored more than his first-class career average, which hovers in the mid-forties.

Essex resume today after an 11-day break in the fixtures with the second of back-to-back games against Surrey, with 26-year-old Browne admitting: “It was nice to get away from cricket for a bit.

“I suppose you want to keep playing when you’ve got some runs, but for me at the moment it was quite nice to just get away from it and start again. I’ll take the confidence of that last innings into this one. I’ve hit plenty of balls in the last couple of days, so I feel ready to go.”

Browne has put 198 runs on the board in the four-day game, only once failing to make it to double-figures, but rarely moving beyond the teens. His painstaking 52 in the draw against Surrey took 152 balls and spanned nearly three hours.

He admits: “I haven’t scored the runs this year that I wanted to. I actually thought I felt OK, but I’m disappointed I haven’t got the results to show for it.

“I’ve been getting twenties and thirties and doing my job as an opener and seeing off the new-ball, but then not really kicking on, getting out to the first-change bowlers more often than not. I genuinely thought the Surrey one was going to be the breakthrough innings and I’d score a big one.

“I had a good pre-season, scored quite a few runs out in Dubai and then got a hundred against Durham [MCCU]. I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m on here’, I felt good. I’m not sure what happened afterwards; it’s not quite gone my way.

“Every time I’ve made a mistake I’ve got out. I keep picking out fielders; when you’re in-form it bypasses them. Then there are the lbw decisions that don’t go your way. It’s about luck: if you get dropped and end up getting a hundred no one talks about the dropped catch. That’s cricket, isn’t it? Hopefully a big score is just around the corner.”

For quarter-of-an-hour under ten hours, Browne chased balls from Kumar Sangakkara’s bat around Chelmsford as the Sri Lankan finished with a combined 284 runs from two innings, but 16 short of a record sixth consecutive Championship century. At Guildford this weekend he will be looking for his one hundred hundred in all cricket, as well as the 124 runs to take him past one thousand runs in the competition this season.

Browne could only look and admire. “I didn’t realise how consistent he was, and the amount of shots he’s got. He can play every shot in the book with ease, and has three or four shots to every ball. It was lovely to watch him bat like that. What a player; sheer class.

“It would be nice to get him out early this time! Hopefully we can take our chances if one goes to hand. I thought we bowled quite well to him. Without Sangakkara I think we would have steamrolled them. Hopefully we can keep him down below his average this time.” That average currently stands at 109.50.