Westley: Opening is not too dissimilar to batting at three


Simon Harmer and Anthony McGrath made a change to their batting line-up for last week’s Vitality Blast fixtures against Hampshire and Gloucestershire, and promoted Tom Westley to the top of the order.

It’s the first time that the 30-year-old has opened the batting for the Eagles in T20 cricket and the shift has given the side a boost right when their campaign needed it.

The Eagles had won one of their first four matches before Westley was moved up the order from the number three position he has made very much his own across all formats. It did not have an immediate effect on the team’s fortunes, though, as despite his sterling 44 against Hampshire at The Cloudfm County Ground last Thursday, which included an 81-run, second-wicket stand with Adam Wheater, the Eagles slipped to defeat.

However, on the road the following night, Westley’s unbeaten 86 laid the foundations for a morale-boosting victory over Gloucestershire that has ignited hopes of landing one of the four qualifying places for the knockout rounds as the group stage approaches its halfway point.

Westley said: “Opening is not too dissimilar to batting at three, you can be in from the second ball anyway in T20 cricket, so it’s not a huge change for me, but it’s one that I’m enjoying.

“It probably gives you a little more licence to be aggressive. Having 10 wickets in the hutch means you can go for it a bit more, especially opening with someone like Cam Delport who gives it a serious whack. We’ve actually had two good power plays in the last two games, so hopefully this is something we can continue and set the boys up.”

The suggestion that Westley should open came from the management, with him saying: “Harmy and Mags felt a change was needed, and it paid off down in Bristol. In fact, we were going quite nicely against Hampshire until that drastic batting collapse. But down in Bristol, myself and Delport got fifties and Dan Lawrence, going up a place in the order, got a magnificent fifty as well.

“I haven’t opened in T20 cricket before, but I have in 50-over cricket, and when it was 40 overs before that, and I’ve opened in first-class cricket as well, so it’s nothing new. I like going in when the power play’s going on anyway as it gives me the chance to try and hit a few boundaries.”

The addition of the power-hitting of South African Delport to the batting line-up has enabled the Eagles to play the brand of attacking cricket required in the short format, with Westley commenting: “That hundred he got against Surrey was one of the best white-ball knocks you will see. He takes a lot of pressure off the non-striker because he gets fours and sixes galore.

“T20 cricket has changed massively in the last three or four years. There is not much scope now to try and knock it around at a strike-rate of around 110-120. If you’ve got the honour of batting in the top six then you’ve got to be striking at 130-plus, so Cammie obviously sets the tone and hopefully the rest of us can follow suit.”

Next up at The Cloudfm County Ground in the Vitality Blast are Somerset, who along with Essex, lead the way in the County Championship.

Westley added: “It’s a completely different format, different teams, different make-ups, but I suppose just beating them will be a slight psychological advantage for us going back into the Championship campaign. But we’re very much into taking one game at a time. It would be brilliant to beat Somerset on Wednesday, that’s our first challenge, then we’ll take care of all the four-day stuff later on.”

As for his own form this season, Westley says: “I’m scoring consistently, it’s just been a bit frustrating in the sense I’ve got a lot of starts, so many 30-plus scores, maybe seven or eight fifties across all the formats, but still haven’t managed to get a big hundred yet. But, more importantly, I feel I’m offering valuable runs to the team.”

The 30-year-old committed himself to another three years at Chelmsford last month, said: “It was a no-brainer, because I think we’re in the middle of what could be a very successful era for the club.”