Cricket: Browne relieved to get big Essex hundred
PUBLISHED: 08:00 06 July 2019
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The celebratory fist pump Nick Browne performed on reaching his hundred at Trent Bridge spoke volumes as two long years of pent-up frustration were finally released.
Essex opener Browne had waited since mid-summer 2017, and his 221 in the pink-ball game against Middlesex, before passing three-figures for the 15th time in his first-class career.
"It's been a long time coming," the 28-year-old left-hander admitted after his 163 against Nottinghamshire ended the drought.
"It's been frustrating not being able to kick on and get that big score. I wouldn't say it played on my mind, but I think it's always going to be there if you haven't scored the runs you wanted to score.
"I've been hitting the ball nicely the last month or so. I always thought only time would tell, to be honest. I felt I was going to make someone pay at some stage. But I kept finding ways to get out after getting starts. I finally got there - and it felt brilliant."
Last season his form was restricted by a debilitating hand injury suffered in the nets, and this year the Chelmsford wicket has not been conducive to excessive run-scoring.
The ball has kept low and Essex have only once compiled more than 241 in the first innings, despite winning all four Specsavers County Championship matches at home.
Browne, too, had struggled in the first half of this summer, scoring 252 runs at an average of just under 23, before his seven-and-a-half-hour marathon at Notts took him to 415 at 34.58. Not that averages hold much sway in the Essex changing room.
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"Because the wickets at Chelmsford have been hard to bat on, I think it's quite easy to get into 'Oh, he's getting low scores, he's only averaging whatever'. It's all relative to the wickets that we've been playing on.
"For us, it is all about outscoring the opposition and trying to get a lead on first innings. It's about contributing and getting something on the board for our bowlers to bowl at.
"Yes, Trent Bridge was a much better wicket and I was able to play my game. As a batter I'd like to play on that every week. But we're getting results at Chelmsford - and that's all that matters really, isn't it? We're winning games on those types of wickets, so I wouldn't want to change it."
There has been a discernible change in approach from the usually obdurate Browne in recent weeks and he adds: "The last few games at Chelmsford I decided that if it pitches up, I've got to hit it because there could be a good ball around the corner.
"In the Somerset game [when he scored identical 29s in each innings} I was trying to get runs before they got me."
The four-day match at The Cloudfm County Ground against Yorkshire, starting tomorrow (11am), marks the fifth anniversary of Browne's maiden first-class hundred. However, while there was a two-year hiatus between centuries 14 and 15, there was only a day separating his first and second back in 2014 against Derbyshire at Chesterfield.
"Was that really five years ago?" he asks. "I think I've improved since then. I'm definitely more confident, definitely have more shots. I think I was a very limited player when I first started. Hopefully I can keep improving. And keep scoring hundreds. And winning games."
Essex sit second in the Championship, 15 points behind Somerset, going into back-to-back home games against third-placed Yorkshire and Warwickshire before the T20 break.
Browne said: "We're winning games at Chelmsford - there will be results there, we're not worried about that - but if we can get wins away from home I can't see why we can't give Somerset a run for their money.
"We've got to hang on to their coat-tails until they slip up. I can't see why we can't push them right to the end. We had to stop their momentum and knock their confidence the other week at Chelmsford. Hopefully they'll slip up again and we can take advantage."