Interview: Essex cricketer Ryan ten Doeschate speaks ahead of Somerset fixture
PUBLISHED: 12:15 22 June 2019
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Essex cricketer Ryan ten Doeschate talks about bowler Simon Harmer's success, working to improve his batting and the upcoming game against Somerset.
Exactly two years ago Ryan ten Doeschate tossed Simon Harmer the ball to herald a breakthrough performance of such breathtaking proportions that the Essex captain admitted afterwards he was daring to dream of a first Specsavers County Championship title in quarter of a century.
Harmer took 14 Warwickshire wickets that mid-summer's day - and encored with an identical haul in the day-night match against Middlesex that followed - to fully justify ten Doeschate's optimism, duly realised three months later.
It is an optimism that is bubbling under again in the Chelmsford changing room after three wins in four games, three out of three at home, the most recent this week by an innings against Hampshire in which Harmer again unfurled his magic with match figures of 12 for 61.
Essex take on unbeaten Division One leaders Somerset tomorrow at The Cloudfm County Ground (11am start) in what could be a season-defining match.
Somerset's 30-point advantage over third-placed Essex could be sliced in half or, worst-case scenario, extended to a formidable figure in excess of half-a-century.
ten Doeschate said: "Every game you are looking at the minimum of getting a 'good' draw - and this one is no different. Going into the halfway mark you don't want to be too far off the pace if you want to challenge for the title."
He recognises that his South African off-spinner is key. "For my money, he is without a doubt our most valuable player - and has been since he arrived here three summers ago. If you look at where we've been in corners, or where the game is not really going anywhere and you need someone to get us back in the game, then Harmy's our man.
"It always feels like something could happen. The wickets he takes have been the cornerstone of our success."
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Tendo has a privileged position crouching under the lid at short leg where he can see the whites of the batsmen's eyes and smell the fear as Harmer sidles in.
The batsmen are in two minds: they dare not hit the ball, in case it pops up to a close catcher, and dare not leave it in case it strikes a fatal blow to the pads. It's cricket's version of Catch-22.
"From what I see, these guys try to attack him and that plays into our hands. He creates a lot of pressure by bowling good balls, not just by his stature or reputation. He does the basics really well. He drops the ball in the area that asks questions of the batters, asks them to defend the ball.
"We talk all the time about how we'd play him. Even in the nets he's very hard to get away. Like a good seam bowler, you always feel there's a ball with your number on it."
There have been rather a lot of balls with ten Doeschate's number on them of late, as he readily acknowledges.
He scored an Essex-best 173 against Somerset in the pink-ball run-fest a year ago, but apart from 130 against Surrey at the Oval, he has scored just 88 runs from seven other Championship innings this season.
"No, the scores haven't been great but I feel like my batting is at the highest level it's ever been. I'm working as hard as I've ever worked and I feel like runs are just around the corner."
Ten Doeschate celebrates his 39th birthday next week and is clearly in the twilight of an illustrious career that started in this country 17 summers ago.
However, he added: "The body and mind are still very good. I don't feel like I've aged at all. I feel fresh, I feel hungry, the desire is still there.
"I've said before, the last thing I want to do is hang on. The key factor is what value am I bringing to the team?
"If I'm getting my runs and I'm leading the team well, then I want to keep playing. I feel like I'm keeping pace and still upping my game. I think that is the measure of when to call it a day."