Ravi Bopara's young Essex Eagles looking to take flight in the Royal London One-Day Cup and NatWest T20 Blast in 2017
PUBLISHED: 12:00 16 October 2016
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Paul Walter was handed opportunity in shortest format of the game and is thrilled with the impact he made during memorable past season
It was a case of deja vu for Essex Eagles and Ravi Bopara in the Royal London One-Day Cup and NatWest T20 Blast this season.
Back in 2015 the County Ground club reached the quarter-finals of both competitions, but couldn’t progress any further.
A year later and it was an identical story as Eagles lost by 70 runs to eventual winners Warwickshire in the last eight of the Royal London Cup and Nottinghamshire proved too strong for Essex in the NatWest T20 Blast, winning by 39 runs at Trent Bridge.
But Bopara has given a chance to a number of young players and used his own experience with England and in the IPL to help nurture them.
Wanstead’s Kishen Velani, played in the T20 Blast several times and Paul Walter was handed a first opportunity in the shortest format of the game too and hasn’t looked back.
The Hornchurch all-rounder only officially signed for Essex on June 15 – having made a good impression for the second XI – and was given his debut nine days later against Hampshire.
The tall left-armer made an encouraging start and performed well the next day at Surrey – helping Eagles to back-to-back wins.
But the former Billericay youngster made his first big impression when Kent visited the County Ground for a Friday night T20 fixture and claimed 3-26 from his four-over spell.
Walter said: “It was great to make my debut at home and I had quite a few people in the crowd watching. The best thing about cricket is even if you’re nervous, it just goes once the game starts.
“You know the batsmen are going to come at you because it is T20, but you know the plans in place and just have to trust your ability.”
It has not been the easiest of journeys for Walter to get his first professional deal after working hard to make a name for himself in the Essex League.
A switch to Hornchurch helped develop his game and since getting involved with the Eagles, his talent has shone through even more.
“The improvement I’ve made over the last year has been really good, but I have a long way to go,” added Walter.
“It was not the most conventional way of getting a professional contract, but it was so satisfying to finally get it. I’ve worked really hard to reach this point and I know the hard work starts now.”
Bopara made use of Walter’s talent in the latter stages of the NatWest Blast and the all-rounder will look to make an even bigger impact, like Eagles, in both competitions next year.
The 22-year-old also made his first-class debut for Essex towards the end of the 2016 campaign and believes sky is the limit next season.
“We don’t want to look too far ahead but we would obviously like to win all three competitions next year. That would be great if we could do that,” said Walter.
“Originally I was a batter that could bowl a bit and now I’ve gone full circle. I’m more of a bowler than can bat now.
“But I do take a lot of pride in my batting and hopefully I can move myself up the order next year.”
Walter is extremely grateful to the role his first club Billericay played in his cricket development.
The all-rounder made the brave decision to join Hornchurch ahead of the 2015 season and is delighted it has paid off.
“I pretty much played all of my childhood at Billericay up to the age of around 19 or 20,” said Walter.
“Ever since I could walk I remember playing for Billericay so I do owe a lot to them. I made the decision to move to Hornchurch because I knew they wanted to go up and I thought it could help me.
“In my first season I managed to do really well and we got promoted, which helped me get involved in Essex.”