Pacy Porter primed to thrive in the top flight
Fast bowler Jamie Porter played a big role in helping Essex gain promotion back to Division One of the County Championship last season.
The Leytonstone-born seamer, 23, has come a long way in a short space of time.
Having played for Middlesex under-17s and under-19s, he had almost given up hope of making it as a professional and was considering a career in recruitment.
But he had another crack at it with Essex and impressed with their 2nd XI before making his first-team debut late on in the 2014 season.
Porter took 50-plus wickets in 2015, and again in 2016 as Essex topped Division Two and returned to the top flight.
He sat down with Elephant Sport to talk about his career to date.
Essex won promotion from Division Two last year – what was it like to play a huge part in that?
Yeah, it was great! In previous years, the main focus was on white-ball cricket as we have always been a strong one day side.
But with the gap now between Division one and Two, and only one team getting promoted, we shifted our priorities to winning the Championship. So it was nice after really focusing on it for the first season to then go and win it. It was really special.
Is it your most satisfying moment to date?
It’s up there, no doubt. But I think the real satisfying moment for me was signing for Essex in the 2013 season, and then I got capped towards the end of the 2014 season.
I started to realise how quickly things can change. Not only to receive my cap but to get it at the age of 22 and being one of the youngest players in the squad was really great for me.
You mention things have happened so quickly in such a short space of time; you must have worked extremely hard for that to happen….
The first season was real hard work. I signed but I had a winter where I hadn’t really trained, I was so out of nick. I didn’t even play a game for the first month!
I just had to focus on getting myself fit. I spent a lot of time with the physio trying to get back in shape to play. When I was fit enough to play, I started taking wickets and never looked back really.
You talked about there being more of a focus on red-ball cricket last year; was there a definitive moment where you thought to yourself ”Yeah, we are gonna win this’?
It was amazing, actually. It was the first time ever I’d been in a dressing room where the belief we could win it was there from game one.
We beat Gloucester in the first game of the season and we had a big night out afterwards. We didn’t need many runs to win; Cooky [Alastair Cook] and Browny [Nick Browne] knocked them off pretty quickly, we had a few beers in the dressing room and then headed into town.
We were in O’Connor’s pub at about 11pm jumping on the tables and chairs singing ‘Were gonna win the league!’ But the real big moment was beating Kent, it was a two-horse race towards the end, so beating them was absolutely crucial.
On a personal level, you took 55 wickets for the year; out of 10, what mark would you give yourself?
Probably a seven. I thought it was a good season. I started well, I was leading wicket-taker in the country for the first few months, and then the middle of the season went a bit quiet for me.
I was not bowling as well as I would have liked and a few little injury knocks also didn’t help, but it was a good year for me on the whole.
You mentioned being leading wicket-taker in the early part of the season. Be honest, did you surprise yourself a little bit?
Maybe a little, but I always expect a lot from myself. I put myself under a lot of pressure. But it all happened quite quickly, in the Gloucester match I got seven wickets and then I went to Sussex and got seven again, and five in each innings against Northants in the next game.
The way it was coming out, I felt I was going to take wickets with every ball.
Are there plans in place for you to play T20 games?
I’ve been told I am going to play this year! I have played a bit of 50-over cricket but it was frustrating last year year because I was injured for the bulk of our T20 games and kind of missed my opportunity. Hopefully I feature more this year and take the role of being a specialist death bowler.
So what kind of things do you need to work on to be a ‘specialist death bowler’?
Well, I have always been a pretty good yorker bowler, and that is coming along quite nicely. I have also got three slower balls. I am comfortable with taking the pace off in the middle overs, and that is one of the keys to the short game, so hopefully it can work well for me this year.
Moving on to the upcoming season, a lot is made of the step up from Division Two to One, but just how big of a gulf is it?
We are aware of it but it is more down to the grounds we at play at rather than opposition. We will be playing more Test match grounds and pitches, turning wickets, bigger grounds so the spinners are more in play.
We know the opposition because we come up against them in various different competitions, so we know what we are up against.
Your aim last year from day one was to win the division, and you did that. What are the team goals for this season?
We don’t want to sit there and say we are going to win it. Obviously we want to win it, but the realistic thing is to try and get off to a good start and maybe surprise the other teams and get out of the blocks quickly.
Hopefully, we can get a few wins early on to put us in a top three position come the midway point of the season, then we can have a real push at it. But I think we will break it down a lot more this year and take it game by game.
And on a personal level, what would you like to achieve?
If I can get to 50 first-class wickets again for the season I would be delighted. And there is a lot more focus on the short form of the game nowadays, so hopefully I will have a role to play in the T20 side, too.
Finally, the majority of cricketers dream of playing for their country; has there been any contact from England as yet?
Yes, there has been funnily enough, the ECB stay in contact constantly. I just missed out on the Lions tour this winter but I am on the fringes and they are constantly looking at me.
Hopefully I can have a good year this year, and playing in Division One helps, so who knows what might happen!
Check out our quick-fire questions with Jamie here.