Jubilant Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate said his side’s remarkable County Championship success felt like winning the World Cup.
Essex returned home to their Chelmsford ground yesterday afternoon to celebrate securing their first title since 1992.
They put themselves on the brink of glory by thrashing Warwickshire inside three days, and then watched second-placed Lancashire lose at Somerset on the coach back from Edgbaston.
Essex therefore completed their task with two matches to spare – an amazing achievement in their first season back in the top flight following promotion last summer.
Moments after stepping off the coach, ten Doeschate, pictured, said: “I’m not sure it’s sunk in. But I think coming here and seeing all the staff shows what it means to the organisation as a whole. It will probably take a few days to appreciate.
“Without a doubt it’s the proudest moment of my career. All the years of struggle, all the years of being nearly-beens, this makes up for it.
“If you look back over the history of the championship and the yo-yo effect of teams coming up and going straight back down – and we are a small club with limited resources – I know what it means to me and everyone at the club.
“For us it feels like the World Cup. We won’t have a better feeling than this.”
Essex’s previous six titles came between 1979 and 1992, propelled by England stars such as Graham Gooch, Nasser Hussain and Derek Pringle.
The glory days have finally returned under Ten Doeschate and coach Chris Silverwood, the former England bowler who has delivered back-to-back title-winning seasons in Division Two and then Division One.
“The aim at the start of the season was to make our presence felt in Division One,” said Silverwood.
“We view every game as must win and try to do that all the time.
“It’s been a team effort. They all love to see each other do well. The number of times we have bowled a side out in a session you can see that energy on the field.”
Silverwood’s success has seen him linked with a role as England bowling coach, and the 42-year-old is travelling to Bristol next week to, in his own words, “help out” ahead of the third one-day international against West Indies.
But he added: “I’m not really going to talk about that. Today is all about Essex and the success we’ve had. We’ll worry about that later.”