Jamie Porter: made in Essex

There has been a sense of frustration everywhere you look in cricket this summer but no-one has felt that more keenly than Essex’s Jamie Porter.

Since making his debut for the county back in 2014, the 27-year-old has taken 329 wickets at a cost of just 24. When Essex won the title in 2017, he finished as the country’s leading wicket-taker, with 75 scalps – three more than his county colleague Simon Harmer.

Last time out, he took 48 wickets as Essex pipped Somerset to claim a second crown in three years.

Porter, though, feels his own high standards slipped in a season that saw Essex also finish as top dogs in the T20 Blast, with a first England cap feeling more distant now than at any point since his initial call-up for the Test series against India in the summer of 2018.

Particularly after missing out on a call-up to an expanded England Test squad for this summers’ series against the West Indies and Pakistan.

“On a personal level, I was really disappointing with the way my season went,” he tells TheCC after returning to Chelmsford from furlough this week.

“I did alright in terms of wickets, I think I got 49 in the Championship. I would have taken that at the start of the season, but I don’t think I really bowled that well. In terms of selection [for England] I seem to have fallen back, even though 49 wickets is better than the amount some other people have been picked for in the past. For me, it seems to have pushed me further down the pecking order.

“The frustrating thing about this year is that I was flying going into this season. I felt the best I’ve ever felt. I’ve worked as hard as I’ve ever worked this winter to not only get back to my best but to be better than I’ve ever been.

“I’ve really made some massive strides. I had a few weeks in Cape Town in a very short pre-season and I really think I was bowling better than I ever have before. So it has been really frustrating to be sat there thinking about when I’m next going to be playing golf and not cricket.”

Despite being a Lions’ regular for the past few seasons, Porter has watched on as the likes of Sam Curran, Olly Stone and Lewis Gregory have leap-frogged him for a place in England’s bowling line-up.

Little wonder that, at times, he has asked himself what more he can do to cement his place in England’s thoughts.

“I’ve given everything I’ve got to play Test cricket, that’s where all my energy has been focused – on becoming a Test bowler,” he says.

“I’ve been thinking long and hard about that. That journey has definitely made dealing with the situation I’m in now a lot easier but I kind of feel like I’m running into a bit of a brick wall.

“I look at how I’ve gone in the last five years and compare it with what I’ve seen elsewhere, and I feel I’ve had a bit of a tough run. I’m not saying I deserve to have played a Test match by now because there are a lot of good bowlers in the country, but I feel a little bit unlucky.

“I’ve taken a lot of wickets in the game so far, and not quite got what I would like to show for it.”

For the most consistent pace bowling wicket-taker in the county game, that’s hard to argue with. Porter’s emergence has coincided with the most successful period in Essex history since the 1980s. For a bowler who arrived at the game very late, and after a prolonged period of experiencing life in the real world away from the cricket bubble, Porter admits he has already done more than he ever thought possible.

“I look at how I’ve gone in the last five years and compare it with what I’ve seen elsewhere, and I feel I’ve had a bit of a tough run. I’m not saying I deserve to have played a Test match by now because there are a lot of good bowlers in the country, but I feel a little bit unlucky.

But that doesn’t ever stop him from wanting more.

“I’ve achieved more than I thought I would have when I came into the game,” he says. “I’ve won three Championships and a T20. I would never have thought that possible.

“The best was winning Div Two and then Div One because that just doesn’t happen. No matter what happens, I’ve got no regrets. I’m very proud of what I’ve done so far and hopefully there is plenty more to come.”

So, if England doesn’t come calling, would he consider hanging up his boots and focusing his boundless energies elsewhere?

“I’m very hungry to build a case and keep proving people wrong,” he says. “I definitely think in three years’ time that if I hadn’t played for England then that opportunity would have passed me by.

“That would be tough, but I love playing for Essex and I love the guys I play with. As long as I’m enjoying my cricket, I’ll always have that hunger to be the best that I can be. I’ll always have that motivation. As long as I’m enjoying myself then I’ll keep playing.”

Does Porter believe he may have received that first England cap if he was playing his cricket at one of the country’s more fashionable counties?

“It’s hard to say, isn’t it?” he says. “Maybe I wouldn’t have had so much success if I had been at another club and the fact is, I would never want to play for anyone but Essex anyway.

“I love Essex, we win Championships, we’ve won a T20 and I love playing at Chelmsford, it’s definitely my favourite ground.”

How many county appearances he’ll add to his CV this season remains to be seen, with the schedule for the 2020 domestic season set to finalised at a meeting of county chairman next week.

The chance to defend the County Championship, though, looks as if it will have to wait for another year.

“Once we weren’t going to play before June, it became pretty obvious that we weren’t going to have a title to defend,” he says. “I don’t think you could crown a team champions after eight games, I’m not sure that would be fair.

“It’s frustrating on a personal level because red ball cricket is what I look forward to the most. It’s gutting. We take a lot of pride in our red ball cricket at Essex, but the silver lining would be, hopefully, getting the chance to defend our T20 title.”

Winning the title after hunting Somerset down in the final few weeks of the season, made 2019 one to remember for those of an Essex persuasion. Porter will hope that the resumption of cricket in August will take him one step closer to achieving his own England dreams.