ESSEX collected their sixth major trophy in as many seasons when they lifted the County Championship Division Two title after totally overwhelming Northamptonshire in the final game of the season with the match entering the record books as the shortest completed match in the competition’s history since four-day Championship cricket began in this country in 1988.

Having failed to finish in the top-two of their group after the opening 10 Championship matches of the season, Essex had to content themselves with a place in Division Two.

But they showed their true class with victories in three of their four matches – all by an innings - to carry off the Division Two title having last won that particular prize in 2016.

However, Essex were not in the mood for joyous celebrations with their latest trophy achievement as stand-in skipper Dan Lawrence revealed.

Deputising for Tom Westley who missed the match with Northamptonshire due to the impending arrival of his first child, the 24 year-old England batsman said: “We didn’t feel great taking a photo next to the Division Two champions board. It isn’t something we will celebrate. We’re a club who want to be winning Division One.

“If you look at our record this year we have only lost two games of red-ball cricket. We’ll probably have the most points in the country. It almost doesn’t feel fair that we’re going to be coming seventh of all the counties as we feel like we are one of the top three teams.

“Personally, I don’t like this conference system and hopefully, things will return to normal next season when we can take up the challenge to win back our Division One title.”

For the first time since he joined Essex in 2017, off-spinner Simon Harmer was knocked off his perch as the county’s leading wicket-taker.

Although he proved typically incisive and successful claiming 53 wickets @ 23.26 in red-ball cricket, he was surpassed by paceman Sam Cook whose 10 wickets in the match with Northamptonshire took his overall tally for the Championship season to 58 victims.

It was the second time in his career that the emerging talent has claimed a match haul of 10 wickets and his best haul yet in a season for his county came at an average of just 14.43 per wicket.

And Lawrence was quick to praise the progress that his fellow 24-year-old had made this summer.

“Sam is someone who continues to impress,” he enthused.

“He has put on a yard of pace this year and is as accurate as ever. He got rewards this week and has turned his season into an exceptional one.

And Shane Snater was another paceman to earn Lawrence’s appreciation.

“He wasn’t someone necessarily on the red ball radar at the beginning of the year but he came back in pre-season and has been phenomenal, Lawrence reflected.

“He had to be patient awaiting his chance but when Peter Siddle went back early to Australia (in June), Shane stepped in and went from strength the strength.”

The Dutch international ended the season with 31 red-ball wickets in nine matches @ 16.48 whilst dependable Jamie Porter captured 34 victims @ 24.76.

Lawrence headed the Essex Championship batting averages with 640 runs @ 53.33 followed by Westley with 631 @ 37.11 and Paul Walter with 544 runs @ 36.26. Sir Alastair Cook scored 611 runs @ 32.15.

In the two other major competitions, Essex failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the Vitality Blast but did reach the semi-final of the Royal London Cup.

They were in a difficult section in the Twenty20 competition illustrated by the fact that all four sides reaching Finals Day all progressing from Essex’s group but they did reach the semi-final of the 50 overs tournament before losing to Glamorgan.

Although they lost Lawrence and Sam Cook plus overseas recruit Jimmy Neesham to the new Hundred competition, it was the loss of Snater and Porter to injury that potentially proved costly in the 50 overs competition.

Snater had proved the pick of the attack with 13 wickets until he sustained an injury at Durham that forced him to miss the last matches whilst Porter picked up a side injury after just two games that ruled him out of the remainder of the competition.

Now the planning has already started ahead of the 2022 season with the county looking forward to challenging once more for Division One title – whatever the format the powers that be at the ECB decide – together with a serious tilt at the two white-ball competitions.