By Callum Dent
Tom Westley has revealed the pressure of winning a new deal at Essex brought the best out of him this season.
The 25-year-old, out of contract at the end of the term, was handed fresh terms midway through the campaign following his stunning form with the bat that started in the NatWest T20 Blast.
Having missed the opening game of Essex Eagles’ South Group campaign due to England internationals Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara’s availability, the top-order batsman grasped his opportunity with both hands.
Westley hit two centuries and a fifty in compiling 538 runs at an average of 44.83 and then kicked on in the LV= County Championship and Royal London One-Day Cup.
Westley told ecb.co.uk: “I’ve been in the last year of my contract through choice.
“There was added pressure on me. I didn’t play the first Twenty20 because Cooky and Ravi were back.
“There was quite a lot of pressure on me to perform when I got selected for the next match. The added pressure has really worked for me this year and led to me being more consistent.
“I have been desperate to get Essex off to good starts in all formats. I think that has been highlighted by the fact I have been leading run-scorer in all formats, which is really pleasing.
“That extra responsibility and pressure really brought the best out of me.”
Cambridge-born Westley had no hesitation in committing his future to Essex, adding: “I signed a two-year extension half way through the year. It is the county I have played for for a number of years now and I love playing here.
“We have got a fantastic squad that are capable of winning silverware. It was a no-brainer for me to stay.
“I am playing all formats and becoming a more senior member of the side. I was delighted to sign on for two more years.”
With players like New Zealander Jesse Ryder, Bopara and Cook within Essex’s ranks, Westley has team-mates of international class to learn from.
“They have had a huge impact on my game, also Owais Shah,” Westley said.
“He played at Essex for a number of years and I did a lot of work him with in South Africa when I was there in the winter.
“It’s brilliant to see how they go about their business and the way they approach the game. All of them are very contrasting.
“Jesse, for example, literally just tries to hit the first ball for six, which is good or bad. He is desperate to get Essex off to a good start and that is something I have taken from him.
“To get the guys off to a good start and lay platforms for the guys coming in and my strike-rate has shown that this year. I have scored quite quickly but also played like Cooky and bat through and got big scores.
Thank you for the messages. Proud to have won the player of the year for Essex. Huge honour, great club, great supporters. #eagles
— Thomas Westley (@Westley21) September 26, 2014
“That is where it has become equally pleasing to manage to get big scores, match-winning contributions, at a good rate. Ravi has spoken a couple of times in the media that he believes I can go on and play the next level.
“Having someone of his calibre saying that fills you with confidence and makes you believe that little bit more in yourself.”
Blast winners Birmingham Bears and Royal London Cup runners-up Warwickshire were the Eagles’ conquerors in both limited-overs competitions.
And Essex, despite a late surge, just missed out on promotion to the championship top flight after Hampshire claimed the final-week victory they required to depart the second tier.
Westley is targeting elevation next term, but says Paul Grayson’s side need to start winning when it matters.
He added: “We start every year targeting silverware. This year has been equally frustrating.
“After Warwickshire, we have won more games of cricket than any team in the country. That say a lot in itself.
“We have won a lot of games but, unfortunately, we have lost the wrong games. We have dominated group stages and got to quarter-finals and we have suffered to Warwickshire, who have been the most successful club in the country.
“That has been frustrating, but it has been a brilliant platform to build on next year knowing how successful we could be with a few more wins under our belt.”
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