Essex reasserted their status as English cricket’s red-ball standard bearers by claiming the inaugural Bob Willis Trophy after a five-day draw against Somerset was settled on first-innings runs at Lord’s.
The Chelmsford side are the reigning county champions, having also taken the honour in 2017, and now have a third title in four years after doing just enough to edge what could be the first in a new tradition of first-class season deciders.
In the end neither side were able to do enough for an outright win – Essex finishing on 179 for six after a 27-over stand between Ryan Ten Doeschate (46) and Adam Wheater (14no) killed off their opponents’ hopes.
Essex knew they held an ace up their sleeve in the form of their 36-run lead from the first half of the game that effectively acted as a tie-breaker.
Former Essex Stalwart Graham Napier expresses his delight
The key performance over the past week belonged to Sir Alastair Cook, whose magnificent 172 on day three almost single-handedly allowed Essex to overhaul Somerset’s 301.
That win means Essex have now been the country's top red-ball side in three of the last four seasons, as well as winning the Vitality Blast T20 as part of last year's double-winning campaign.
For Tom Westley it was a perfect way to wrap up a strange few months which saw 16 of the 18 first-class counties furlough their playing staff at the height of the health crisis.
It's hard to put into words how chuffed I am for the boys. It's been a challenging year and at one stage we weren't sure if we'd get any cricket in at all . The captaincy side of things during the Covid lockdown was hard, I was just getting round the guys as frequently as I could, making sure they were all right. So, to now have played a tournament and won it, it's the other end of the spectrum.
"My first year as captain has been nerve-wracking - I was a train wreck (on Sunday) - but it's a wonderful feeling. I'm incredibly proud. We didn't know if this would be a one-off tournament, a one-off final, so it's extra special knowing it may never happen like this again."
We were thinking how special it would be to be the only club in history to win the Bob Willis Trophy in a five-day final at Lord's.