Nijjar pleased to see patience paying off with Essex
It is said that patience is a virtue and nobody would underline that more than Essex player Aron Nijjar.
The 26 year-old made his first-class debut back in 2015 but has since bided his time waiting for the spasmodic opportunities that have come his way since then.
With the arrival of ace spinner Simon Harmer at Chelmsford in 2017, the Goodmayes-born slow left-arm orthodox bowler’s chances in red-ball cricket have been fewer but as one door seemingly closed, another has opened.
Educated at Ilford County High School, the polite and phlegmatic Nijjar has become an integral and regular component of the Eagles team in white-ball cricket in the past two seasons.
He was summoned seemingly from the wilderness in 2019 when Australian leg-spinner Adam Zampa had to cut short his T20 contract with the county and Nijjar was thrust into Finals Day at Edgbaston.
He took 3-26 in the semi-finals and then 0-31 from four overs at a respectable economy rate in the final as the Eagles beat Worcestershire to lift the Vitality Blast Trophy for the first time in their history.
Since then, he has cemented his place in the white-ball side and although the county fell short in their attempts to reach T20 finals day this year, the personable cricketer topped the Essex bowling averages with 13 wickets and an impressive economy rate of 6.87.
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“Having not played a lot in the last four or five years leading up to the last couple of seasons, I’m always trying to stay humble and work hard because you know that if you are not performing, you can be out of favour and out of the team," he said.
"I always try my best in the nets and obviously when I play and I keep persevering. Hopefully, I am reaping the rewards now.
“Personally, looking back, I didn’t think that I started the white ball campaign as well as I would have liked but the more I’ve played, the more my confidence has grown. I’ve become more relaxed and that has helped.
“The T20 campaign was very disappointing from the team’s perspective, we played some very good cricket but some that we were not proud of.
"There were a few games that we lost when, with the calibre of the side that we have, we know that we should have won. That wasn’t good enough from us and it’s something we need are desperate to put right next season.”
However, the county still has a chance of lifting a major trophy this summer with the Royal London Cup on their radar with Nijjar an automatic choice in the 50-overs format.
Although Essex lost to Durham on Sunday, they have won four of their six matches and with two games remaining, have a fine opportunity to book their place in the knockout stages.
“The 50-overs competition gives us a great opportunity to put things right in white-ball cricket,” Nijjar added.
"Before the competition started, we felt we had a strong squad and we targeted the knockout stages initially but now, hopefully, we can go all the way to the final.”
And those prospects might be enhanced by the arrival on the scene of Feroze Khushi who became the latest young blade to make his presence felt in the first team when he scored a century for the Eagles in his maiden List A outing.
Yet another product of the famed Essex academy the 22 year-old, who was born in Whipps Cross, made a stunning debut scoring 109 out of 227-6.
His half-century spanned 65 balls before he moved up a couple of gears adding the next 50 runs in just 36 balls. Unfortunately, his efforts proved in vain as Essex were beaten by two wickets with just five balls to spare but Khushi admitted that it was a day to savour personally.
“I've been batting well recently and was desperate for the opportunity to play,” he said. “When it came along, I backed myself to go out there and perform and things came off for me. It’s a really special feeling to get my first hundred for the team.
“I tried to stay calm and composed and wait for the bad ball to arrive and then put it away. As I scored more runs, I became more relaxed until I moved towards the hundred when the nerves started to return.
"But Tendo (Ryan ten Doeschate) was batting with me and he told me to ‘just relax, you are going to get your hundred, just carry on playing sensibly'."
Khushi was joined in a century partnership by another academy recruit, 20 year-old Ipswich-born Josh Rymell who scored 40 in only his second List A innings.
The Eagles were in trouble at 38-3 when the two starlets commenced their restoration of the innings and together, they posted 101 for the fourth wicket.
“Josh and I have spent a lot of time batting together in the seconds and we know each others game,” added Khushi.
"I thought he batted superbly and the partnership gave us a chance to go on and win the game but it just wasn’t to be on this occasion.”