the new 59-by-221-foot scoreboard behind the left-field seats -- the la

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Essex are riding high in Division Two of the County Championship, with their latest batch of homegrown talents alerting the England selectors. After a rocky few years of underachievement amid the fallout from the spot-fixing scandal, is the club about to return to its natural state of winning trophies and punching above its weight?Its a short walk from Chelmsford train station, where a huge image of Alastair Cook welcomes you on the stairs from platform 2, to the Essex County Ground. Past the stretch of estate agents and whats left of Dukes nightclub, across the market beneath the multi-storey car park, under the underpass and then along the edge of the River Can, Goochs river, from where, if you squint, you can still catch slivers of action through the gaps in the old Tom Pearce Stand.This river has been gobbling cricket balls since 1967, when the club finally abandoned the nomadic life to settle here in the heart of Essexs county town. The New Writtle Street ground, capacity 5,000, will bring up its half-century next year. But the party will only kick in if the club are back in the Championships top tier. Getting up there and staying up there has become something of an obsession. An institution that prides itself on upward mobility and hard-won gumption isnt used to kicking its heels on the sidelines. We may be small, says club legend Graham Napier, but we punch above our weight.Essex has never been a rich club. Nor, until The Gnome of Essex, Keith Fletcher, kicked it into shape in the Seventies, was it a successful one. For much of the first half of its existence the county played wherever it could, utilising its sprawling catchment area - running from the edge of the Anglian coast to the north-eastern corner of London - to make ends meet with fixtures here and festivals there.The Gnome changed everything. From 1979, when Essex won both the B&H Cup and the County Championship - their first honours - Fletchers band trampled all over county crickets manicured lawns, winning six Championships and five one-day titles across 14 seasons of extravagant one-upmanship. It helped that Fletcher could call on the best opening batsman in the country, Fletcher and Gooch combining for over 60,000 runs for the club. Today, both sit on the clubs cricket committee.And theyve seen some players. The rivers of talent flowing through these estuaries into the professional game are the stuff of legend. Year in, year out, we produce homegrown players, Napier says. Its the eye for talent that Essex has always had, and for drawing that talent out of people.Still, the new century has yet to deliver much silverware for the good denizens of New Writtle Street. A brace of 40-over titles claimed over a decade ago, coupled with just three seasons spent in Division One since 2000, is only partially offset by claiming the first-ever Englishman to 10,000 Test runs as one of their own. Change was due; some felt overdue.****Towards the end of last season, when it became evident that Essex would finish third in Division Two for the third year running, Paul Grayson lost his job as head coach. The subsequent appointment of the former Yorkshire and England bowler Chris Silverwood - who had been Graysons assistant and the clubs bowling coach - failed to appease those who wanted an outsider, but it was consistent with the clubs style to look at whats already there. In the same vein, a new captaincy hybrid of club stalwarts Ryan ten Doeschate (four-day) and Ravi Bopara (one-day) is now in place. Some would say its verging on the parochial, continually looking within. Others that its the best way to foster unity.The club also has a new chairman. John Faragher is Essex man in excelsis. Made his name at Ford, man and boy; son of former Essex player Harold Faragher, who in 1957 opened the legendary - and still flourishing - Ilford Cricket School with Trevor Bailey; 25 years on the Essex committee, 14 as deputy chairman, and now the top job. Negativity is so destroying! he tells AOC. You need to surround people with positivity. Keep em energised! I had 35 years at Ford. You try and bring to the role: This is business now. It could be motor cars, but our business is cricket.And business is good. Derek Bowden is now into his fourth year as chief executive, having moved from the same post at Ipswich Town. Financially were very sound, he says. Whilst were a small club with a small ground - with a turnover of plus-and-minus four million a year, were not a big business - financially were sound because we have no debt. And we have sizeable reserves, which is prudent. Any members club ought to have reserves.While the much-trailed ground redevelopment is, says Bowden, between phases following the completion of the new block in the car park behind the pavilion, there is a cautious belief that the latest plan, which involves building three new apartment blocks, a new pavilion and a new media centre in one go, will eventually get the green light. Were still working with the developer on the maths. Its quite advanced, but were not quite ready to press the green button yet. And then, of course, theres the story of the Olympic Stadium, and Essexs evident destiny to one day host cricket in it.Were frustrated, he adds, in that on the pitch weve been nearly men. Off the pitch were not nearly men. Off the pitch we do really well. But finishing third in three successive years is irritating. Weve been close, but we havent quite had that thing that takes us over the line. Thats why last year we made the changes on the cricket side of things.The new head coach ambles into the chairmans office and pulls up a chair. Its been a good start to 2016. Essex won two of their first three Championship matches and, as the season moves into one-day mode, sit top of the division. Weve done well, Silverwood says softly. Were posting big totals now. But equally weve bolstered the bowling attack, so we can play a better standard of cricket, a better form of cricket, to stand us in good stead in the first division. What style of cricket does that look like? Its attritional. Attritional cricket.Four-day cricket. Four-day success. Getting up to Div One. Staying in Div One. One day winning Div One. Talk to anyone round here and within seconds its repeated. Its a club-wide mantra. But while the red ball is Essexs route back to parity with the big boys and renewed self-respect as a club, the white ball must also play its part. Chris buys into the objectives of wanting to get into Division One and remaining there, and the strategy of succeeding in T20 in order to fund it. Weve got a clear plan, which is youth development and building on the academy and the region of East Anglia, and augmenting that with talent from somewhere else - and funding that through T20. Because while were a small business - albeit a stable one - we make our money on white-ball cricket and we spend it on red-ball cricket. Our ambition is red-ball driven, but it requires success in T20, so the two things come together.****Cohesiveness and Essex have not always gone together. Faragher may be right to describe the place as a club of individuals, with lots of different characters in there, going right back to the days of [celebrated prankster] Ray East and all those guys. But with big personalities can come big clashes. Around the turn of the century, the Australian Stuart Law and the northern-expat captain Ronnie Irani were ensconced as Chelmsfordian alphas, and the two did not get along. Despite Laws 1,300 Championship runs, the 2001 summer was so rancorous that when the club were relegated he wasnt asked back. They couldnt even say thank you for my services, Law said at the time. Irani, meanwhile, has stayed involved with the club, assuming the role of chairman of the cricket committee in the shake-up that saw Grayson depart.Of course, there isnt a county dressing room in the land which hasnt staged some version of the Law-Irani cold war. The fallout around the spot-fixing scandal, however, hit the club hard. Mervyn Westfield and Danish Kaneria were teammates in 2009 when Kaneria, an experienced Pakistan Test cricketer, persuaded Westfield, a greenhorn fast bowler, to bowl badly during a televised one-day match in return for £6,000 in cash. It took the intervention of the Essex seamer Tony Palladino, who had been shown the money by Westfield after a night out, to finally blow the whistle on a saga that cut right to the soul of the English game. Westfield got four months inside and a lifetime ban, Kaneria too was banned for life (although he continues to claim his innocence in the face of overwhelming evidence). Nobody escaped censure, club included.That was a learning curve for us, Faragher admits. I do regret that it happened. I was disappointed that a young cricketer was sucked in, and Im disappointed that we didnt spot that he was being pulled in. At the time, rightly or wrongly, it never got to the attention of the chairman or myself that something was wrong. When it kicked off it was like, Wow! As a club, you ask yourself questions. Why didnt it get to us? Why didnt anyone feel like they had the confidence or the bravery to come forward?The judders were felt throughout the club. Napier recalls being in India when he was told the news. You feel like youve been let down. No one teaches you how to deal with it. Theyre your teammates and theyve effectively been sold out. And its tough. I dont know why people make those decisions. Its sad for cricket and everybody else, and it does affect a side, and it did. We didnt really perform as a side as we should have done.At least now a system is properly in place. Theres no mobile communications whatsoever. You hand your mobile phones in. Its our duty to hand our phone in, and anyone caught using their phone during a match is in breach of regulations.All thats gone now. These days theres an outbreak of optimism spreading about the place, much of it generated from the chairman. There is something unique and special here! Even Colin Graves will tell you. He said to me, John, dont ever lose what Essex has got. I dont know what it is, but whatever it is, you keep it. Those were some of his first words to me.There are still some hefty challenges to face down, chiefly holding on to their star homegrown talents in the face of big cash offers from richer clubs elsewhere. You can become a feeder county, warns Faragher. Because people recognise the talent that weve brought on here, and they know that were limited with what we can pay our players. We are. Thats a fact. Were not gonna break the bank for anybody.But there are reasons to be cheerful. New attack leader Jamie Porter signed a three-year contract at the end of last season. The brilliant young opener Nick Browne has just penned a new two-year deal, citing his belief in a side that can get up to Division One and win Division One in the next few years, while Tom Westley signed his own two-year extension in February. All are squarely on Englands radar. Some will leave, others will stay, and more will emerge. We cant keep them all! says Napier, who himself is hanging up the boots in September. This remarkably fertile nursery of cricket just keeps on churning out the talent. Nasser, Fletcher, Gooch, Cook! the chairman declares. Its not a bad throw from Essex County Cricket Club, what weve done for English cricket over the years. And there is more to come. There always is.If you want to see what the worlds greatest cricket magazine (and second-best cricket website) looks like, we respectfully implore you to click here. Cheap Lebron Shoes For Sale . Capitals head coach Adam Oates said Ovechkin was injured in the first period against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday and clarified it was not a head injury. Cheap Lebron Shoes . JOHNS, N. http://www.cheaplebronshoes.net/ . On Saturday night, the normally free throw-challenged centre did just that. Howard scored 18 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including 13 of 19 free throws in a 2 1/2-minute stretch, and the Houston Rockets beat the Denver Nuggets 122-111. Wholesale Lebron Shoes . -- An ugly goal by Nick Bonino helped the Anaheim Ducks overcome the defensive-minded Phoenix Coyotes on a night when their ragged power play continued to struggle. Cheap Lebrons From China . -- Canadian Andrew Wiggins got the ball on the wing, made a nifty spin move and then let go with a soft floater from about 10 feet that swished through the net in Allen Fieldhouse. CLEVELAND -- The last time the Cleveland Indians won the World Series, Dewey led Truman in the polls. The Chicago Cubs last title was 13 days after the first Ford Model T car was completed.Lovable losers known for decades of defeat meet in this years championship, a combined 174 seasons of futility facing off starting Tuesday night at Progressive Field.Clevelands last title was in 1948, when 16 teams from the East Coast to St. Louis competed in a just-integrated sport. The Cubs are trying to win for the first time since 1908 , a dead ball-era matchup at a time home runs were rarities along with telephones.No player is alive from the last championship Cubs or even the last to make a Series appearance -- Tuesday marks the 25,948th day since the Cubs Game 7 loss to Detroit in 1945. One player remains from the 1948 Indians, 95-year-old Eddie Robinson.It seems like its just forever, Robinson said Monday from his home in Fort Worth, Texas. When we got home from Boston, there was a monumental parade. It just looked like everybody in Cleveland came out on Euclid Avenue.One teams fans will let loose with the celebration of a lifetime. But while history weighs on the supporters, Cubs manager Joe Maddon focuses his players with a now-centered battle cry of Win the Inning!Air conditioning is popular right now. So is color TV, he said. Youve just got to change with the times.Both teams worked out under cloudy skies Monday as the new 59-by-221-foot scoreboard behind the left-field seats -- the largest in the major leagues -- trumpeted the Sisyphean matchup. While the Cubs play in Wrigley Field, the 102-year-old brick-and-ivy jewel on Chicagos North Side, the Indians are in a 22-year-old throwback-style ballpark originally called Jacobs Field.Led by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs led the major leagues with 103 wins during the regular season, then beat San Francisco and Los Angeles in the playoffs. But since the playoffs expanded in 1995, only four teams with the best regular-season record won the title: the 1998 and 2009 New York Yankees, and the 2007 and 2013 Boston Red Sox.I promise you, our guys are going to be in the present tense, Maddon said. I think we all have a tremendous amount of respect for history and whats happened before us or not happened before us. But, you know, you go in that room right now, theyre very young. Really not impacted by a lot of the lore.Jon Lester, 7-1 in his career against Cleveland, starts for the Cubs and Corey Kluber opens for the Indians. Lester is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three postseason starts this year and 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in a trio of Series outings. He learned to prepare from watching Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett in Boston.They prepared the same way for this start as they wwould for a regular start during the season, he said.ddddddddddddKluber pitched shutout ball twice in the playoffs before allowing two runs in five innings in Game 4 at Toronto. His father, Jim, was born in Cleveland and rooted for the Indians growing up in suburban Highland Heights.I think every parent is excited if their kid has a chance to play in the World Series, said the 30-year-old right-hander, who could win his second AL Cy Young Award in three years.Both teams were dealing with injuries that caused changes in planning.Chicago included outfielder Kyle Schwarber, out since tearing knee ligaments on April 7. He played a pair of games in the Arizona Fall League, going 1 for 6 with a double and two walks.Reports are good, Maddon said. Hes swinging the bat well. Hes running really well.Cleveland, juggling all year because of health mishaps, put on pitcher Danny Salazar, who could start Game 4. The All-Star right-hander has not pitched since Sept. 9 because of forearm tightness but threw a simulated game Sunday.Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis was dealing with a sprained left ankle, hurt when he jumped and shortstop Francisco Lindor accidentally stepped on his foot while celebrating the last out of the ALCS.He might not be 100 percent, but I dont think its going to get in the way, Francona said.Cleveland fell three outs short of the 1997 title when Jose Mesa blew a one-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 7 at Florida and an error by second baseman Tony Fernandez led to the Marlins winning run in the 11th.The Series starts just after a ceremony across the street when LeBron James and the Cavaliers receive championship rings before their opener celebrating this years NBA title, the first for Clevelands big league teams since the NFLs Browns in 1964.Its a pretty neat set of circumstances, said Indians reliever Andrew Miller, the ALCS MVP. Obviously the fans wish they had won quite a bit previously, but I think the Cubs are even going to overshadow us in that history.While Chicago has many famous fans, among them actor Bill Murray and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Cleveland is rooted on by Tom Hanks and Drew Carey. And the Indians losing history received nationwide attention in the 1989 film Major League, featuring Charlie Sheen as Ricky Wild Thing Vaughn.Maddon prepared for the Series while watching some baseball movies, 42 -- we had to beat the Dodgers before I could watch it -- and Field of Dreams.Im that guy, he said. I cry easily, so the connection to the past is very important, very important.---AP Sports Writer Jay Cohen in Chicago contributed to this report. ' ' '

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