Highly-rated legspinning allrounder moves to Chelmsford in bid to develop career
Critchley, 25, was one of the standout players in the LV= Insurance County Championship last year, scoring 1,000 runs and taking 32 wickets, while across all formats he recorded 1,318 runs and claimed 52 victims.
He was named in the PCA Men’s Team of the Year, and finished second in the overall PCA MVP rankings, behind Simon Harmer, the Essex spinner alongside whom he will now hope to form a productive partnership.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be here and to have signed for Essex,” Critchley said. “Essex have been one of the best teams in the country for the last six years, you just have to look at the players in the dressing room and the trophies they’ve won to know this must be a great place to play your cricket.
“It was a tough decision to leave Derbyshire, but as soon as I was made aware of the interest, I wanted to make the move and I can’t wait to get going and to pull on the Essex shirt.”
The move comes in the wake of the ECB’s confirmation that the County Championship will be reverting to a two-division structure next season. This means that Essex – who claimed the Division Two title this year after missing out on the top flight in the three-tier conference system used in response to the Covid outbreak, will be back in Division One next season, and eager to add to the two Championship titles and Bob Willis Trophy that they have claimed since 2017.
“I’m delighted we’ve managed to get this one over the line and that Matt is now an Essex player,” John Stephenson, Essex’s chief executive, said.
“It’s important that we look to improve our squad and continue to challenge for the top honours over the coming years. We feel Matt offers excellent attributes with both his batting and bowling across all formats and he’ll make an excellent addition to the team.
“There were a host of clubs chasing Matt’s signature, so it’s a real coup for us that he’s bought into our vision and feels that Chelmsford is the place for him to develop as a cricketer and win titles.”
Critchley made his first-class debut for Derbyshire back in May 2015, and in his career to date, he’s made 187 appearances across all formats, scoring 4,902 runs and taking 204 wickets.
His highest first-class score of 137 not out came against Northamptonshire in 2015, when he became the youngest player in Derbyshire’s history to score a century, whilst his best bowling figures of 10 for 194 also came against Northants in 2018.
Critchley was selected for the ECB International Pathway and participated in Overseas Placements in Australia in both 2016 and 2017. The following year he was selected to tour the West Indies with England Lions, making two appearances.
Though Critchley was also involved in the inaugural season of the Hundred, after joining Welsh Fire for £24,000, his move to Essex indicates a desire to challenge for red-ball honours, and comes after Essex activated a clause within his contract, allowing him to move to a Division One county for an undisclosed fee.
The club chairman, Ian Morgan, said: “We’re disappointed to be losing Matt after seeing him develop greatly with the club over the past seven seasons.
“We were quick to better any offer from another county, however we understand his desire to test himself in Division One and he leaves with our best wishes for the future.
“As a club, we moved to ensure we would be well-compensated for his departure, and we will be using that money to strengthen the first team under a new Head of Cricket.”