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1876. Custer was slaughtered at the Little Big Horn, Mark Twain wrote Tom Sawyer, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and Essex County Cricket Club was born. Although Essex produced famous cricketers, it did not produce a famous team. By 1978 the county had won nothing, a fate aggravated by the success of neighbours Middlesex, Surrey and Kent, who seemed to win almost everything. Essex wore the mantle of clowns. And then it changed. Essex started the 1979 season winning, and carried on winning. With Maggie Thatcher installed in Downing Street, Essex blasted 290 runs at Lords to lift the Benson and Hedges Cup. It was their first silverware in 103 years of trying. In the County Championship, Essex were so far in front of the rest that they were confirmed champions with four matches still to play. Clowns no more. Jokers, yes. Essex had plenty of those, but skipper Keith Fletcher marshalled his aces and jokers to lift two trophies in a season to remember.

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