Essex v Lancashire, Specsavers County Championship
Friday 20 - Monday 23 April 2018
The enduring partnership of Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer bowled Essex back into their opening Specsavers County Championship match of the season after the champions were skittled for 150 inside two sessions by Lancashire’s seamers.
Porter and Harmer shared 147 wickets in Essex’s title triumph last year, and claimed eight wickets equally between them to put the brakes on Lancashire’s runaway train. But on a wicket that proved to be a seamer’s paradise, with 18 wickets falling for 291 runs, Essex finished marginally ahead by nine runs.
Australian seamer Joe Mennie took three for 52 as the heart out of the Essex batting was ripped out in just 50 overs. But there were still demons in a soggy Chelmsford pitch under a scorching sun as Lancashire found out in a marathon final session of 46 overs.
Essex lost wickets at regular intervals after Lancashire opted for an uncontested toss in the match between last season’s top two. Mennie was ably supported by Lancashire’s hungry seam pack in which Graham Onions, Tom Bailey and Jordan Clark all chipped in with two wickets each; indeed, the persistently accurate Bailey had figures of two for 19 from his 12 overs.
Essex played and missed from the start. They were never happy against the swinging ball, a high proportion of their paltry total coming from inadvertent snicks and edges; of their wickets, four were picked up in the slips, another at gully and one by the wicketkeeper. There were also two lbws.
The carnage, watched by a shirtsleeve crowd of 2,100, began as early as the sixth over when Varun Chopra was pinned back on his crease by Onions.
Nick Browne hung around for 54 balls, four of them despatched to the boundary, before he was beaten for pace by Mennie when he had scored 23.
Bailey had just switched to the River End for his second spell when he had Tom Westley caught at first slip by Haseeb Hamed for 17. Ravi Bopara had not looked comfortable and departed to the final ball before lunch, pushing forward outside off-stump at Clark and taken low down at second slip by Liam Livingstone.
Clark returned after the break to complete the over and had Dan Lawrence playing loosely to the fourth post-lunch delivery and was snaffled by Keaton Jennings at third slip. James Foster only lasted 15 balls before he swished expansively at Onions to help wicketkeeper Alex Davies mark his 100th senior game for Lancashire with a straight-forward catch.
Paul Walter thumped Mennie through the covers emphatically for four, but next ball chipped into Dane Vilas’s hands in the gully.
In one of the few highlights of the Essex innings, Ryan ten Doeschate leant back and cut Onions for the boundary that took Essex into three-figures. But next over, the Essex captain shuffled across his stumps as he attempted to flick Mennie off his legs and was lbw for 14.
Harmer became the fourth batsman to nick off into the slips before Peter Siddle gave Essex’s total a modicum of respectability. The Australian, formerly of Lancashire, lofted Mennie over long leg for six, and followed with a straighter second off the spinner Matt Parkinson.
Siddle was left top-scorer with 33 not out after a 37-run, last-wicket stand, the best of the innings, was ended when Vilas’s throw from midwicket left a diving Porter short of his crease. Porter contribution was four.
However, Porter was soon back in his 2017 groove with the ball. With the second delivery of his second over, his nagging line and length did for Jennings, who followed the pattern of the day and was caught behind.
Davies then clipped Porter to ten Doeschate at wide mid-off and Hameed followed when he edged to Foster. At the point, Porter had three for 11 from five overs and Lancashire were tottering on 19 for three.
Harmer finished three wickets behind Porter on 72 last year, but was off the mark with his fifth ball of the season. Livingstone had put on 46 for the fourth wicket with Vilas, but in trying to avoid the high bounce of a delivery, only managed to pop it up to ten Doeschate at forward short leg.
Vilas evidently learnt nothing from Livingstone’s dismissal as he went in similar fashion, the ball looping up to give ten Doeschate his third catch of the day. The South African had scored 25 from 43 balls. Almost immediately, Porter found the edge of Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s bat to claim his fourth wicket at a cost of 25 runs.
Bailey then decided to come down the wicket to Harmer and found himself stranded as Foster removed the bails. To the final ball of the day Mennie teed one up for Bopara to claim at backward short leg to bring Harmer level with Porter on four wickets.