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.
A hard-hitting 69 by veteran wicketkeeper-batsman James Foster put Essex in control of their Specsavers County Championship game against Lancashire and in line for their first win of the season.
Lancashire lasted just nine balls at the start of the day in losing their two remaining wickets. Jamie Porter and Harmer split the 10 wickets equally, Porter removing Graham Onions’s middle-stump with his third ball of the day. Jordan Clark then wafted hazily at Harmer and was bowled for 25.
Porter’s five for 26 was his eighth career five-wicket haul; Harmer’s five for 46 was his fifth since he joined Essex last year. At the lunch interval, the South African’s impact in Essex’s title success last season was rewarded when – along with prodigal son Chopra – he was presented with his county cap.
Second time round, Essex rattled along at a fair lick throughout. The openers Nick Browne and Chopra put on 48 in 10 overs, which compared favourably with the more pedestrian overall three-an-over of the difficult first day. Chopra was particularly savage on anything wayward, thrashing seven fours in his 32 at just under a run a ball.
However, after a particularly pleasing wristy cut to the boundary off Graham Onions, he had his off-stump sent cartwheeling by the former Durham pace bowler.
Browne followed, albeit reluctantly, after scoring 17 from 41 balls. The left-hander stood his ground as the Lancashire fielders rushed to congratulate Dane Vilas for a tumbling, low catch in the gully off Joe Mennie. It was only when umpire Bainton conferred with Rob Bailey at square leg that Browne was sent on his way.
Dan Lawrence was similarly unhappy with his dismissal and hung around as Bainton again sought advice after Liam Livingstone took a catch falling forward at second slip to give Mennie his second wicket.
That brought together Westley and Bopara for the highest partnership thus far in a low-scoring match with a fourth-wicket stand of 57 in 17 overs either side of lunch. Bopara became increasingly fluent after a hesitant start before getting a thick edge to Tom Bailey and giving Liam Livingstone further catching practice at second slip for 26.
Westley batted serenely for 119 balls, caressing half-a-dozen boundaries, in reaching 49. But he was undone by a loopier delivery from spinner Matt Parkinson and spooned to Keaton Jennings at short cover.
Ten Doeschate pulled Parkinson for six during a 40-ball 25, but fell to a delivery from Onions that kept low and trapped him lbw. Paul Walter departed straight after tea for 14 when he became Mennie’s third victim of the innings, pushing forward and edging behind.
Foster went on the rampage after the break as boundary followed boundary, all around the wicket. One beat Parkinson’s dive at cow corner, two in row raced to third man, another was clubbed through the covers and there was even a cheeky reverse sweep off Livingstone.
He was slightly fortunate with the scampered single that took him to 50, just beating home Onions’s direct hit from mid-on. It had taken him 80 balls. Soon after the fifty-run eighth-wicket stand with an equally hard-hitting Harmer was passed.
Harmer was retrieved on 44, with the partnership worth 93, when the usually reliable Livingstone spilled a chance in the slips off Onions. Harmer survived, brought up the 100 partnership and then nicked Onions to wicketkeeper Alex Davies when one short of his fifty. He had batted for 81 balls and hit five fours.
Peter Siddle lasted just two balls, going lbw to Bailey, and the same bowler celebrated his 27th birthday with a third wicket in the innings when Foster fell lbw shortly before the scheduled close.
Lancashire were beaten for the second time in two weeks after Essex beat Glen Chapple's side by 31 runs at Chelmsford with more than a day to spare.
Essex collected their first win of the Specsavers County Championship season when they despatched Lancashire by 31 runs with more than a day to spare at Chelmsford.
Essex faced serious resistance from Alex Davies, Jordan Clark and latterly Joe Mennie, who all posted half-centuries. While they were at the crease the improbable target of 320 was not beyond the bounds of possibility. Joe Mennie thumped three sixes in a third half-century of the innings that only ended when Jamie Porter removed his leg-stump to end the game.
Davies had taken the fight to Essex for 39 overs while compiling a flawless 71 before he was knocked off his feet by Porter after facing 85 balls and hitting 11 fours.
Clark took up the gauntlet upon Davies’s departure. But when he was eighth man out, with 77 runs required, the red rose wilted visibly and they finished 32 runs short. Clark’s belligerent innings lasted 80 balls, and included five fours and a six, while 104 runs were knocked off the target during his stay at the wicket.
Mennie, who departed for 56 after a 91-ball cameo, ensured the Lancashire tail wagged to the extent that the last pair put on 42, with Matt Parkinson contributing just four.
Porter’s four wickets for 54 in the innings gave him to nine for 80 in the match.
It was a satisfying, if ultimately nervy win for Essex as Lancashire were the only side they did not beat in their title season, when they won 10 of the 14-game programme.
When Porter knocked back Haseeb Hameed’s off-stump with the last ball of his second over, it looked as if Essex were on the kind of roll that accounted for many teams during their title surge last year. It was not until the 83rd over, and just after 5.30pm, that they got the job done.
But it was another 13 overs after Hameed’s demise before the second-wicket pair of Keaton Jennings and Davies were parted and former Australian Test bowler Peter Siddle claimed his first Essex wicket. Switched to the Hayes Close End, Siddle found extra lift to catch the edge of Jennings’s bat and Varun Chopra took the catch at first slip.
Davies had played watchfully in the morning before ripping into Porter with three successive boundaries, two pulled and one straight-driven, to carry him from 17 off 43 balls to 29 from 46. He had a similar burst of scoring after lunch and reached his 50 from 66 balls. However, in the process he lost two partners in quick succession when left-arm seamer Paul Walter was introduced into the attack at the start of the session.
With his third ball, Walter had Liam Livingstone caught behind to end a 56-run third-wicket partnership. The left-arm seamer struck again in his next over when he pinned Shivnarine Chanderpaul lbw for one. Suddenly the lunch score of 82 for two had become 98 for four.
Davies upped the tempo appreciably after the break and reached his 50 from 66 balls. But his 85-ball knock ended when he was left on all fours by a yorker from Porter and was palpably lbw.
Clark started as he would go on when he lofted Simon Harmer for six over long leg. He put on 33 in five overs with Dane Vilas and the onslaught only ended when Siddle rapped the South African on the back foot and he departed lbw.
Harmer had bowled unchanged from the River End from the 10th over of the day to mid-afternoon. When he was replaced by Ravi Bopara he had very un-Harmer-like figures of 19-3-85-0. He returned before tea and was immediately launched back over his head for six by Joe Mennie.
A direct hit by Siddle off his own bowling to run out Tom Bailey looked as if it had swung the game back in Essex’s favour with Lancashire 195 for seven. Bailey, from the non-striker’s end, was halfway down the wicket when he was sent back by Clark. Siddle picked up, spun through 180 degrees and ripped the furthest stump out of the ground.
Clark kept Lancashire ticking along and reached his 50 from 71 balls soon after tea. But he played all round a delivery from Porter and was another lbw victim.
The leap for joy that marked Harmer’s first wicket of the innings – Graham Onions snaffled by Foster – was heartfelt. He had bowled 24 overs for 99 runs, but decided to go around the wicket with the first ball of a new spell, and reaped the reward for persistence.
Mennie welcomed Bopara back into the attack with a six over midwicket, and added another to long leg off the same bowler before reaching his 50 from 82 balls.