Essex game in the balance after a day of fluctuating fortunes
Match Report: Lancashire v Essex, Day Two
Lancashire and Essex conjured up another fascinating day of Specsavers County Championship action at Emirates Old Trafford with the visitor’s closing the rain-shortened proceedings 80 runs behind with four first-innings wickets remaining.
At the start of the second day Lancashire, looking to build on their overnight total of 297-9, achieved their first objective by scoring the three runs they needed for a third batting point from the first over of the day bowled by Simon Harmer. But Harmer then finished the innings two overs later when Tom Bailey swept the spinner to Neil Wagner at deep backward square leg to be out for 38 with Lancashire having only added four runs to be 301 all out.
Graham Onions struck early in the Essex reply with a beautiful delivery that nipped back sharply to bowl Varun Chopra for 3, the batsman playing no shot.
But that was the only Red Rose success before lunch as Alastair Cook and Tom Westley fought back with an excellent second wicket partnership, although Cook was fortunate to survive a chance at slip when on 18 with the score 50-1. The England opener went on to compile a lovely half-century from 91 balls striking 9 fours with Westley also looking in good touch with a series of crisply struck boundaries.
The break for lunch seemed to do the trick for Lancashire with four wickets falling soon after the resumption for the addition of just 11 runs.
Joe Mennie made the breakthrough when Cook edged behind to Dane Vilas for 58 to end a 110-run partnership, with Westley following one run later after the batsman was deceived by a beautifully flighted yorker from Mennie to depart for 41.
Dan Lawrence played across the line to be lbw to Onions for 2 and Mennie took his third wicket when Ravi Bopara edged an away swinger to Liam Livingstone at second slip for 6 to leave Essex 130-5 in the 35th over. Mennie’s post lunch spell of 3-8 from 8 overs had turned the innings on its head.
But the visitors rallied with another healthy partnership as Ryan ten Doeschate and Adam Wheater combined to frustrate the Red Rose attack by adding 81 runs in 21 overs, although Wheater was twice dropped on 1 and 25.
It took a sensational run out by Vilas to break the alliance just before tea. Ten Doeschate, on 43, pushed Matt Parkinson towards short cover and set off for a quick single. The wicketkeeper, celebrating his 33rd birthday today, raced from behind the stumps and his accurate pick up and mid-air throw found the Essex skipper just short of his ground at the bowler’s end. It was an astonishing piece of work by Vilas who was rightly mobbed by his team-mates in celebration.
That left Essex on 211-6 and they had added ten runs to that total before rain ended play for the day seven balls after tea.
Joe Mennie hailed a good couple of days at the end of the second day’s play with Essex.
“The boys showed real fight after the start yesterday,” he said.
“Shiv and Clarky batted really well and then Bunny (Onions) slogged a few at the end! It capped a good fightback.
“Today we started well with the ball but then started going both sides of the wicket. They got a few runs on the board pre-lunch but after that we bowled a lot better.
“We had a good chat (at lunch) and spoke about what we needed to do. So to go out and execute that was really nice. The calibre of players we got out was nice and it has put us in a good position.”
Looking ahead to the third day Mennie added: “Ideally we want to take four quick wickets and give ourselves a bit of a lead.
“They’re going to try and get close to our total or maybe past it with who they’ve got in the shed. So it’s evenly poised.
“The first session tomorrow morning is going to be a big one.”
And Mennie was full of praise for the run out executed by Dane Vilas this afternoon.
“You’re not going to see many better (than that),” he said. “To throw the ball in mid-air and hit the stumps, it was an unbelievable run out.
“You’ve got two blokes batting who are very quick between the wickets and for Dane to get that run out was something we needed. They had a good partnership going and were doing it pretty easily so it was very crucial for us to get that breakthrough.”
And Mennie is thoroughly enjoying his first season of county cricket.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “The lads have been really good and the cricket has been really high standard.
“To come up against other players has been good for me. I’ve done a bit of homework and watched some footage on players I don’t know a lot about. It’s been a good learning experience.”
Photo: Simon Pendrigh