Essex v Lancashire: Champions keep cool to collect win
PUBLISHED: 17:50 22 April 2018 | UPDATED: 17:50 22 April 2018
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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.
Their defence of the title had started in disappointing style last week at Headingley when the champions did not get on the pitch for all four days and pocketed just five points.
But they added a welcome 19 points from this game after being skittled for 150 on the first day.
However, Essex faced serious resistance from Alex Davies, Jordan Clark and latterly Joe Mennie, who all posted half-centuries.
And while they were at the crease the improbable target of 320 was not beyond the bounds of possibility. Mennie thumped three sixes in his 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 of their target.
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 9-80 in the match, to follow on from his 75 from last season’s title-winning campaign.
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 and he struck again in his next over when he pinned Shivnarine Chanderpaul lbw for one. Suddenly the lunch score of 82-2 had become 98-4.
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 and he put on 33 in five overs with Dane Vilas, with 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 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 195-7.
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 mid-wicket, and added another to long leg off the same bowler before reaching his 50 from 82 balls.
But any thoughts lf leading Lancashire to an unlikely win were ended by Porter soon after.