3 days and 3 sets of photos – that means lots, with a few wickets captured if you look closely!

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Essex’s defence of the title started with a ‘wet weekend’ literally when not a ball was  bowled at Headingley. Lancashire across the Pennines played Nottinghamshire, losing heavily after being bowled out for 158 and and 73, Notts needed 10 runs to win the match, but lost 4 wickets in doing so.  Something of a crazy match!

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That craziness continued at the County Ground when the toss went uncontested as Lancashire opted to bowl first.  The Lancashire bowlers definitely bowled well, but it was like watching players who had no idea what that big lump of wood was doing in their hands!  It certainly wasn’t used to make runs until new boy Peter Siddle entered the fray!

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By that time Essex were 105 for 8, with opener Nick Browne noted as the top scorer with a hard fought 23 runs.  Siddle was a revelation, in 190 First Class innings he’d averaged 17, yet had a top score of 103*.  In the scheme of this innings his 33*, with the only two 6’s of the innings was outstanding!  Jamie Porter joined Siddle with the score on 113, facing 22 valuable ball for 4 runs, before he was run out.

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Essex had reached 150, not the best of starts, but after the 2017 season I was confident that the Essex bowlers were fully capable of replying in kind.

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And reply in kind they did!  Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings, 2 young players who’ve both opened for England now find themselves in the same team, based on their performances during this match they also both find themselves struggling at the start of the season.  Lancashire fell to 19 for 3 before Liam Livingstone, another player mentioned in despatches when England is being discussed, made runs, funnily enough the same number as Peter Siddle – 33, taking Lancashire to the heady heights of 65 for 4.

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Dane Vilas made 25 important runs, but with Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer carrying on where they left off in 2017 each taking 4 wickets Lancashire finished the day on 141 for 8!

Day 2 started with a bang, with Jamie Porter taking his 5th wicket to dismiss Graham Onions and Simon Harmer following suit to see Jordan Clark’s innings of 25 come to a close.  Lancashire were all out for 144, giving Essex a 6 run lead.

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Essex really needed to bat all day to give themselves a chance in this game, it  seemed that the batsmen had been considering the use of their bats overnight as the first 6 batsmen, with the exception of dan Lawrence made double figures.  Tom Westley shone with 49.  James Foster came in at 7.  At 38 and with a job in a school we can’t have too much longer with the Essex stalwart, but we were treated to the best innings in the game to this point.

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Paul Walter , who can be handy with the bat made 14 before bowing caught behind.  Enter Mr 5fer, Simon Harmer.  he and Foster put on 103 runs, in what must have ben an incredibly frustrating partnership for the visitors.  Harmer was clearly very disappointed to miss out on his 50 when he was caught behind.  Essex were 311 for 8, a lead of 317.

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I was chatting to fellow Essex fans and we’d been using our hope up as the afternoon progressed.  There was to be no wonder innings for Siddle again and he and Foster were out in quick succession as the day was coming to a close.  Foster had made 69 and Essex 313, leaving Lancashire with 320 to get the win.

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I must give a special mention to Dane Vilas who was literally fielding on his knees to Parkinson the spinner, I’ve literally never seen that before!

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And so we had a game on our hands!  Day 3 started with Lancashire needing 320 runs and Essex needing 10 wickets.

We had what was to prove to be a great battle between bat and ball. Those Lancashire players had also looked up what their bats were and they put them to good use.  Both Hameed and Jennings again looked uncomfortable.  with Hameed becoming Porter’s first wicket of the innings as he troubled him in the 3rd over, the wicket felt inevitable, which is why I managed to capture the missing stump as Hameed was bowled for 1.

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Jennings scored 24 but didn’t look happy at the crease at any time, he became Peter Siddle’s first wicket at Essex as he was caught behind by Varun Chopra, taking him to 214 First Class catches!

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The delight for Peter Siddle was plain to see amongst his team mates, he’d bowled so well on the first day but hadn’t come away with any wickets, he deserved to be on the scorecard.

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The wicketkeeper Alex Davies had come in at 3 and he surpassed Foster in the run making department.  He had a classy innings and really didn’t look to be struggling at any stage.  Lancashire were 7 for 1 when he came in, going to 32 for 2 when Jennings was out.  Liam Livingstone made a useful 23 , Shivnarine Chanderpaul, a man with a really weird stance,  was out for 1 taking Lancashire to 98 for 4

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Dane Vilas contributed 22 before Alex Davies was out to a very strange LBW to Paul Walter, it almost looked like a head before wicket form where I was sitting as Davies fell to the floor, he’d made 71 in a great innings!

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Jordan Clark was next in and he was also the next to frustrate the home side, he made 59 and Joe Mennie 56 as Lancashire crept up close to that 320.  All of this coincided with the main scoreboard going totally blank.  I’d never realised just how much I rely on a scoreboard, I found it incredibly frustrating, I want to know what’s what in all areas when I’m watching cricket!

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With the help of BBC Sport a few of us in the Boundary Club Stand were being our nails as Lancashire came within 31 runs of the required score.  Up stepped that man Jamie Porter, he bowled Mennie to the delight of his team and the home fans!  Essex had their first win and Porter had a tally of 9 for 80 – Simply Wonderful!

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Spot the wicket and spot the smiles, hopefully there’l be a lot more of them for Essex fas and players.  I also really hope that Haseeb Hameed in particular finds the form he showed against India on their home soil.

 

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