It seems hardly feasible that I’m writing about the penultimate County Championship match of 2019, we’re in mid September and the season is very nearly done. Essex started this match in second place just 8 points behind Somerset sitting at the top of the table. That inevitably meant that those at Chelmsford were watching Essex with an eye on the Rose Bowl, we were also Hampshire fans for the week! Well the Essex fans anyway!

Play was delayed until early afternoon due to bad light, Surrey elected to have the toss, which they duly won. An Essex Old Boy, Ben Foakes, captain for this match, elected to bat, which was obviously the desired result for his team.

The two teams had met at the other extreme of the season, in April, with the match ending in a draw.

Essex had played 6 matches at the County Ground before this match with the toss, first innings scores and results going like this –

  • Notts won the toss and batted – All Out for 187 – Essex won by 8 wickets – Simon Harmer took 6 for 60 in Notts second innings.
  • Kent elected to bowl – Essex were All Out for 313, with a century for Sir A – Essex won by 113 runs. Simon Harmer took 8 for 98 in Kent’s second innings.
  • Hants won the toss and batted – All Out for 118 – Essex won by an innings and 8 runs. Simon Harmer took 5 for 23 and 7 for 38.
  • Somerset – Essex won the toss and batted – All Out for 216 – Essex won by 151 runs. Jamie Porter took 5 for 51 and 4 for 22.
  • Yorkshire won the toss and batted – All Out for 208 – Essex won by 8 wickets. Simon Harmer took 5 for 76 in Yorks first innings
  • Warwickshire elected to bowl – Essex were All Out for 245 – Essex won by 187 runs. Peter Siddle took 5 for 33 in the first innings, Simon Harmer took 6 for 75 in the second.

Simon Harmer started this match with 71 wickets to his name, those figures being boosted by the 6 wickets he took at Edgbaston.

Essex Spin King Simon Harmer

The story of Surrey’s first innings, however, involved two of Essex’s home grown bowlers, Jamie Porter had 41 wickets before this match and Sam Cook 23. 22 year old Cook literally destroyed the Kent line up at Canterbury when they were bowled out for 40, he took 8 for 23 in a breathtaking 9 overs.

In Surrey’s first innings the top 6 batsmen all reached double figures, with 19 year old Jamie Smith top scoring with 34, in spite of that they were bowled out for 174, with Porter taking 5 for 62 and Cook 5 for 53.

Essex didn’t get off to the best of starts when Nick Browne was out for 2, they then fell to 53 for 3, with Alastair Cook and Tom Westley joining Browne in the pavilion. They needed a partnership. Dan Lawrence had come in at 4, Ravi Bopara at 5. The pair put on 72 with Bopara being bowled by Morkel for 34.

That wicket brought captain Ryan ten Doeschate to the crease, he and Lawrence batted out virtually the rest of the day. They formed a partnership of 173 and (as an Essex fan) were a joy to watch! Lawrence batted for 261 minutes, facing 245 balls and scoring 147. As the light was starting to fade he got hit by a ball from Morkel a few balls later he edged a ball to Borthwick from the bowling of Morkel. Essex had moved to 298 for 5 and were seeking maximum batting points.

ten Doeschate reached his century the next morning, only to take a swipe at a ball from the young Surrey spinner Amar Virdi, he was out for 103 caught by Rikki Clarke. The score was 334 for 7 at that point, a fine innings from Simon Harmer who scored 50 from 46 balls saw Essex attain their 4th batting point to add to the 3 bowling points, but they fell just 5 runs short when Virdi took his 3rd wicket, despatching Sam Cook.

It struck me that while Surrey have brought through some talented young players their seam bowline attack is an ageing one, in cricketing terms. (I apologise to them for sharing ages).

  • Rikki Clarke – 37
  • Morne Morkel – 34
  • Liam PLunkett – 34
  • Jordan Clarke – 28 (nearly 29)

Essex finished on 395 with 7 bonus points in the bag. Somerset had been bowled out for 142 with new Essex hero Kyle Abbot taking 9 for 40 to see them miss out on any batting points to add to their 3 bowling points. Hampshire had found themselves on 88 for 7 and in trouble before Liam Dawson scored 103, in their second innings we had a third Essex hero in James Vince who scored 142! Their aggregate total was 422, could Somerset score a 2nd innings total of 281? One thing that was certain is the BBC App was in demand at Chelmsford as Surrey went about their second innings.

Amar Virdi’s bowling had born some fruit, it was obvious that Simon Harmer would be influential in Surrey’s second innings. Harmer bowled 34.2 overs, fairly flying through the top order, Ollie Pope scored a good 30 before succumbing to Harmer, batting for just under an hour. Ben Foakes batted for over 90 minutes for his 15. Jordan Clark batted very cleverly with Morne Morkel, keeping the tall bowler away from the Essex seam bowlers they put on 43 providing stubborn resisitance. It took Ravi Bopara to break their partnership, seeing Clark out for 33. Before Harmer took his 7th wicket of the innings to see Essex win by an innings and 40- runs. Harmer finished with 7 for 58.

In Southampton the Kyle Abbot miracle continued as he added 8 wickets for 46 runs in Hampshire’s second innings, He finished that match with remarkable figures of 17 for 86! An incredible performance! Thank you Kyle! Hampshire won by 136 runs.

The result of the two matches has left Essex clear by 12 points at the top of the table, making the final game of the season the title decider. Somerset are known for producing wickets to suit their spinners, but they’ll be very mindful of the fact that Essex are bringing with them the top wicket taker in Division 1 in the shape of Essex’s Spin King Simon Harmer. May the best team win!

Photos to follow with better wi-fi!

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