Tom Westley led the way with 237 runs in the match as Essex batted out for a draw against Warwickshire in the Specsavers County Championship Division One at Edgbaston.
Having been bowled out for 324, 193 behind, Essex followed on and closed the final day on 158 for two as the match petered out in the Birmingham sunshine.
Westley added a second innings 97 (161 balls, 14 fours) to his first innings 141 (266 balls, 18 fours) as he and Alastair Cook (57 not out, 164 balls, seven fours) added 157 in 54 overs to shepherd their side to safety.
The draw secured Warwickshire’s Division One status, condemning Nottinghamshire to relegation, but meant that Essex relinquished the initiative to Somerset in the race for the title. On the back foot throughout the match, the visitors never recovered from their decision to bowl first which backfired spectacularly as Warwickshire piled up 517.
After resuming on the final morning on 278 for six in their first innings, Essex added just 46 as Warwickshire captain Jeetan Patel took six for 73. Patel struck twice in three balls as Adam Wheater was smartly caught by Sam Hain at short leg and Simon Harmer’s leg-stump was knocked out.
To compound Essex’s frustration, they fell one run short of a third batting point. When the last ball of the 110th over (the bonus points cut off) arrived, they were 299 for eight but Aaron Beard drove Olly Hannon-Dalby straight to short extra cover so a potentially vital point slipped away.
Westley’s skilful resistance ended when he left one from Henry Brookes which flattened his off-stump before Patel removed Beard thanks to Liam Banks’ catch at third slip.
Following on, Essex lost Nick Browne from the fourth ball of the innings when he edged George Garrett into the slips, but Cook and Westley made measured progress on a flattening pitch. The pair reached their half-centuries from 98 and 101 balls respectively as the game headed for stale-mate.
Cook resisted the temptation to accelerate in search of his first championship century against Warwickshire (he has scored two first-class tons against them for MCC and England) but Westley advanced to within three runs of recording a second century in a match for the first time before chipping Matt Lamb to mid-wicket.
Warwickshire advanced to the brink of Division One safety after Essex were forced into a dogged rearguard action on the third day of their Specsavers County Championship Division One tussle at Edgbaston.
Having resumed on 31 for one, in reply to 517, at the start of the third day, Essex closed it on 278 for six with Tom Westley leading their defiance with an unbeaten 123 (234 balls, 16 fours) – his 21st first-class century.
The accomplished work of Westley, supported by Nick Browne (65, 206 balls, 12 fours) steered Essex towards the follow on figure of 368 though the loss of three quick wickets after tea means they still have some work to do to get there on the final morning.
With Somerset having thrashed Yorkshire at Taunton, a draw would leave Essex playing catch-up in the title race with just two games left. Meanwhile, Warwickshire, having secured two bowling points, need only to close out the draw to secure safety and condemn Nottinghamshire to the drop.
With victory pretty much out of the equation after conceding 517, the visitors focused on the pursuit of batting points which could prove significant if the title race goes down to the wire. They lost only one wicket in the morning session, in the sixth over of the day, when nightwatchman Sam Cook edged Olly Hannon-Dalby and Liam Banks took a fine catch diving to his left at second slip.
On a slow pitch, the batsmen were made to work hard by an injury-depleted Warwickshire attack led by spinner Jeetan Patel (37-13-60-3) who wheeled away at the Birmingham End while seamers rotated at the other.
Westley and Browne added a vigilant 106 in 41 overs. Browne, 16 not out overnight, reached his half-century (152 balls) in the first over after lunch and Westley followed to his fifty from 90 balls with his sixth four, handsomely driven off Henry Brookes. The pair showed plenty of patience and application but were parted when Patel floated one inside Browne’s defence and won an lbw decision.
Dan Lawrence (28, 72 balls, four fours) helped Westley add 75 in 25 overs but then fell to the new ball when he sliced a swinging delivery from George Garrett to point. Ravi Bopara was soon bowled by Patel and when Ryan ten Doeschate was adjudged lbw to Henry Brookes, the Bears’ First Division status was all but secured before bad light lopped off the last nine overs.
Essex’s title challenge encountered a major obstacle in the form of a marathon maiden century from Warwickshire batsman Matt Lamb on the second day of their Specsavers County Championship Division One match at Edgbaston.
The 23-year-old Edgbaston academy product, playing his 15th first-class match, batted exactly seven hours for 173 (371 balls, 25 fours) to lift Warwickshire to 517 all out.
His implacable concentration meant the innings hoovered up almost all the first two days of the match and steered the home side a long way towards securing the draw which would take them to the brink of safety from relegation.
Essex, meanwhile, who reached 31 for one in reply by the close, will need to produce something remarkable over the remaining two days to achieve the win they need to keep pace with Somerset, who are strongly-placed against Yorkshire at Taunton, at the top.
How the Division One leaders will rue their decision to bowl first after Lamb added 150 in 49 overs for the fourth wicket with Sam Hain (82, 197 balls, 12 fours) and 105 in 34 for the seventh with Henry Brookes (46, 89 balls, six fours). Simon Harmer’s reward for 59.5 overs of spin was six for 143 but the seam-attack was blunted by a pitch offering them little help.
Essex sensed an opportunity in the morning session when, after Warwickshire extended their overnight 269 for three to 290, three wickets fell for seven runs in 22 balls. Perfectly-shaped outswingers from Jamie Porter forced fatal edges from Hain and Michael Burgess and debutant Ethan Brookes turned Harmer to leg slip.
But Brookes the elder (Henry is Ethan’s older brother) batted positively from his first ball. Two boundaries off Harmer halted the mini-collapse and Brookes’ composed presence allowed Lamb to move patiently to his maiden ton from 211 balls (15 fours) and then advance to 150 from 312 (23).
Essex were gifted a breakthrough when Lamb called Brookes for a dodgy single and saw his partner run out by yards, but Jeetan Patel helped add 66 before Lamb’s excellent knock ended with a weary swat to mid-wicket off Ravi Bopara.
Harmer trapped Olly Hannon-Dalby to complete his five-for but Patel and last man George Garrett cranked the total over 500 with an alliance of 46 in 12 overs before Garrett was stumped off Harmer.
A satisfying day for Warwickshire was crowned in the penultimate over when Alastair Cook edged Patel to second slip.
Title-chasing Essex encountered stern resistance from relegation-threatened Warwickshire on the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship tussle at Edgbaston.
Division One leaders Essex took up the away side’s option to bowl first in the hope of making inroads into a Bears top order missing Ian Bell, Adam Hose, Rob Yates and Tim Ambrose through injury or illness.
But the Bears’ depleted batting line-up showed plenty of resilience and concentration to close the opening day on 269 for three.
After Dominic Sibley laid the foundation with 51 (158 balls, four fours, taking his championship run tally for the season to exactly 1,000), Sam Hain (77 not out, 185 balls, ten fours) and Matt Lamb (69 not out, 149 balls, eight fours) carried on the resistance with an unbroken partnership of 129 in 51 overs.
On a day on which the seamers bowled well at times but beat the edge rather than finding it, Essex’s wickets all came from spinner Simon Harmer whose marathon stint from the Birmingham End brought him 36-11-67-3.
Warwickshire received a diligent start from openers Sibley and Will Rhodes who added 87 in 27.3 overs before Harmer struck twice in six balls just before lunch. Rhodes (38, 85 balls, eight fours) edged a turning delivery to wicketkeeper Adam Wheater and then Liam Banks, still to score, was caught by Ravi Bopara at leg slip.
Having batted through the first session for 35, Sibley reached 50 from 139 balls an hour after lunch, but added only another single before chipping a return catch back to Harmer. That left Warwickshire 140 for three and Essex sensing an opportunity but Hain and Lamb knuckled down assiduously.
While Harmer wheeled away, the seamers rotated at the other end but found little assistance from the pitch. Jamie Porter, in particular, had little luck but Hain and Lamb reached their half-centuries from 132 and 110 balls respectively, each with eight fours.
In the last hour, the new ball failed to bring another breakthrough and, within seven overs, Essex turned back to Harmer but the fourth-wicket pair remained resolute under the cerulean Second City evening sky.
While Essex are at full strength, Warwickshire’s extraordinary injury crisis has deepened yet further with the loss of Yates (illness), Tim Ambrose (upset stomach) and Adam Hose (knee injury). Eighteen-year-old all-rounder Ethan Brookes is making his debut, alongside brother Henry.
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