Simon Harmer claimed his seventh five-wicket haul of the season to help Essex to the top of the Specsavers County Championship with a decisive 187-run victory over Warwickshire.
The South African off-spinner took his season’s tally to 64 with his latest figures of six for 75. He had done the damage in the morning session when he took four wickets in 20 balls to rip the heart out of an inexperienced Warwickshire batting line-up.
Essex’s seventh win in eight games – and sixth in six at Chelmsford – carried them above Somerset by four points with four to play, including a potential winner-takes-all showdown at Taunton in the final game.
Set 401 to win, Warwickshire were always in trouble. Essex were held up briefly by a lively seventh-wicket partnership between Michael Burgess and Henry Brookes that put on 51 in eight overs.
But once Brookes went shortly before lunch, the die was cast. There was just enough time for Burgess to reach his first fifty since joining on loan from Sussex, before the end came 45 minutes into the afternoon session.
Shorn of chief run-getters Dom Sibley and Sam Hain on England Lions duty, Warwickshire did not possess the strength in depth to prevent a fifth defeat of the season.
It had taken six overs for the first wicket of the day to go; the rest kept falling at regular intervals thereafter.
Rob Yates might have gone to the very first ball when he got a leading edge that went agonisingly just over Harmer’s head. Not much eluded Harmer thereafter.
Liam Banks reached his maiden first-class fifty from his 81st ball faced, but six balls later he edged Peter Siddle firmly to Tom Westley at third slip.
Yates hung around for 63 balls for 13 before he became Harmer’s first victim, caught low down at slip by Sir Alastair Cook. Dan Mousley faced just one ball before he departed to the same combination.
Tim Ambrose survived the hat-trick ball, killing any turn with an exaggerated forward defensive stride, but lasted just two more overs from Harmer before popping one around the corner to Dan Lawrence at leg slip.
Adam Hose looked to be batting himself back into form with 13 from 34 balls when he played an injudicious sweep at Harmer and was caught at midwicket by Rishi Patel, diving forward.
Burgess and Brookes offered a measure of aggressive resistance. Burgess started the spree by lofting Harmer over cow corner. Brookes caught the prevailing mood by hooking Matt Quinn for four and six over midwicket and then landing a straight six off Harmer. Burgess’s second six off Harmer took the stand past fifty in eight overs.
It was only delaying the inevitable, however. Brookes perished for 27 from 25 balls when he was strangled down legside by Quinn and feathered to substitute wicketkeeper Will Buttleman, playing in place of the injured Adam Wheater.
The return of Siddle to the attack immediately after lunch accounted for Warwickshire captain Rishi Patel, this time with Harmer assisting with the catch at second slip.
Burgess reached his half-century from 46 balls, but lost Olly Stone, the ninth wicket, with the score half the deficit, caught behind. Burgess was the last to depart, dancing down the wicket to Harmer and being stumped for 64. His innings had spanned 69 balls and included seven fours and three sixes.
Liam Banks dug in with great determination and aplomb as Warwickshire set about batting out a minimum of 121 overs to prevent a heavy defeat at Chelmsford.
Twenty-year-old Banks was 36 not out from 66 balls as Warwickshire reached 67 for one in their pursuit of 401 to pull off a mission improbable and record a third victory of the season.
More realistically, the capture of another nine wickets stand between Essex and the seventh victory in eight games that would take them to the top of the Specsavers County Championship by just four points, assuming Yorkshire do not let slip their stranglehold over Somerset at Headingley.
The Warwickshire openers took advantage of some wide open spaces in the field to pass fifty in the 13th over. But Aaron Beard’s arrival into the attack heralded the breakthrough Essex wanted with Will Rhodes lbw for 25. Warwickshire made it to the close without further alarm, still 334 runs from their target.
The match had essentially been put beyond Warwickshire’s reach during an eighth-wicket rampage before tea between Dan Lawrence and Simon Harmer that extended Essex’s lead from 299 to nearly 400 in just 20 overs. Both batsmen fell straight after tea, but not before they had put 84 valuable runs on the board. Lawrence departed to the second ball of the final session, charging Rhodes and nicking to Tim Ambrose for 74.
That gave Rhodes his fourth wicket of the innings, and ninth of the match, at a combined personal cost of 55 runs. The part-time seamer’s first-innings five for 17 was a career-best; his four for 38 in the second constituted the next best
Harmer followed without addition to the tea-time score, attempting to hit Jeetan Patel over the top and being caught on the long-leg boundary by Liam Banks.
Sir Alastair Cook had laid the foundations in the morning towards the eventual declaration with a carefree 83 from 168 balls. He was the senior partner in a second-wicket stand of 63 off 26 overs with nightwatchman Matt Quinn that frustrated Warwickshire for an hour and a half. Quinn contributed nine to the partnership from 69 balls, including an on-drive for four off Henry Brookes.
Cook hit 11 boundaries in his sixth Championship half-century of the season, and went on the attack once he had reached that milestone, hitting Patel for three of them in quick order. The first was turned off his legs, the second pulled contemptuously through midwicket, the third cut backward of square.
The return of Rhodes accounted for Cook when he was pinned lbw. The Yorkshireman had another in the same over when Tom Westley was caught behind wafting outside off-stump. Quinn finally departed next over, nicking behind as Essex collapsed from 135 for one to 139 for four,
Rishi Patel fell to the first ball after lunch when he deflected a ball from pad on to bat to Banks at second slip. Brookes claimed a second wicket in the over when Ryan ten Doeschate lost his middle stump as he attempted to force the pace.
Wheater had scored 21 at almost a run-a-ball when he reverse-swept at Patel and Rhodes threw himself from first slip to where second slip would have been to take the catch.
Lawrence rattled along apace and clobbered Brookes off the back-foot for four to bring up his second fifty of the match from 101 balls. He then drove two more boundaries straight past the bowler to make it three in a row towards a total of 11.
Rhodes’s figures were dented slightly when Harmer launched him straight back over his head for six.
Lawrence faced 103 balls before his immediate post-tea departure, and Harmer 67 balls for his 43. Beard and Peter Siddle added an unbroken 17 before the declaration came five overs after the break.
Essex took the field in the evening without wicketkeeper Wheater, who had struggled in Warwickshire’s first innings after taking a blow to his thumb. Will Buttleman replaced him behind the stumps.
Peter Siddle took his second five-wicket haul this season to help Essex put Somerset under serious pressure at the top of the Specsavers County Championship.
The pace man recorded figures of five for 33 as Essex looked to reduce the 15-point deficit to the Championship leaders and take advantage of Somerset’s travails at the hands of Yorkshire at Headingley.
Siddle took his season’s tally to 32 wickets in the Championship at a cost of 19.87 each. On a personal note, his latest exploits were a timely reminder to the Australian selectors as they prepare to name their squad ahead of what would be Siddle’s sixth Ashes series.
In removing four of the last five batsmen, Siddle helped Essex dismiss Warwickshire for 161 and gain a first-innings lead of 84. It was the sixth time in six Championship matches at Chelmsford this season that Essex had outscored their visitors; they won all five of those previous games.
Siddle was recalled to the attack in an act of desperation by Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate after Tim Ambrose and Michael Burgess had compiled a big-hitting sixth-wicket stand of 64 in 19 overs that lifted Warwickshire from the depths of 62 for five. The effect was immediate: Ambrose was out to the third ball of Siddle’s new spell, Burgess to the sixth.
Henry Brookes and Olly Stone followed in quick succession before Aaron Beard wrapped up the innings by bowling Jeetan Patel.
That left Essex with 29 overs in the evening to build on their lead, which had grown to 157 at the close with nine wickets still standing.
After Nick Browne and Sir Alastair Cook had recorded their fifth half-century opening stand of the season, Will Rhodes repeated his wicket-taking form of the first innings when he struck with his second legitimate ball of the second. Browne was adjudged lbw after hitting eight fours in a 71-ball 38.
Essex sent in Matt Quinn as nightwatchman for the final three overs to accompany Cook through to the close. Cook had looked assured in reaching 34.
Siddle had set Warwickshire on the slippery slope when he had Rhodes lbw to a straight one in his third over. Liam Banks followed in the next when he was bowled around his legs by Quinn.
Before the arrival of Ambrose and Burgess to inject some life into the Warwickshire middle-order, Rob Yates had looked to be the only batsman who could withstand the Essex attack and score runs at the same time. With 21 runs eked out in the opening hour’s play, the first boundary did not arrive until the 10th over of the day when Yates hooked Quinn; it was another 14 overs before the 19-year-old left-hander swept Harmer for the second.
Adam Hose continued a sequence of low scores since his 111 against Nottinghamshire at the start of June. He faced 25 balls without scoring before falling to Beard’s second delivery, well held at first slip by Cook moving to his right.
Debutant Dan Mousley, 18 just a week ago, gave himself room against Harmer and was beaten by the extra bounce as he edged to Adam Wheater for three.
Yates put on 29 for the fifth wicket with Ambrose during which Warwickshire’s first fifty was posted in the 28th over. But Yates had added just one run to his lunch-time 31 when he swept early at another Harmer delivery and was lbw.
Ambrose decided the best means of defence against Harmer was to attack. He cut the off-spinner to the boundary and swept two more fours from successive deliveries. Burgess had evidently paid attention to the assault as he pulled Harmer for two more in his next over.
When Ambrose late-cut Harmer for his sixth four, it brought up the fifty partnership in 16 overs. The run spree didn’t stop there: Burgess caned Quinn for three fours in an over. It was too much for ten Doeschate and Siddle was thrown the ball. He struck immediately.
Ambrose, having scored 38 from 93 balls, was unable to withdraw his bat in time and snicked to Tom Westley at third slip. Burgess had reached 35 from 55 balls when he picked out Westley at mid-off. Ten Doeschate caught Brookes at short leg and Wheater held on when Stone feathered behind and Siddle had four wickets in 23 balls for four runs.
Will Rhodes sliced through the Essex batting with four wickets in 26 balls either side of tea to claim career-best bowling figures of five for 17.
Sir Alastair Cook and Dan Lawrence had put on 116 for the third wicket before Rhodes came on for his first prolonged spell and had both batsmen back in the pavilion in quick succession to precipitate a major collapse from 157 for two to 171 for six. Essex revived belatedly but were dismissed for 245 just before the close.
Cook was first to go, for a dashing 84, dabbing at a delivery outside off-stump, the ball lobbing tamely into Jeetan Patel’s hands at gulley. Lawrence followed soon after, edging behind another wide-ish delivery.
Rishi Patel was next, fencing outside off-stump to second slip, and four balls later Adam Wheater drove to Olly Stone at mid-off.
Rhodes, who had a loan spell at Chelmsford three years ago, had taken just one wicket previously this season for 150 runs. The part-time seamer’s previous-best figures were three for 42. Yet at the fall of Wheater’s wicket he had claimed four wickets at a personal cost of two runs for Wimbledon-style figures of 6-4-6-4.
The carnage did not stop there. The parsimonious Oliver Hannon-Dalby, who had bowled six maidens in his first seven overs, took his first wicket of the innings when he trapped Simon Harmer lbw.
Ryan ten Doeschate had watched from the other end while the wickets tumbled, but after reaching 26 from 43 balls he gloved Stone to the wicketkeeper.
And Rhodes returned at the end to have Aaron Beard flashing at a delivery and being caught behind.
Warwickshire’s decision to settle for an uncontested toss and bowl first had looked ill-advised when Cook and Lawrence were still together six overs before tea. But with the ball in Rhodes’s hands it suddenly looked a completely different proposition.
Lawrence was the dominant scorer in the 39-over partnership with the former England captain. His half-century came from 68 balls compared to Cook’s comparatively pedestrian 122.
Lawrence had used his feet to good effect against Patel, lofting him over long leg for six that set the tempo for his exhilarating 105-ball 61. He hit nine fours, the seventh an effortless drive through the offside to bring up his fourth Championship fifty of the season.
Cook finished 16 short of celebrating his 300th first-class appearance with his 66th century. He mixed diligence with some elegant strokes, hooking, cutting and driving his 11 boundaries, during his 195-ball stay at the crease.
Henry Brookes had made early inroads with the first two wickets to reduce Essex to 41 for two from 20 overs. Nick Browne hung around for 48 balls for six before he chased one from Brookes outside off-stump and chipped straight to Rob Yates at backward point.
Brookes struck again three overs later when Tom Westley attempted to smash him over midwicket, only for Michael Burgess to mark his Warwickshire debut by pulling off a spectacular one-handed catch above his head. Burgess, signed on an initial loan from Sussex, was drafted into the team along with promising teenage 2nd XI batsman Dan Mousley to replace Warwickshire’s chief run-getters Dom Sibley and Sam Hain, both on duty with England Lions along with Essex seamer Jamie Porter.
Stone picked up his second wicket when he bowled Siddle with a leg-stump yorker before the players were taken off briefly when it appeared the air ambulance would need to land on the outfield to attend to a sick spectator. That proved unnecessary and Aaron Beard and Matt Quinn continued a last-wicket stand worth 34, of which Beard contributed an impressive 29.