Report: Warwickshire v Essex, Specsavers County Championship 2017

Day 3

Essex virtually sealed their seventh Specsavers County Championship title by completing an innings-and-56-runs victory over relegation-bound Warwickshire at Edgbaston.

Trailing by 168 on first innings, the home side was bowled out for 112 to suffer their second thumping of the season at the hands of Essex who hammered them by an innings and 164 runs at Chelmsford in June.

With second-placed Lancashire on the back foot against Somerset at Taunton, the title is all but Essex's after they totalled outplayed Warwickshire. The post-match mood in the two dressing-rooms at Edgbaston could not have been contrasting - while Essex will begin the 2018 season as defending champions, Warwickshire will be in Division Two, their nine-year stay in the top flight having come to a bruising end.

Warwickshire resumed on third morning on nine without loss and any hopes harboured by their supporters of seeing some rediscovered resilience from their team evaporated in minutes. Within ten overs, the Bears lurched to 25 for four.

Jamie Porter removed openers Dominic Sibley, caught at first slip, and Sam Hain, lbw, in the space of nine balls. Former England pair Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell were uprooted by Sam Cook, who induced the former to play on and had the latter caught behind, inside-edging a superb delivery.

Chris Woakes diverted spinner Simon Harmer's tenth ball to leg slip and the arrival of rain just before and during the lunch interval merely delayed the procession.

From 55 for five at lunch, Warwickshire lost another wicket before acquiring another run as Alex Mellor edged to slip off Harmer to provide the spinner's 20th championship wicket against Warwickshire this season. Porter then meted out a pair to Keith Barker when the left-hander edged to wicketkeeper James Foster.

Edgbaston academy product Matt Lamb showed his ability with some solid resistance for the second time in the game but, on 35 (66 balls, four fours), lofted Harmer to Dan Lawrence on the mid-wicket boundary.

Lawrence took another fine catch, running round from gully, to remove Jeetan Patel off Cook, leaving last pair Henry Brookes and Ryan Sidebottom with 63 to find to make Essex bat again. They managed seven of them before Brookes edged Harmer to slip.

 

Day 2

Essex's advance towards the Specsavers County Championship title this summer has included some spectacular days - this wasn't one of them but still brought a strong stride towards glory as they built a commanding position against Warwickshire at Edgbaston.

Replying to 201, Ryan ten Doeschate's men made 369 for nine, a lead of 168, before declaring late in the day to give Warwickshire two awkward overs batting.

The home side survived those unscathed on seven without loss but will have to bat with a resilience that has invariably been sorely lacking from them this season to get out of this hole. With nearest rivals Lancashire in trouble, having followed on at Taunton, Essex are on the threshold of the title.

With plenty of time at their disposal, Essex's batsmen built a position from which they will aim to close out victory on the third day. It was a collective effort led by Varun Chopra (98, 181 balls, 15 fours), Dan Lawrence (78, 130, 14) and James Foster (68, 107, 12) to which all the top eight, other than the skipper, contributed. After bowling well as a unit, the Division One leaders batted well as a unit, sustaining pressure on their opponents. The stuff of champions.

Essex resumed on the second day on 69 without loss and lost two wickets in a morning. Opening pair Chopra and Nick Browne added 72 before the latter (24, 65 balls) edged Keith Barker to second slip. Tom Westley batted sweetly for 28 (40 balls) until he nicked England team-mate Chris Woakes behind, after which Chopra and Lawrence put on 92 in 29 overs. The princely Chopra was within two runs of a century against his former team-mates when he perished lbw to medium-pacer Matt Lamb.

Lawrence's aggressive innings threatened to take the game away from Warwickshire rapidly but the beleaguered home side stuck to their task and hit back with two wickets in four balls for Ryan Sidebottom. Lawrence cut to gully and ten Doeschate played on for a third-ball duck.

When Ravi Bopara fell lbw to Barker, Essex had lost four wickets for 51 runs in 17 overs and but Foster and Simon Harmer (24, 65 balls) calmly eased the total upward with a partnership of 76 in 23 overs.
Woakes ended that stand with an in-ducker which pinned Harmer, Neil Wagner edged Barker and, after Foster fell lbw to Jeetan Patel, Essex pulled out.

Day 1

Essex's leading wicket-takers Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer plundered four more apiece as the Division One leaders dominated bottom-of-the-table Warwickshire on the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship match at Edgbaston.
Porter took four for 62 and Harmer four for 47, taking their season's haul to 61 and 59 respectively, as the home side was bowled out for 201.

Only opener Dom Sibley, last out for 76 (183 balls, nine fours), showed the necessary resolve and technique against aggressive, accurate bowling which was rewarded by seven lbw dismissals.

Essex reached 69 without loss at the close of the first day of a match which could conclude with them crowned champions and their opponents consigned to relegation. Last time Essex visited Edgbaston in the championship, in August2 010, a seven-wicket defeat condemned them to the drop. This time a much happier outcome is in prospect.

Essex took up the option to bowl at a brittle Bears batting unit and Porter soon inflicted damage in a superb opening spell of 7-3-15-2. The 24-year-old trapped Sam Hain and Jonathan Trott lbw to leave the home side tottering on 12 for two. He would also have had Sibley, on just two, but Harmer grassed the chance at second slip.

Sibley enjoyed good fortune early on but applied himself diligently to the anchor role while partners came and went. The opener added 46 in 16 overs with Ian Bell, 52 in 19 with Matt Lamb and 43 in 15 with Chris Woakes.
Bell (37, 52 balls), averaging just 22.89 in the championship this season, batted with returning fluency but fell lbw to Neil Wagner. Not for the first time this season, Lamb (32, 64 balls) got out just as he had got in, this time edging Samuel Cook to the wicketkeeper. Woakes (22, 52) was pinned lbw on the back foot by Harmer.

Essex then truly took control with three wickets in the last 15 balls before tea - all lbw. Alex Mellor inexplicably left a straight one from Harmer, Porter returned to oust Keith Barker for a duck and Harmer defeated fellow-spinner Patel.

From 187 for eight at tea, Warwickshire soon lost debutant Henry Brookes, bowled by Harmer, before the gallant Sibley at least took them to a batting point before edging a big drive at Porter.

Essex then completed pretty much the perfect day as openers Varun Chopra and Nick Browne made largely untroubled progress to 69 without loss at the close.

Brian Halford

Brian is Warwickshire's Club Journalist and has reported on the Bears since 2000.