Graeme Swann took five wickets and Graham Onions four as England thrashed Essex by 228 runs on the fourth and final day of the LV= Challenge at Chelmsford.
In their last game before the Investec Ashes, which starts a week today at Trent Bridge, Alastair Cook’s team brushed aside county opponents depleted by injury.
Notionally chasing 415 to win, Essex began their pursuit well enough thanks to an opening stand of 91 between Hamish Rutherford and Jaik Mickleburgh.
Yet after they fell for 45 and 58 respectively, the hosts lost six wickets for 32 runs in nine overs and, with the injured Tymal Mills unable to bat, that was enough to give England victory.
Cook had declared after an hour’s play today at 279 for four, 63 more than the overnight score, with England squad member Boyd Rankin having bowled Jonny Bairstow for 28 in the only breakthrough of the morning. Ian Bell was unbeaten on 33 and Matt Prior 21.
Mickleburgh, who top-scored in Essex’s first innings with 90, and Rutherford reached lunch with 55 on the board. They continued to take the game to England until the former missed with a sweep, a shot that had worked well for him, against Swann and was bowled.
Owais Shah fell in the spinner’s next over but Mickleburgh continued to impress until Swann and Alastair Cook, who a little earlier had failed to get hand on a slip chance to oust Ravi Bopara off Steven Finn, combined to have the opener caught at midwicket.
Bopara, Essex captain in this match, fell on the brink of tea for 33 to a loose drive as seamer Onions broke Swann’s wicket monopoly on a pitch favouring spinners.
Onions and Swann then demolished the rest of the home order for a total of 186 as the contest ended 36 minutes into the last session. Greg Smith, filling in for the injured Tom Westley, was unbeaten on 10.
Man of the match Swann, who recovered from a blow to his bowling forearm during his first-innings 94, returned 5-68 and Onions 4-63 in a fixture that lost its first-class status when Rankin and Reece Topley bowled for Essex yesterday afternoon.
4:39pm - ENGLAND WIN BY 228 RUNS!! WICKET! Masters c Bresnan b Swann 14; Ess 186 all out - Masters holes out off Swann and, with Tymal Mills unable to bat, that completes victory. Swann returned 5-68 and Onions 4-43 . Smith was unbeaten on 10.
4:33pm - Greg Smith, filling in for the injured Tom Westley, and David Masters, batting despite injury, stem the flow of wickets. Meanwhile, Mitchell has a fifty for Worcestershire.
4:22pm - WICKET! Craddock lbw Onions 0; Ess 165/8 - Tom Craddock is pinned in front of leg stump, playing right back to a full ball. Onions then completes a double-wicket maiden. Essex’s innings is in tatters.
4:17pm - WICKET! Mahmood b Onions 1; Ess 165/7 - The seamer knocks out Sajid Mahmood’s middle stump for England’s fourth wicket in five overs. They are on a roll.
4:14pm - WICKET! Pettini c Bell b Swann 14; Ess 164/6 - The right-hander advances to Swann, who turns the ball sharply into him and finds the inside edge to give Ian Bell a simple catch at short-leg.
4:07pm - WICKET! Foakes c Prior b Onions 6; Ess 156/5 - Graham Onions makes it two wickets in as many overs either side of tea as he moves one away from Ben Foakes, who feathers an edge behind. England have a good chance of victory now.
4:03pm - The last session of the game starts with Graeme Swann bowling. England need six wickets to win. It’s tea at New Road where Worcestershire are 156 for two in reply to Australia’s 396 for four declared. Nick Compton has 71 and home captain Daryl Mitchell 48.
3:40pm - TEA - Ess 154/4; Pettini 9, Foakes 0 - Onions completes his over to herald the second interval. Swann has bowled beautifully and Essex trail by 261.
3:37pm - WICKET! Bopara c Bell b Onions 33; Ess 154/4 - In the over after Pettini offers a sharp chance to short-leg off Swann, Bopara loosely pushes aerially into the covers to gift Graham Onions his wicket. It was a careless shot with tea fast approaching.
3:30pm - New batsman Mark Pettini is looking solid alongside Bopara, who took Finn for two fours in the over after Mickleburgh’s wicket.
3:10pm - WICKET! Mickleburgh 58 c Cook b Swann 58; Ess 128/3 - A certain sense of irony that it is Swann and Cook, one of whom should have caught Bopara moments ago, who have combined to spell the end for Mickleburgh. His eyes light up when he sees a Swann full-toss but he merely chips the ball straight into Cook’s hands at midwicket.
3:02pm - England are convinced Mickleburgh has nicked Swann behind but umpire Tim Robinson and the Essex opener are both shaking their heads. Indeed, the sound can be attributed to Mickleburgh’s bat hitting the ground, rather than ball on willow. Swann nearly gets his man anyway with his final ball but it just drops in front of short-leg.
2:57pm - MISSED CHANCE! Finn is left devestated as he squares up Bopara and finds an outside edge, yet the ball somehow squirms between Swann and Cook in the slips before scurrying away for four. Two of England’s more senior figures simply leaving it to each other, I’m afraid.
2:45pm - Great news for England away from Essex as Nick Compton continues to maintain his fine touch having reached 50 against Australia . That knock has comprised seven fours thus far.
2:41pm - Ravi Bopara is getting even closer to most of this England XI as they huddle around the bat with Swann sending down a maiden. Alastair Cook takes Bresnan off and turns back to Steven Finn. Two singles off the over and Essex’s captain claimed one off the final ball to retain the strike.
2:30pm - FIFTY! Mickleburgh (68b 8x4 0x6) - Now Rutherford’s gone there is a huge onus on Mickleburgh to continue his purple patch. He brings up three figures on the collective total via a pull and his eighth four of the innings gives him his second half-century of the contest.
2:19pm - WICKET! Shah c Trott b Swann 0; Ess 99/2 - Owais Shah comes to the crease to face the dangerous Swann but manages to see out the over. Bresnan ends his set of six with a venomous bouncer, which leaves Mickleburgh on his knees, before Swann comes back to snare Shah. The ex-Middlesex man prods forward and Jonathan Trott takes a very smart catch to his left at slip.
2:13pm - WICKET! Rutherford b Swann 45; Ess 91/1 - The tussle between Rutherford and Swann ends in the former's demise. He goes for another big sweep and mis-times his shot as the ball goes through and clips his off stump. Given how productive Joe Root and Tom Craddock have been on this pitch, Swann may have a couple more prior to the close of play...
2:05pm - The Aussies have made a breakthrough but Nick Compton is still standing. Matthew Pardoe is the Worcestershire wicket to fall with the hosts currently 48 for one, Compton unbeaten on 26.
2pm - Rutherford’s chosen weapon to nullify this spin is the sweep and it reaps the reward of a first boundary of the afternoon session. That raises his confidence and the result is the same in the next over when he emphatically strokes Bresnan through the extra-cover gap.
2:04pm - There is a real swagger about Rutherford now and he dances down the wicket to meet Swann, promptly dispatching him over mid-on for the innings’ first maximum. However, England’s premier spinner bites back and thunders one into Rutherford’s pads after he misses an attempted sweep. Big appeals but the ball probably would have missed leg.
1:53pm - Tim Bresnan gets his first taste of action with the ball at the other end, hoping for a hint of revers- swing, but it is the sign of turn which will really encourages England for now. Right-hander Jaik Mickleburgh has to smartly fend off another Swann delivery which drifts towards his pads.
1:42pm - An encouraging sign for Graeme Swann straight after the break as Hamish Rutherford and then Matt Prior are bamboozled by a bit of turn and bounce which lifts the ball sharply past the wicketkeeper. Just to prove it was not a fluke, the off-spinner finds the rough again with his penultimate ball, Rutherford wisely leaving it alone.
1:07pm - LUNCH - Ess 55/0; Rutherford 18, Mickleburgh 33 - Mickleburgh, who was the pick of the hosts' line-up with 90 in the first innings, continues to find the off-side boundary with frequency as Finn is forced into a re-think. The Essex opener will be happy to head in to the interval scoring at a rate of more than a run a ball. They've also taken lunch at New Road with Compton unbeaten on 21 for his temporary team.
12:57am - England turn to Graeme Swann in a bid to break up this stand. The spinner, of course, barely bowled in the first innings after being struck on the arm by a pacy Tymal Mills delivery. Rutherford’s seen plenty of him in recent times in a New Zealand shirt and a lovely sweep for four brings Essex within touching distance of 50.
12:38pm - Mickleburgh rightly earns the plaudits of the crowd when he perfectly times a push through the off side for four. However, with Onions’ very next ball, the Essex opener is lucky a bottom edge somehow evades his stumps. He celebrates his reprieve by skewing a square drive to the fence.
12:47pm - The covers is proving to be a fruitful area for both Rutherford and in particular Mickleburgh, who picks up his fourth four through that region. Onions tries to alter his line of attack by attempting to york the latter; but he’s picked it up and claims boundary number five back down the ground.
12:33pm - Successive half-hearted lbw shouts from Onions are not interesting the umpire. But England are far more convinced that Rutherford has gloved Finn into Matt Prior’s hands. Television replays show it came off the New Zealander’s hip, though.
12:22pm - Graham Onions is sharing the new ball with Finn, and both Rutherford and Jaik Mickleburgh are off the mark. Elsewhere, at Worcester, Australia have also declared - on 396 for four - which has brought Nick Compton to the crease.
12:16pm - England have returned to the field quickly with their tails up. Unfortunately, Steven Finn's first ball errs down leg and goes to the rope via Hamish Rutherford's pads. Finn then almost takes a sharp caught-and-bowled chance, though, yet the lanky seamer cannot quite get down in time.
12:05pm - England declare on 279/4 - Captain Alastair Cook waits for the clock to strike 12 and calls for Bell and Prior - on 33 and 21 respectively - to come back in. Cook's charges have a lead of 414 after adding 62 in the opening hour this morning.
Essex have replaced Tom Westley (broken finger) in their line-up with Greg Smith and he will bat for the county in their 2nd innings.
— Essex Cricket (@EssexCricket) July 3, 2013
11:58am - Stand-in captain Bopara brings himself back on and is called for a no-ball as he flicks the stumps with his leg at the non-striker's end. Prior again finds the fence down at third man as England's lead moves past 400.
11:38am - Matt Prior is the new man at the crease for England and his first four brings up the 250 for the national side as the wicketkeeper-batsman makes use of the vacant third-man region off Topley.
11:30am - WICKET! Bairstow b Rankin 28; Eng 247/4 - Some mixed emotions for the England camp as it is a man in their jersey who's taken the wicket of Bairstow. Rankin has looked the bowler most likely to make a breakthrough and so it has proved as a fuller delivery deceives Bairstow and sends his middle stump flying backwards.
11:20am - Bairstow plunders Topley through cover for his third boundary of the morning and a similar stroke yields three to momentarily push the run-rate over four an over. At New Road, Steven Smith and Phil Hughes have taken the Aussies past 350.
11:14am - Topley replaces Bopara, and Bairstow continues to score with ease as he flicks the teenager fine for four off his pads. Rankin’s still asking questions of his Warwickshire team-mate Bell, though, holding an inciting line outside off stump.
11:09am - Boyd Rankin, drafted into the hosts' set-up along with Reece Topley due to injuries yesterday - a decision Jonathan Trott lent his support to , opens at the other end and Bell's slightly fortunate to see an outside edge drop short of the slips and run away to the fence.
11:02am - Ian Bell faces a familiar face as Essex captain Ravi Bopara sends down the first set of six. The Warwickshire batsman nurdles the opening three balls into the off side without scoring before cutting past gully for a single. Jonny Bairstow, meanwhile, drives Bopara back down the ground for four from the first delivery he faces.
10:52am - While England's game comes to an end today, Australia begin the second day of their final warm-up clash against Worcestershire at New Road. Opener Shane Watson was in impressive form when he recorded a ton yesterday , while three of the tourists' other batsmen made half-centuries en route to 340 for four at stumps.
10:40am - Let's hope the weather behaves as England would like it to today - and, crucially, it's dry at the minute. The likes of Bell and Bairstow will hope to enjoy some valuable time in the middle before the bowlers get the chance to finely hone their skills prior to next week's Investec Ashes, which starts in just seven days at Trent Bridge.
10:30am - Good Morning and welcome to our live coverage of the fourth and final day of the LV= Challenge contest between Essex and England from Chelmsford. Despite some steady rain overnight, play is due to resume at 11am with Ian Bell and Jonny Bairstow due out at the crease with the national side on 217 for three, 352 runs ahead.