Surrey close in on Chelmsford win
Promotion-chasing Surrey need five final-day wickets to claim victory over Essex to further boost their bid to return to the top flight of the LV= County Championship.
After leaving Essex a victory target of 349, Surrey reduced their opponents to 142 for five by the close. An away win will leave Surrey one point behind second-placed Northamptonshire going into next week’s final round of matches.
In front of a sizeable Chelmsford crowd, their position of strength owed much to century-maker Zander de Bruyn, and another fine knock from Chris Jordan, who between them scored over half of Surrey’s second-innings total of 286.
Their seventh-wicket stand produced 119 and arrived amid another magnificent display of pace bowling from David Masters, who finished with 6-93.
Yet things did not start too encouragingly for the visitors after they had resumed, both Jason Roy and Gareth Batty departing for the addition of 24 to the overnight 104 for four.
The game was evenly poised at that point, before de Bruyn and Jordan seized control with disciplined aggression allied to shrewd shot selection.
Whenever the wayward delivery arrived, they did not waste the opportunity to drive and pull powerfully to progress at a rate of around five and over.
The muscular de Bruyn scored 100 with the help of a dozen fours and two sixes before, fittingly, his 125-ball innings was brought to an end by Masters.
He did so with a delivery that sent two stumps out of the ground, a dismissal that signalled Masters’ eighth haul of five or more wickets in an inning this summer.
He was later to leave the field to a standing ovation with 93 championship wickets to his credit - more than any other bowler in the country.
But his season’s final effort did not include the impressive Jordan among his victims.
For the second time in the match he posted a career-best, following up his 71 with an unbeaten 79 that included eight fours and a six and arrived from 106 balls.
As he did in the first innings, Tim Linley was soon making an impact when Essex embarked upon their formidable task.
Tom Westley’s promising start was cut short when he was bowled without offering a stroke with 16 against his name, and Owais Shah had his defences breached shortly afterwards with the total on 42.
Pragyan Ojha, the left-arm spinner, turned the screw when he tempted Jaik Mickleburgh to drive into the hands of mid-off before trapping Adam Wheater lbw.
The return of Linley ended the dogged resistance of Billy Godleman, who was caught behind after making 38 of the 96 on the board.
But James Foster and Ryan ten Doeschate lived to fight on the final day, although the former was lucky to survive when he was dropped by de Bruyn at second slip on one.
Foster will resume on 35 and ten Doeschate 30, their stand so far having yielded 46.