Wright struts stuff but Essex go down
Chris Wright and Tony Palladino returned their best figures of the season but failed to prevent Essex's relegation to LV= County Championship Division Two being confirmed during the match against Durham.
Wright claimed 5-70 and new-ball colleague Palladino 4-57 as the visitors were hustled out for 177 at Chelmsford.
By the close Essex had moved to 103 for one in their second innings, thanks largely to an unbeaten 61 from Alastair Cook, to go into the third day with a significant lead of 194.
Essex’s fate was sealed, however, when third-bottom Hampshire, who had 133 points before this game, bowled second-bottom Kent (126) out in their relegation clash at Canterbury, giving them a fourth bonus point from the match.
An Essex victory here, in their final match of the season, would lift them to 139 points.
However, with all results still possible in the Kent-Hampshire game - meaning at least one side is sure to gain a minimum of three points for a draw, and 16 for a win - it is now mathematically impossible for Essex to overtake both their rivals.
After Liam Plunkett had claimed the final Essex wicket this morning to bowl them out for 268, Durham suffered a horrendous start to their reply.
They slipped to five for four as Wright and Palladino wreaked havoc. Swing rather than seam proved the batsmen's undoing but it was never as pronounced as the early clatter of wickets suggested.
A recovery of sorts stemmed from the efforts of the middle order, with Ben Harmison playing the leading role.
He shared a fifth-wicket stand of 53 with Ian Blackwell, who made 24, before the latter’s defences were breached by Palladino, and Phil Mustard contributed 31 to a sixth-wicket partnership of 45 before the same bowler struck again.
When Wright removed Scott Borthwick and Plunkett, Durham found themselves 108 for eight and 11 short of being asked to follow on.
But the arrival of Mitch Claydon quickly ended such fears as he and Harmison embarked on the highest partnership of the innings.
It yielded 62 before Harmison, after reaching a season-best 66 that included eight fours, provided young paceman Michael Comber with his first championship wicket by driving to Wright at mid-off.
Wright got rid of Chris Rushworth to complete his five-wicket haul and ensure Essex went in again with a first-innings advantage of 91, one that was built upon in confident style by Cook.
Although he lost Billy Godleman, his opening partner, soon after the lead had been stretched into three figures, Cook batted with a confident air to complete his half-century from 78 balls with the help of seven fours.
Keeping him company was 20-year-old Jaik Mickleburgh, who again showed great composure to reach the close on 31. The partnership has so far yielded 74.