Dan Lawrence closed in on his second Specsavers County Championship century of the season as he underpinned Essex’s response to Surrey’s Kumar Sangakkara-inspired 369 at Chelmsford.
Lawrence, 19, received his Essex cap at lunch on the first day and seemed intent to underline the form that earned him a call into the England Lions squad to face South Africa A in a three-match series next week.
He was the dominat partner in an unbroken fourth-wicket stand of 89 with Ravi Bopara that carried Essex within touching distance of the follow-on mark of 220, their first target. At the close, Essex were 154 runs behind with seven wickets in hand and Lawrence was 78.
Nick Browne, in contrast, had struggled to put a total on the scoreboard this season, but finally notched his first Championship half-century of the season in a dogged show of crease occupation. His 52 took 152 balls and at one point in the afternoon he scored just two runs in 50 minutes’ play.
Nick Browne admitted: “It has been quite a frustrating start of the year. I’ve played quite well without getting the results, not that I deserve them, but the results I wanted.
“I got fifty, which I’m happy with, but I’d still like to be out there, score a hundred and put us in a good position for the lads. But hopefully now I’ve got 150-odd balls under my belt I can kick on."
☝️ Yes, Sam!— Surrey Cricket (@surreycricket) May 27, 2017
Just as Westley (16) was starting to look dangerous, the 18-year-old has him caught behind.
Essex 87/2. pic.twitter.com/80f4RvKR79
Amar Virdi, an 18-year-old offie, took over the spin duties in the absence of Gareth Batty and retirement of Zafar Ansari, and sent down 24 overs on debut without success, but with plenty of guile and no little promise.
Essex had eventually accounted for Sangakkara in the morning, but not before he had added 23 runs to his overnight score to finish on 200. His record fifth consecutive Championship century took his season’s total to 792 runs and his average to 113.14.
Alastair Cook and Browne raced to 58 for nought in 13 overs before lunch with a flurry of boundaries. But the afternoon session turned into one of toil and graft as Essex added just 69 runs. To illustrate the pedestrian progress: the first fifty of the innings took 12 overs, the second a further 24.
Cook had struck six fours before the interval, but lasted just seven balls after the interval. He shuffled too far across his stumps and was plumb lbw to Tom Curran for 36.
Browne put on 26 runs with Tom Westley for the second wicket in 15 overs before Westley wafted at one from Sam Curran to give Ben Foakes the catch behind.
Virdi had both Browne and Lawrence in knots at times, though Lawrence went aerial over long leg for the boundary that brought up the Essex hundred.
Surrey coach Stuart Barnes was full of praise for 18-year-old debutant spinner Amar Virdi. “His composure was brilliant. He bowled a long spell, which he is used to doing. He blocked up an end and created chances. If he plays like that he has a great future ahead of him.”
Browne, too, awoke from his stupor to turn successive balls from Virdi off his hip for a combined seven runs. He finally reached his first Championship fifty of the season from 150 balls when he clubbed Stuart Meaker through midwicket. Two balls later, though, he pulled the same bowler straight to Tom Curran and went for 52.
Things sped up appreciably in the evening. Bopara got off the mark with successive boundaries, off front and back foot, while Lawrence sent thumping cuts off Tom Curran through the covers for fours. He reached both his half-century and the fifty partnership when he swatted Sam Curran to fine leg for his eighth boundary. His personal landmark came off 98 balls, the fourth-wicket mark in 18 overs.
The Surrey innings lasted 14 more overs in the morning during which time Sangakkara took his overnight 177 to exactly 200 before he holed out to Neil Wagner on the long-off boundary.
When Virdi had been ninth man out – clean bowled to give Jamie Porter his fourth wicket for 89 – Sangakkarra was still five runs short of his double century. He went to 199 when Wagner bowled a leg-side full-toss that was despatched contemptuously to the boundary.
Next over Ravi Rampaul eked out the single that gave Sangakarra the strike. The milestone was duly achieved with a push into the covers off Porter. Two balls later the Sri Lanka’s seven-hour marathon was over. It had encompassed 321 balls and included 27 fours.
His second century partnership of the innings was ended when Porter found the edge of Meaker’s bat in the seventh over of the day. Meaker had contributed 49, from 99 balls, to the 110-run eighth-wicket stand.