• Specsavers County Championship 4m

    Essex cement top spot with comprehensive win

    Newly promoted Essex extend their lead at the top of Division One, while Lancashire win to go second

    Essex 541/9d beat Warwickshire 283 & 94 by an innings & 164 runs
    Lancashire 593 beat Hampshire 395 & 168 by an innings and 30 runs

    Essex v Warwickshire

    Simon Harmer blasted a massive hole in the Warwickshire batting at Chelmsford to take the first 14-wicket haul of his career and move Essex clear at the top of the Specsavers County Championship with their fourth win of the season.
    Harmer took eight second-innings wickets for 36 runs, career-best figures for an innings, to finish with figures of 14 for 128. He took seven wickets on an overcast fourth day as Warwickshire collapsed alarmingly as they chased 258 to make Essex bat again. The bottom club fell 164 runs short and suffered their four innings defeat of the season.
    The South African spinner was almost unplayable on a worn pitch that was also used for Essex’s Royal London One-Day Cup semi-final defeat by Nottinghamshire on Friday night. With five fielders surrounding each Warwickshire lamb to the slaughter, there were enough appeals to have ended the game long before the close quarter-of-an-hour after a late lunch at 2.17pm.
    Neil Wagner, playing his last game for the county before he steps aside to accommodate Mohammad Amir as overseas player, claimed the first wicket of the day before Harmer took centre stage.
    The New Zealander Test seamer removed Ian Bell in the eighth over of the morning to reduce Warwickshire to 47 for three. Bell had edged one just short of Alastair Cook at first slip before he got a thinner touch to give the diving James Foster the catch.
    Before he left the field at lunch, with Warwickshire 90 for eight, Wagner received a signed magnum of champagne and a club tie to acknowledge his sterling efforts in helping Essex make a sensational start to their first season in Division One.
    Harmer bowled 39 overs, almost unchanged, the day before, and entered the fray on day four after Bell’s departure. With his sixth ball he had Andrew Umeed moving back indecisively and falling lbw. Two Harmer balls later, Sam Hain’s attempt to check the sweep he planned resulted in him popping up a catch to Ryan ten Doeschate at short leg.
    Harmer was as parsimonious as ever, though when he gave one a bit of width, Rikki Clarke drove crisply through the covers for four. With Tim Ambrose, Clarke put a brake on the Essex charge for 16 overs before another clatter of wickets.
    Clarke went controversially to a ball that pitched well outside off-stump and didn’t look as if it would disturb the stumps as it turned to rap him on his pad. Clarke looked aghast at the decision; Ambrose threw his bat to the ground in frustration. Next ball, Keith Barker tried to paddle the delivery away, got a top edge and was caught behind by Foster.
    Jeetan Patel, who hit a run-a-ball 71 the previous evening, took successive boundaries off Harmer before he became the latest lbw victim on his back foot to another that spun in.
    Boyd Rankin was Harmer’s 13th scalp of the match when he completely misjudged a slow full-toss and was an embarrassed lbw. And Sunny Singh did not last long, stretching forward and edging to Cook at slip to complete a dream match for Harmer and secure the win for Essex.
    Lancashire v Hampshire
    Lancashire completed their third Division One victory of the season in the middle of the afternoon session on the final day at Emirates Old Trafford when Hampshire were bowled out for 168 in their second innings.

    That left Lancashire the victors by an innings and 30 runs at the end of a match in which they had played some of their most impressive cricket of the season.

    James Anderson took one wicket and Kyle Jarvis two on the final day but the former Hampshire all-rounder Ryan McLaren once again reminded his former employers of what they had lost by taking two of the last three wickets to fall and finishing with  figures of 3/41 to add to his century in Lancashire’s only innings. 

    Lancashire collected a maximum 24 points from the match while Hampshire earned five. 

    Seventy minutes’ play was lost to rain in the first session of the day but the home bowlers still took two wickets to leave the visitors on the brink of defeat at lunch. Hampshire were 81/7 when the players came in with Lewis McManus unbeaten on 12 and Gareth Berg on seven.

    The visitors therefore needed a distinctly improbable 117 to make Lancashire bat again while the home side required three wickets to complete the win which eventually hoisted them up to second in the table, 14 points behind leaders Essex.    

    The first wicket to fall was that of nightwatchman, Matt Salisbury, who edged Jimmy Anderson’s fifth ball of the day to Dane Vilas at first slip. The rain set in a quarter of an hour later but soon after the 12.30 resumption Sean Ervine inside-edged Jarvis onto his leg stump and departed for 13.

    In the afternoon session McLaren’s fourth leg before appeal in a few overs against McManus eventually elicited a favourable response from Paul Baldwin when the batsman was on 18 and in his next over, the medium-quick bowler had Kyle Abbott caught down the leg side for 11 when he gloved a short ball to Alex Davies.

    The game ended when Berg was also caught down the leg side off Jarvis for 49 having hit eight fours in his 71-ball innings and defied the Lancashire bowlers for 98 minutes. Anderson finished with 4/20 from 15 overs, while McLaren returned figures of 3/41 and Jarvis 3/49.

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