The champagne is on ice after Essex polished off a comprehensive win at Edgbaston. Now they need Somerset to do them a favour...
WARWICKSHIRE v ESSEX
Essex virtually sealed their seventh Specsavers County Championship title by completing an innings-and-56-run victory over relegation-bound Warwickshire at Edgbaston.
Trailing by 168 on first innings, the home side were bowled out for 112 to suffer their second thumping of the season at the hands of Essex who hammered them by an innings and 164 runs at Chelmsford in June.
With second-placed Lancashire on the back foot against Somerset at Taunton, the title is all but Essex's after they totally outplayed Warwickshire. The post-match mood in the two dressing-rooms at Edgbaston could not have been more contrasting; while Essex will begin the 2018 season as defending champions, Warwickshire will almost certainly be in Division Two, their nine-year stay in the top flight soon to come to a bruising end.
The winning moment! 🍾— County Championship (@CountyChamp) September 14, 2017
Essex beat Warwickshire to all-but guarantee the County Championship - their first for 25 years 🙌 pic.twitter.com/VDZ279PfH7
Warwickshire resumed on third morning on nine without loss and any hopes harboured by their supporters of seeing some rediscovered resilience from their team evaporated in minutes. Within ten overs, the Bears lurched to 25 for four.
Jamie Porter removed openers Dominic Sibley, caught at first slip, and Sam Hain, lbw, in the space of nine balls. Former England pair Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell were uprooted by Sam Cook, who induced the former to play on and had the latter caught behind, inside-edging a superb delivery.
Chris Woakes diverted spinner Simon Harmer's tenth ball to leg slip and the arrival of rain just before and during the lunch interval merely delayed the procession.
AS IT STANDS— County Championship (@CountyChamp) September 14, 2017
Essex will win their first County Championship 🏆 for 25 years if they lead by at least 49 points at the end of this round pic.twitter.com/G6Rkx3KzgA
From 55 for five at lunch, Warwickshire lost another wicket before acquiring another run as Alex Mellor edged to slip off Harmer to provide the spinner's 20th Championship wicket against Warwickshire this season. Porter then meted out a pair to Keith Barker when the left-hander edged to wicketkeeper James Foster.
Edgbaston academy product Matt Lamb showed his ability with some solid resistance for the second time in the game but, on 35 (66 balls, four fours), lofted Harmer to Dan Lawrence on the mid-wicket boundary.
Lawrence took another fine catch, running round from gully, to remove Jeetan Patel off Cook, leaving last pair Henry Brookes and Ryan Sidebottom with 63 to find to make Essex bat again. They managed seven of them before Brookes edged Harmer to slip.
SURREY v YORKSHIRE
Yorkshire are struggling to save their important match against Surrey at the Kia Oval. The White Rose are one of a number of sides in the bottom half of the table that are being forced to urgently reassess their position after Somerset’s revitalised form. They were 59/1 at Day Three’s close, still 139 behind.
Yorkshire were forced to follow-on 198 runs behind their hosts and they soon lost the wicket of Tom Kohler-Cadmore who, half forward, was lbw to Sam Curran for just 12.
This is the third time Yorkshire have been asked to follow-on this season; at Lord’s they were beaten by an innings but they saved the game against Hampshire and that was the type of battling performance they will be looking to repeat here. They will be encouraged by a pitch which is still playing well.
Yorkshire must have felt like Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay when they embarked on their ascent of Surrey’s vast 592.
On Thursday morning they resumed their first innings on 171/1, chasing 443 merely to avoid the follow-on. Their chances of doing so looked remote once they had lost three wickets in the morning session.
Shaun Marsh was the first to go, pushing forward to Freddie van den Bergh, losing his balance and being stumped by Ben Foakes for 78, having added just one to his overnight score.
Van den Bergh was in fine fettle, and at the close of play he saic: “I had to wait a while so this is extremely satisfying.
“I’ve been biding my time and waiting because of the strength of the squad here. I’m really glad I could take my opportunity, get some wickets and help the team. It was nice to bowl so many overs."
Alex Lees and Gary Ballance added 53 for the third wicket before Lees swept van den Bergh to square-leg and watched in horror as Ryan Patel pulled off a wonderful catch, diving to his right to take the ball one-handed.
Yorkshire, playing without six of their leading players, suffered an important setback when Ballance was run out for 29 at 243. He pushed the ball into the off-side and set off for a frantic single. But Jack Leaning appeared to have no interest in the run and Ballance failed to make up his ground.
Yorkshire lost their fifth wicket at 302 when Leaning followed a delivery from Sam Curran which moved away, and he was caught behind.
With the score on 343, and with 100 more runs still required to save follow-on, Yorkshire lost two more wickets. First Tim Bresnan, on 25, shuffled forward to Gareth Batty and edged to Rikki Clarke, who was the solitary slip. And then, three balls later, Azeem Rafiq was lbw to the same bowler.
Stuart Meaker removed Steven Patterson’s middle stump with a full-length delivery and Yorkshire lost their two remaining wickets for the addition of just 19 runs after tea. First Jack Brooks was caught behind off Sam Curran and in the next over Andrew Hodd, who appeared to got a thick outside edge to a Gareth Batty delivery and was caught in the covers.
SOMERSET v LANCASHIRE
Spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess bowled Somerset to the brink of a crucial victory on Day Three against Lancashire. Left-armer Leach followed up his five first innings wickets with 4/79 from 47 overs as the visitors, who began the day on 28/0 following on, progressed to 247/8 by stumps, a lead of just 45.
Bess offered good support on a pitch offering only slow turn and had figures of 3/85 from 38 overs at the close. Craig Overton was the other wicket-taker.
In-form off-spinner Bess was pleased with his side's showing: "We had to stick in there and be patient. In the end we got our rewards and now we have to finish things off tomorrow. If we do, it will be a massive boost.
"It is great bowling at the other end to Leachy (Jack Leach). We communicate a good deal during play and I take a lot from what he tells me. He has ended up with another four wickets and we enjoy working together," he added.
There were half-centuries from Haseeb Hameed and Liam Livingstone in a more convincing Lancashire batting effort. But from 144/1, their score was another disappointment.
The visitors extended their opening partnership to 82 before short rain-break disrupted Alex Davies’ concentration. The third ball after the resumption saw him offer a return catch to Leach, aiming through the leg side, having made 49.
It was 89/1 when another shower forced an early lunch. On a pitch offering little assistance to seam or spin, Somerset’s bowlers had their work cut out.
Hameed reached a studious 151-ball half-century, with 6 fours, but on 62 drove Leach to cover where Tom Abell took a straightforward catch. Steven Croft fell cheaply to Bess, lbw trying to sweep a full-toss, and the young off-spinner went on to remove Shiv Chanderpaul for nine, bowling the veteran West Indies star through the gate.
At tea Lancashire were 175 for four and required a further 27 to make Somerset bat again. The final session saw the hosts take the second new ball and Overton broke through with it as Dean Vilas, on 14, feathered a catch behind.
Livingstone went to an excellent fifty, made off 153 balls, with 3 fours and a six, before falling on 57. He was given out caught behind off Leach, although wicketkeeper Davies removed the bails and appeared to appeal to the square-leg umpire for a stumping.
Ryan McLaren battled hard for his 15 runs, but was then snapped up off bat and pad by Marcus Trescothick at short-leg to give Leach his fourth wicket.
Bess then had Stephen Parry caught at silly mid-off stretching forward for 12 before Ryan Jarvis and Tom Bailey ensured the game went into a fourth day.
With things going their way at the Oval and Uxbridge, Somerset could move out of the First Division relegation zone with victory tomorrow. It would be a deserved success. Their bowling and fielding in this match has been exemplary and they have not looked like a team bound for Division Two.
MIDDLESEX v HAMPSHIRE
A day that began under leaden skies and with heat lamps drying sodden wicket ends, finished in glorious sunshine and a relative feast of action as Middlesex continued their first innings into the third day of their rain-ruined Specsavers County Championship clash with Hampshire.
At stumps, the hosts had limped to 162/7 after 59 overs once conditions at Uxbridge improved sufficiently for play to finally start at 4.15pm. In the 28.5 overs possible, Middlesex added 86 runs at a cost of four more wickets.
With the sun finally shining on his back, it was West Indies’ paceman Fidel Edwards who gave the visitors their first breakthrough of the evening to end a fourth-wicket stand of 58 between debutant Max Holden and Adam Voges, the man to go. Prodding at a snorter that lifted and left him, the Australian right-hander nicked to second slip where Jimmy Adams snaffled a sharp low chance that made it 120 for four.
Holden contributed an eye-catching 32 to the cause before blotting his copybook. Chasing a wider one from Ian Holland, the left-hander edged an overhead catch into the cordon where Adams pocketed his third catch of the match.
Kyle Abbott then got into the action, pegging back James Franklin’s off stump via an inside edge to send the Middlesex skipper packing without scoring and give Hampshire their second bowling bonus point.
Then, in his next over, Abbott snared James Harris lbw for a duck after the all-rounder’s late decision to shoulder arms to an in-ducker ended with the ball brushing his back pad.
UXBRIDGE LATEST: A further inspection will be held at 2pm. Conditions are improving, but there are still some areas concerning the umpires pic.twitter.com/kwJCcR8Qje— Middlesex Cricket (@Middlesex_CCC) September 14, 2017
The overnight rain and an afternoon shower had led to another frustrating day and five inspections for umpires Graham Lloyd and Russell Evans.
The officials planned to resume at 3.30pm with a possible 40 overs to bowl but, with the teams warming up on the outfield, the rain returned. To their credit, both sets of players, as well as Middlesex managing director of cricket, Angus Fraser, helped the groundstaff drag the covering onto the pitch to ensure some late-afternoon action.
Third-placed Hampshire had hoped to maintain pressure on the top two but, for reigning champions Middlesex, bonus points and a win remained more pertinent in fending off the threat of relegation.
“It’s been frustrating,” said Middlesex seam bowler James Harris. “It’s never good when it hasn’t rained all day and you’re still not playing by late afternoon. At the big grounds we’ve become accustomed to outfields that drain in minutes and really good coverage, so much
so, that if it’s not physically raining you expect to be playing.
“That’s not the same at outgrounds and these have been a few ‘old school’ days if you like where the ground is just so waterlogged and we can’t get on to play.”