Middlesex were on the ropes on day three, but had the weather to thank as they stumbled to 40/3 in their second innings. Meanwhile, champions Essex cruise to victory...
ESSEX v YORKSHIRE
Sam Cook took five for 20 to skittle Yorkshire for 74 and round off a tumultuous season for Essex during they have remained unbeaten in the Specsavers County Championship for the first time in their history.
The champion’s 10th victory of the 14-game campaign was followed by resounding applause and sprays of champagne post-match as they received the Championship trophy for the first time in 25 years. It was the moment they had waited for since the title was claimed a fortnight ago when they still have two games to play.
Cook said about the champions: “We have such a big squad of players, and such strength in depth that there is always going to be someone stepping up to the plate and raring to go. Right now we all want to be part of this team and this set-up. It just encourages you to go out and do more. It’s been an unbelievable year."
For Yorkshire, who were in the same celebratory mood just two summers, their total was their lowest since 1999 as they succumbed by a massive 376-run defeat in just 29 overs. There were still 25 overs remaining in the day when Matt Fisher was left on his back by Neil Wagner to end the season. It was as well they claimed the points required to avoid relegation on the first day otherwise their feeble effort could have been terminal.
Cook, who made his first-class debut for his home county less than two months ago, had taken a career-best five for 18 in the second innings at Southampton in the last game. The second five-fer of his embryonic career came before he returns next week to Loughborough University for the final year of his history degree course. Cook put the skids under a Yorkshire top-order chasing an unlikely 451 to win with four wickets in 32 balls in a six-over, pre-tea burst.
Adam Lyth looked surprised to be given out caught behind to Cook’s second ball, and Kraigg Brathwaite played down the wrong line to be lbw to Porter in the next over. Alex Lees’s middle stump was sent cartwheeling by Cook and Yorkshire were already on an inexorable slide at 17 for three in the sixth over.
Cook claimed his third wicket for 11 runs when the Ashes-bound Gary Ballance fell lbw for just five. Jack Leaning was stuck in his crease playing forward and edging to James Foster to give Cook wicket No4. Simon Harmer joined the party when Andrew Hodd became his latest lbw victim. Thirty-five for six.
Essex announced at the tea interval that Porter had signed a two-year contract extension taking him through to the end of the 2020 season. He had a double celebration first ball after the break when he had Steven Patterson caught behind to claim his 200th first-class wicket for the county.
That preceded Cook’s fifth wicket with his first ball upon his return for a second spell. Jack Brooks hung out his bat and played tamely into Varun Chopra’s hands at first slip. Thirty-seven for six at tea had become 38 for eight.
Karl Carver helped Matt Fisher put on 34 for the penultimate wicket in nine overs to give some respectability to the score before he departed lbw for nine. Fisher, who had taken three Essex second-innings wickets for 69, was the only batsman to make it into double figures. He was the last man to go for 25, caught behind for Foster’s eighth catch of the match, after Wagner had him flailing with a bouncer.
It meant Division One’s leading wicket-takers had shared 147 Championship wickets with Porter leading the way with 75 from Harmer.
At the start of the day, Essex’s overnight second-wicket century stand ended in the fourth over when Dan Lawrence went lbw to give Coad his 50th and last Championship wicket of the season. Lawrence’s 83 came from 156 balls, and with Nick Browne he put on 139 in 49 overs to lift Essex from six for two on the second afternoon.
Browne followed on the same personal score when Lyth made amends for a difficult dropped catch chance when the opener was 59. This time, Lyth held on to a snick at second slip to end Browne’s 166-ball innings that including 11 boundaries. James Foster then became the 10th lbw victim of the match to give Matt Fisher the first of three wickets.
That brought together ten Doeschate and Harmer, who put on 75 in 21 overs for the sixth wicket. Ten Doeschate’s innings was full of nudges and nurdles, eight of them going to the boundary, and a ninth clearing the ropes at long leg.
He was finally out straight after lunch, in Fisher’s second over with the new-ball when ten Doeschate tried to withdraw his bat and was caught behind. The partnership with Harmer was worth 75 in 21 overs with the captain departing for a 92-ball 57 with eight fours and a six.
Harmer claimed his second half-century of the match, following his 64 in the first innings, when he clubbed Fisher through the covers from the 79th ball he faced. The seventh-wicket pair added 42 in eight overs with Neil Wagner, whose bright and breezy 23 came from 26.before he edged to second slip to give Fisher his third wicket at a personal cost of 69.
Ten Doeschate called his batsmen in 50 minutes after lunch following the second ball of the 96th over, when Porter hit the second of two fours in a five-ball 10. Essex had reached 334 for seven without the requirement for the injured Tom Westley to bat.
SOMERSET v MIDDLESEX
Somerset’s charge towards safety in the Specsavers County Championship First Division was halted by the weather on the third day of the relegation clash with Middlesex at Taunton.
By the time steady rain set in at 1.40pm, ensuring no more play, the visitors had struggled to 40 for three in their second innings, chasing an unlikely target of 345 on a pitch continuing to assist the spinners.
Jack Leach removed openers Sam Robson and Nick Compton, while Dom Bess produced a ball that turned and lifted in his first over to have Dawid Malan caught behind.
Earlier, James Hildreth had completed his 41st first class century as Somerset extended their second innings to 250 for nine before skipper Tom Abell declared. Hildreth, who began the day on 82, was out for 109 in the chase for quick runs. Middlesex left-arm spinner Ravi Patel finished with five for 92 and match figures of 12 for 173.
Aware that rain was forecast for the afternoon, Somerset batted positively from their overnight score of 159 for three. Abell moved from 33 to 45 before being out to a one-day shot. Attempting to reverse sweep Patel, he guided the ball straight to Adam Voges at slip.
Steve Davies, who received his Somerset county cap during the lunch interval, fell leg before to Patel before Hildreth was bowled by James Harris, having faced 192 balls and hit 12 fours. The innings was priceless for Somerset, not only for putting them in a strong position, but also in showing what was possible on a pitch that was the centre of controversy on day one.
Craig Overton, warmly applauded as he walked to the wicket following his Ashes tour selection, perished in a bid for boundaries, as did Dom Bess and Roelof van der Merwe, who produced a valuable cameo of 24 off 19 balls. When he became Patel’s fourth victim of the day and fifth of the innings, Abell declared and quickly offered the new ball to left-arm spinner Leach in tandem with Overton.
A pleased Overton said: "To win this game would make it the perfect week for me. There is still enough in the pitch for our bowlers to exploit so hopefully we can get the result we need.
"Obviously, the rain hasn't helped us today, but I am confident our spinners will take the last seven wickets tomorrow and we will stay up."
Robson survived two major scares before he was out, Overton missing the wickets after fielding the first ball of the innings off his own bowling when Nick Compton called for a suicidal quick single, and Abell dropping a dolly at short cover off Leach.
The mistake didn’t prove costly as Leach got a ball to grip and Robson edged to Overton at slip with the total on 20. Changing his pace cleverly, Leach then had Compton lbw failing to get forward to a full ball and Bess’s second delivery was too good for Malan.
The rain arrived with Somerset going for the throat and, with the forecast for tomorrow dry, the home side will hope to secure the win that keeps them in the top flight.
LANCASHIRE v SURREY
Liam Livingstone took six wickets and notched a half-century on day three as Lancashire closed in on victory in their Specsavers County Championship clash with Surrey at Old Trafford.
Lancashire took Surrey’s ten wickets for just 88 runs to set up a victory target of 176 after Mark Stoneman had given the visitors an excellent start to the day. It looked as though victory would be completed on day three as Livingstone’s fifty took Lancashire to within 44 runs of the win, but bad light intervened to force the game into the final day.
The morning session mirrored day two in as much as a strong start by the batting side was undone by a flurry of wickets before lunch. Surrey resumed on 79-0 with a lead of 12 and Stoneman and Rory Burns went on to share a 150-stand for the opening wicket.
Stoneman celebrated his call-up to the Ashes squad by racing to 98 from 113 balls before his wicket, taken by Livingstone, triggered a collapse by the visitors. Stephen Parry dismissed the other set batsman Rory Burns for 45 before Livingstone went on to claim career-best bowling figures.
He removed Scott Borthwick for four and Ben Foakes, another Ashes squad member, for a golden duck with successive deliveries to mean that Surrey had lost four wickets in 12 balls for just six runs.
The flow of wickets just continued before lunch with Olly Pope and Rikki Clarke both joining the list of victims claimed by Livingstone and Sam Curran departing first ball to Stephen Parry. At lunch Surrey were 197-7, leading by 130 with Kumar Sangakkara, playing in his last first-class game, still at the crease. He received a guard of honour from Lancashire’s players on his arrival and he went on to add 44 for the eighth wicket with Gareth Batty as Surrey attempted to respond to that flurry of wickets.
But the last three wickets fell in the space of six balls. Livingstone claimed his sixth as Batty chipped one high back to the bowler and Parry proceeded to remove Stuart Meaker and Jade Dernbach – both without scoring. Surrey had slipped from 154-0 to 242 all out, leaving Lancashire that chase of 176. Sangakkara, in his last first-class game, was unbeaten on 35.
Lancashire started their chase well, progressing to 40-1 when Alex Davies fell for a classy 30. It was Livingstone though who continued to dominate the day. He guided Lancashire to tea at 73-1 and it looked likely that they could complete the chase with a day to spare.
Rob Jones was dismissed by Gareth Batty for 35 with Lancashire exactly halfway to their target and Steven Croft became Rikki Clarke’s second victim as the hosts threatened a wobble. But Livingstone powered his way to his third half-century of the season to take Lancashire to within 44 runs of their target when bad light stopped play at 16.49pm.
🏏 How's this for a wicket.— Surrey Cricket (@surreycricket) September 27, 2017
Croft bowled by Clarke as he tried to leave it, but played on, off his elbow. 🤔
Lancs - 93/3 (83 runs) pic.twitter.com/GEqAlFCKQA
They will return in the morning on 132-3 to attempt to complete the victory that would secure second place in Division One.
WARWICKSHIRE v HAMPSHIRE
Hampshire face a tense final day of their Specsavers County Championship season after they closed the third day at Edgbaston on 20 for one, needing 259 to beat Warwickshire.
The equation for James Vince's side is simple. Victory or a draw against the already-relegated Bears would secure their First Division status but a defeat would mean they accompany their hosts down to Division Two.
When rain arrived to wipe out the final session of the third day, Hampshire had already lost Jimmy Adams on the way towards a tricky target which would have been a lot less tricky had they not conceded a tenth-wicket stand of 59 by Ian Bell (77 not out, 101 balls, nine fours, two sixes) and Ryan Sidebottom in Warwickshire's second innings.
It has been an extraordinary game with four sessions entirely washed out while the other five have brought 31 wickets. The final three sessions tomorrow will dictate the level at which Hampshire play their Championship cricket in 2018.
Leading by 72 on first innings, Warwickshire resumed on the third morning on 0 for 0 and soon hit trouble. Liam Banks and Dominic Sibley edged Fidel Edwards and Ian Holland respectively before Gareth Berg took three wickets in 13 balls as Jonathan Trott nicked an outswinger, Matt Lamb fell lbw and Tim Ambrose edged to second slip.
Bell and Alex Thomson (24, 28 balls) added 30 but Thomson and Jeetan Patel fell to successive balls from Kyle Abbot either side of lunch. After Chris Wright was run out by George Bailey's direct hit and Edwards knocked out Olly Hannon-Dalby's middle-stump, it was 127 for nine.
Another wicket then and Hampshire would have chased 200. Instead, last man Sidebottom (13, 32 balls, three fours) batted diligently while Bell played some attractive strokes and the pair added 59 in 13 overs before Holland trapped Sidebottom lbw, leaving Bell unbeaten 23 short of his first century of the season.
Facing an awkward eight-over session before tea, Hampshire lost Adams who edged Hannon-Dalby to second slip. The match, and Hampshire's destiny, faced a pivotal evening session but the clouds closed in on the West Midlands and, down south, the cricket-lovers of Hedge End, Ampfield and Wellow battened down the hatches for a nervy night. As, of course, did those in Stratfield Turgis.