Championship race wide open as Essex rock at Blackpool

Brian Jeeves
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Lancashire v Essex – LV= Insurance County Championship Division One – Stanley Park, Blackpool – Report

Essex 282 and 292/8dec

Lancashire 145 and 383

Essex won the toss and elected to bat

Essex won by 46 runs

Essex blew the LV= Insurance County Championship Division One title race wide open by recording a dramatic 46-run victory over Lancashire at Stanley Park.

Despite losing the opening days play almost in its entirety, the crowd were treated to an excellent contest on what was the Blackpool venue’s one-hundredth first-class fixture. And with league leaders Surrey dropping points against Nottinghamshire, Essex’s triumph reduced their lead at the summit to thirteen points.

Stanley Park, Blackpool (Courtesy of Dean Allum)

Tom Westley scored the twenty-eighth first-class century of his career, helping Essex to a first-inning total of 282. The Essex skipper spent 325 minutes at the crease and faced 239 balls for his 135. Meanwhile, Paul Walter continued his superb recent form by contributing 76 off 119. Tom Bailey proved to be the pick of the Lancs attack, returning figures of six for 59, while Will Williams claimed 3/72.

Tom Westley (Courtesy of Essex Cricket)

Sam Cook’s four for 42, coupled with 3/20 from Walter went some way towards the visitors establishing a sizable first innings advantage. Josh Bohannon top-scored for Lancs with 44 off 107 balls. Meanwhile, Phil Salt was unbeaten on 35. Nevertheless, Essex led by 137 runs and appeared to be in the driving seat.

However, Lancs were not quite ready to throw in the towel. Tom Bailey and Will Williams claimed the wickets of Nick Browne and Alastair Cook to leave Essex on 0/2 before Williams added the scalp of Westley with the visitor now floundering on 27/3.

But Dan Lawrence arrived to score a superb 135 off 125 balls. His innings 207-minute included eight 4s and nine 6s. Matt Critchley contributed 40, while Doug Bracewell was unbeaten on 61 when the declaration came with Essex 429 runs to the good. Bailey, with 3/71, took his match figures to nine for 130.

Dan Lawrence (Courtesy of Essex Cricket)

Set 430 to win, Lancs set about chasing an unlikely victory. Luke Wells hit 75 and Josh Bohannon 68. Meanwhile, Rob Jones batted brilliantly for his 111 off 170 balls before edging Doug Bracewell to Lawrence, handing Essex maximum points with just ten balls to spare

Cook finished with match figures of five for 111, while Walter had 5/50. Speaking to Jamie Bowman from the ECB Reporters Network, winning skipper Westley said: “It’s an unbelievable win – because the points for the draw have been taken away we did expect them to keep going for the win for a long time and testament to them they did – even when (Tom) Bailey came out they were looking to hit boundaries. Credit to them for wanting to force the win.

“It was an outstanding team performance from Essex and it puts us in a nice position with five games to go.

“We’ve been blessed for a number of years now that Simon Harmer will take six or seven wickets in the fourth innings but he didn’t take one today and that’s the way it goes sometimes so for the other lads to stick their hands up and chip in with wickets is outstanding. 

“Lancashire are a very good team and we know how dangerous they are – we’ve had some great matches with them in recent times so it’s a huge win for the club.” 

Lancashire: Keaton Jennings (Capt), Luke Wells, Josh Bohannon, Dane Vilas, Rob Jones, Phil Salt (WK), Colin de Grandhomme, Tom Hartley, Jack Blatherwick, Tom Bailey, Will Williams

Essex: Alastair Cook, Nick Browne, Tom Westley (Capt), Dan Lawrence, Matthew Critchley, Paul Walter, Simon Harmer, Will Buttleman (WK), Doug Bracewell, Sam Cook, Jamie Porter

Umpires: PJ Hartley and SJ O’Shaughnessy

Scorers: C Rimmer and P Parkinson

Match Referee: Will Smith

Points: Essex 20 Lancashire 3

Brian Jeeves