Essex win the County Championship for the eighth time

Somerset v Essex – Specsavers County Championship Division One – Taunton – Report

Somerset 203 (68.4 overs)

Essex 141 and 45/1 (18.0 overs)

Somerset won the toss and elected to bat – Match drawn

ESSEX COUNTY CRICKET CLUB have been crowned Specsavers County Championship Division One winners for the eighth time in their history after avoiding defeat in a rain-affected match with chief title rivals, Somerset, at Taunton.

Heavy showers ensured a Somerset – who began the game twelve points in arrears – had little opportunity to close the gap.

Simon Harmer took 5/105 while Sam Cook chipped in with an impressive 4/26 as Essex lengthened their lead by claiming maximum bowling points. Nevertheless, Somerset refused to throw in the towel. Skipper, Tom Abell hit 45, while tailender, Roelof van der Merwe’s 60 came off 51 balls to keep the contest alive, albeit on life support.

However, Somerset was always up against it – particularly the elements. Day three was completely washed out and despite enthusiasts being able to look back over a summer of unlikely cricketing outcomes, this one was never really in serious doubt.

During the playing time that was possible on a dramatic final day, Sir Alastair Cook’s half-century rubberstamped Essex’s authority. However, six wickets fell off just 15 runs off 32 deliveries – Jack Leach taking 5/32 – as Somerset looked to leave a dramatic twist in the tail.

Having dismissed Essex for 141 – a lead of 62 – Somerset forfeited their second innings – the only action left available to them to keep up the chase – Essex simply needing to hold their nerve and bat out what little time remained.

The dismissal of Nick Browne – caught by Murali Vijay off Dom Bess – briefly lifted the home crowd’s spirits as they continued to harbour hopes of a first-ever County Championship title. However, it was not to be. A compelling campaign concluded at 5:21pm, but not before Legendary Somerset figure, Marcus Trescothick, arrived as a substitute fielder for his final appearance before retirement – Supporters of both sides offering a warm reception.

In truth, Essex thoroughly deserved their second Division One title in three years. After losing their opening match heavily to Hampshire, they remained unbeaten throughout the remainder of the campaign – winning all seven home matches and eventually winning county crickets most prestigious award by eleven points.

Speaking to Richard Latham from the ECB reporter’s network after the match Essex leading wicket-taker, Simon Harmer said: “The last couple of weeks have been difficult for me, with the anxiety of not knowing whether we going to win one trophy, two or none.

“You play through a million scenarios in your head, especially coming here knowing the wicket would play as it did and that it would be tough for us to get a result.

“Nobody gave us a chance in the T20 finals and we proved everyone wrong, but there was a lot of expectation on us this week, with our lead in the table and some bad weather around.

“At the moment the feeling is one of massive relief. I am sure we are going to enjoy ourselves because it has been a long season.

“Hats off to Anthony McGrath, who has been the constant within our group and kept us level-headed. He has the right people around him and when things were not going so well he was always the voice of reason.

“If people thought it was a fluke when we won the Championship in 2017, we have now shown that we are a really good four-day team, as well as being very competitive in T20.

“For me, it has been an unbelievable season, but I would happily have swapped any personal accolades for the team winning the title.”

Somerset: Murali Vijay, Steve Davies (WK), Tom Abell (Capt), James Hildreth, Tom Banton, George Bartlett, Lewis Gregory, Dom Bess, Craig Overton, Roelof van der Merwe, Jack Leach

Essex: Nick Browne, Alastair Cook, Tom Westley, Dan Lawrence, Ravi Bopara, Ryan ten Doeschate (Capt), Adam Wheater (WK), Simon Harmer, Aron Nijjar, Jamie Porter, Sam Cook

Umpires/Officials: Robert Bailey, Alexander Wharf, Neil Bainton

Points: Somerset 9 Essex 8

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Brian Jeeves