Match Report: Essex v Lancashire


Essex v Lancashire
LV= Insurance County Championship
The Cloud County Ground, Thursday 13 – Sunday 16 April 2023
Essex: Nick Browne, Alastair Cook, Tom Westley (c), Dan Lawrence, Matt Critchley, Adam Rossington (wk), Simon Harmer, Doug Bracewell, Shane Snater, Sam Cook, Jamie Porter.

Lancashire: Luke Wells, Keaton Jennings (c), Josh Bohannon, Steven Croft, Dane Vilas, George Bell (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Tom Hartley, Tom Bailey, Will Williams, James Anderson.

Match Details:

Umpires: Ben Debenham & Graham Lloyd
Match Referee: Mike Smith
Toss: Lancashire won the toss and elected to bat
Result: Match Drawn

Day Four Highlights:

Day Four Reaction: Tom Westley

Day Four Match Report:

Essex captain Tom Westley weighed anchor for two and three-quarter hours to deny Lancashire the LV= Insurance County Championship victory their batting fireworks looked to have set up.

Westley faced 120 balls in scoring 43 as Essex batted for two sessions to save face, and the game, after a dispiriting morning when they regularly lost balls out of The Cloud County Ground.

Lancashire had set a nominal target of 340 in 68 overs thanks to a perfect example of the Bazball ethos by scoring 184 runs in the 28-over morning session with 137 coming in the final 15 overs. The big-hitting trio of Tom Hartley (73 not out), Colin de Grandhomme (38) and Tom Bailey (25 not out) hammered nine sixes during a sustained period of carnage.

Essex did not rise to the bait, though, and turned the McCullum-Stokes blue-sky thinking on its head as they settled in with the sole intention of saving a game that had lost 103 overs because of the weather. They had reached 128-4 from 58 overs when handshakes were exchanged on the draw at 5.52pm, both teams taking eight points.

Of greater significance in the wider scheme of things, James Anderson bowled 13 overs in bite-sized spells on the first leg of his domestic warm-up tour ahead of the Ashes. While not as venomous as in Essex’s first innings, England’s premier seamer still had the opposition playing and missing with some regularity.

However, anything other than a draw soon became moot, but not before Sir Alastair Cook fell lbw for the second time in the match to Anderson, tucked up without scoring and just five runs on the board.

Essex crawled along to 23 from the first hour when Nick Browne was doubled up by Bailey and became another lbw victim.

Westley and Dan Lawrence saw Essex through to tea two wickets down and 29 overs used up. But four balls after the interval, Lawrence shuffled across his stumps to be undone by an inswinger from Bailey.

Westley’s vigil ended just as the final hour began when he was the fourth to go lbw to de Grandhomme after which he was left to Matt Critchley and Adam Rossington to see out time.

It had been significantly more exciting earlier. Keaton Jennings and George Bell set up the platform for the blitz to come as they took their fifth-wicket partnership to exactly 100, adding 44 in the first three-quarters of an hour’s play, before both fell to Simon Harmer.

Bell had just reached his second half-century of the game by straight-driving Snater, when he misjudged the next ball after sweeping Hamer for a ninth boundary, and was lbw for 56.

Jennings, having started his innings in mid-afternoon on Friday, was finally out for 96 after just shy of six hours at the crease when he had an uncharacteristic rush of blood and lofted Harmer to deep mid-on.

It proved to be the point at which Lancashire went into complete overdrive as they took advantage of a depleted Essex attack shorn of Sam Cook, off the pitch with a hamstring injury.

De Grandhomme launched three sixes from four balls he faced from Harmer. However, when the New Zealander had reached 38 from 31 balls – having put on 56 in seven freewheeling overs with Hartley – he went for one swing too many and had two of his stumps knocked out of the ground by Doug Bracewell.

Incredibly, the tempo increased as Hartley and Bailey put on 81 runs in the eight overs during an unbroken eighth-wicket stand before the declaration at lunch. At one point the pair shared six sixes in a 20-ball spree against Porter and Snater.

Day Three Highlights:

Day Three Match Report:

Keaton Jennings held together Lancashire’s second innings with a patient half-century on a truncated day’s cricket at Chelmsford.

The Lancashire captain batted throughout the 36 overs possible before rain returned at tea leading to a premature end of the day. By that time Jennings, the leading LV= Insurance County Championship run-scorer last season, had racked up 80 runs from 170 balls.

Lancashire lost three quick wickets before 20-year-old wicketkeeper George Bell joined Jennings for an unbeaten fifth-wicket stand of 56 in 23 overs.

When play was finally called off at 4.45pm, Lancashire were 167 for four with a lead of 155 going into the final day. Bell was unbeaten on 30 from 78 balls.

Heavy overnight rain had left puddles in the outfield and the umpires required two morning inspections before deciding play could resume after an early lunch.

There was an immediate surprise as Jamie Porter and Sam Cook switched from their more familiar bowling ends. Porter quickly acquainted himself with the River End and with the fourth ball of the day had Josh Bohannon playing down the wrong line and losing his off-stump.

The change did not inconvenience Cook either and in his third over he found the edge of Steven Croft’s bat with Dan Lawrence taking a smart diving catch to his right at third slip

Dane Vilas showed attacking intent with a straight drive, a flick off the legs and a hook for boundaries before he miscued a massive heave and skied Doug Bracewell to mid-on.

The sun made a welcome appearance during the afternoon to turn it into a one-sweater day; even Simon Harmer had dispensed with the snood he had worn for the first two days.

After losing three wickets inside six overs, Jennings and Bell bedded down into preservation mode partnership that was enlivened by a perfectly-time straight drive off Porter by Jennings and a rare boundary off Harmer through the covers from Bell.

Essex had an injury scare when Cook limped off mid-over as a precaution after landing awkwardly on his left ankle. They were already reduced to fielding Michael Pepper as replacement wicketkeeper after Adam Rossington damaged his hand.

Day Two Highlights:

Day Two Reaction: Matt Critchley

Day Two Report:

Matt Critchley racked up his third fifty for Essex in three LV= Insurance County Championship innings this season on a rain-affected day against Lancashire at Chelmsford.

The all-rounder enjoyed the better part of an intriguing joust with England paceman James Anderson, who otherwise had Critchley’s team-mates jumping and weaving while taking two more wickets to return figures of four for 70.

Critchley was last man out for 78 from 154 balls to follow scores of 55 and 53 in last week’s win at Lord’s against Middlesex. It enabled Essex to post 219 and eke out a 12-run advantage that at one time in the day looked beyond them.

When a combination of bad light and drizzle curtailed play with 27 overs remaining, Lancashire’s unbeaten second-wicket pair of Keaton Jennings (45) and Josh Bohannon (28) had swung the pendulum back towards the visitors who hold a 70-run lead.

Anderson had been almost unplayable in the first hour under slate-grey clouds as he extracted pace and movement from a pitch that had other looking like mere mortals. One ball was so full of life and pace that it beat wicketkeeper George Bell’s extravagant dive and raced away for four byes.

England hopeful Dan Lawrence had looked comfortable enough against Anderson on the previous evening but failed to add to his overnight 39 when he fended the fifth ball of the morning into slip’s hands.

Adam Rossington – who later gave up the wicketkeeping gloves in Lancashire’s second innings to Michael Pepper after damaging a hand – lasted just eight balls before he gave a thick edge to another lifter from Anderson and Luke Wells held on above his right shoulder.

A third Essex wicket fell in the first half-an-hour when Simon Harmer on nought fenced at Tom Baileynd Wells snaffled again at first slip.

Critchley, who had struggled for consistency last season after his move from Derbyshire, continued to hold up the other end and reached his latest fifty from 100 balls. He played first fiddle in a seventh-wicket stand of 43 in 12 overs with Doug Bracewell, though he was fortunate when dropped by Wells on 53.

The enterprising partnership ended when Bracewell chased a wide ball from fellow New Zealander Will Williams and became the fourth slip catch of the morning session.

When Anderson was rested after a six-over burst worth two for 20, it gave Essex some respite and Critchley took advantage by nonchalantly angling Williams past the slips for one of his nine fours.

When Anderson did return after the first of three rain breaks, there was not the same venom or spite in his deliveries. Indeed, tail-ender Sam Cook played two controlled drives to the third-man boundary off England’s premier strike bowler in a pleasing cameo worth 20.

The eighth-wicket pair put on 38 valuable runs that took Essex beyond Lancashire’s first-innings total of 209, but it ended when Cook dollied Colin de Grandhomme to midwicket. Essex were all out soon after when Critchley holed out to deep extra cover to give Williams a third wicket.

Lancashire had reached equality when Wells departed for his second single-digit score of the game, going half-forward to Jamie Porter and being judged lbw.

However, that brought Bohannon in to join Jennings and the pair patiently pieced together a half-century stand in 16 overs that was embroidered by some loose bowling from Bracewell, who was taken off after conceding a combined total of 24 runs from his third and fourth overs.

Day One Highlights:

Day One Reaction: Sam Cook

Day One Report:

Lancashire’s decision to bat first on a straw-coloured wicket meant James Anderson remained tucked up in the Pavilion until required to bat shortly before tea. However, England’s all-time leading wicket-taker required just three balls in Essex’s reply to collect his first wicket of the domestic season before having Alastair Cook playing forward half-cock to be judged lbw.

Anderson had struck straight away when Cook’s opening partner Nick Browne chased one that lifted outside off-stump to give catching practice to Luke Wells at first slip. Anderson finished the day with two wickets for 33 from 11 overs as Essex reached the close on 98 for three.

With almost impeccable timing, it was Sam Cook, the more than promising Essex seamer with aspirations of eventually replacing Anderson when he retires from Test cricket, who took the limelight with his first five-wicket haul of the season as Lancashire were dismissed for 207 on the stroke of tea.

Lancashire’s up-and-down innings was underpinned by 20-year-old wicketkeeper George Bell, having only his fourth Championship outing, who was ninth out for a career-best 60 from 109 balls that included 10 fours and displayed maturity beyond his years.

Not that there were too many signs early on of the sort of life that Anderson was to extract in his seven-over salvo in the evening session. Only when Essex’s overseas debutant Doug Bracewell joined the attack did a few sparks start to fly. The New Zealander had the Lancashire upper-order ducking and weaving, and Josh Bohannon had to watch one pass just under his throat.

However, on a fresh and breezy April day that had Harmer standing at second slip almost incognito inside a snood that covered the lower part of his face, it was a rejuvenated Jamie Porter who made the initial breakthrough. Porter took just 19 Championship wickets last year but needed just 10 balls to raise his 10th of this season when he had Luke Wells strangled down legside.

Keaton Jennings seemed to find plenty of time against the Essex pace attack and walked down the wicket to pat away the majority of deliveries faced. However, Adam Rossington clocked the move and crept closer to the stumps and duly profited as Jennings wafted at one to give Cook his first wicket. Jennings had weighed anchor for 36 minutes for the single next to his name.

However, it was the introduction of Bracewell that blasted a hole in the Lancashire batting. He was soon celebrating his first Essex wicket when Steven Croft drove at one outside off-stump and was grabbed at shoulder-height by Harmer. The same partnership accounted for Bohannon, fencing at another wide ball with Harmer taking a smart one-handed catch.

Two quick wickets fell straight after lunch when Cook was brought back into the attack. First Vilas was pinned in front playing down the wrong line, and five balls later Colin de Grandhomme was similarly undone and lost his off-stump.

Bell and Tom Hartley steadied the ship with a 67-run seventh-wicket stand. Hartley survived two dropped-catch chances to record a 50-ball 33 that included five fours and a six before he attempted to reverse-sweep Harmer and exited lbw.

Bell lost another partner when Tom Bailey pushed Bracewell to midwicket and Porter’s direct throw beat him to the non-striker’s end. The youngster followed two overs later, victim of the Cook-Cook alliance before Cook the bowler wrapped up the innings to finish with figures of five for 42.

The elder Cook drove Anderson crisply to the midwicket boundary three balls before he perished. Essex were three down in the next over when Tom Westley misjudged a ball from Will Williams and was another lbw victim.

Dan Lawrence (39) and Matt Critchley (23) saw Essex to stumps with an unbroken half-century partnership that included five penalty runs when de Grandhomme’s return to the wicketkeeper hit Critchley’s bat and was penalised under Law 28.2 for ‘illegal fielding of the ball’.