Game in the Balance After Day Two

Nick Browne dug in with characteristic doggedness for an unbeaten half-century which helped keep Somerset at bay after Craig Overton again impressed for the visitors.

When play was abandoned on the second day with 20 and a half overs remaining following a cloud burst that turned torrential, Essex had opened a 112-run advantage in the encounter with seven wickets still to fall.

At that point, Browne had reached 66 from 159 balls, his fifth Specsavers County Championship score above fifty this summer, with nine fours and a six.

He was kept company for 32 overs by Adam Wheater in an unbroken fourth-wicket stand of 78, equalling the highest partnership of a low-scoring match. Wheater was 36 not out from 96 balls at the close, his second highest score of the season.

Somerset went past Essex’s first-innings 159 by five runs before Craig Overton sliced open the top of order second time round with two lbw decisions in the seven overs before lunch. Varun Chopra went without playing a shot to one that came back and Dan Lawrence departed for a pair in similar fashion to leave Essex eight for two.

Ravi Bopara hung around for 14 overs in helping Browne put on 31 for the third wicket. However, a rush of blood from the former England man, when he charged Jack Leach and was beaten by flight, resulted in a stumping and Essex in a parlous position at 39 for three.

Browne’s innings had moments of explosion amid a plethora of dot balls. He came back sufficiently refreshed after lunch to hit Paul van Meekeren for three successive fours in the first over, two involuntarily either side of the wicketkeeper, the third a more controlled flick through midwicket. He also got a massive top-edge to a ball from Overton that sailed high over fine leg for six.

Wheater was slightly less inhibited, thumping the bad balls through the off-side, though he received a reprieve on 14. James Hildreth got both hands above his head to a thick edge at second slip, but the ball didn’t stick.

A back-foot drive through the covers for four, his eighth, took Browne to his fifty from 128 balls, and shortly afterwards the fifty partnership was posted from 24 overs.

Essex required just 75 minutes in the morning to remove Somerset’s last five first-innings wickets and concede a five-run deficit.

Mohammad Amir made a cameo appearance, taking two wickets in the first of his only two overs of the day before succumbing to a back spasm. The Pakistani had bowled 10 indifferent overs on the first day, but struck with the second delivery of the morning. The ball swung in and took the edge of Jack Leach’s bat to give James Foster the catch.

But Amir felt his back after bowling the fifth ball and it didn’t look as if he would carry on. However, the final ball of the over was a well-pitched-up, slow yorker that bent back Overton’s middle stump. After on-field treatment, Amir headed to the pavilion, but was back almost immediately before disappearing for the final time and a prolonged spell on the physio’s couch.

Porter claimed his third five-wicket haul in the Championship this season when Steven Davies edged to second slip. Harmer couldn’t hold on, but managed to react and palm the ball to his right where Foster dived forward to take.

A hooked four by Dom Bess took Somerset past Essex’s first-innings total. But Harmer ended the 31-run stand for the ninth wicket by tempting Groenewald forward to give Foster another catch, and finished off the innings as van Meekeren fenced to Adam Wheater at short leg four balls later.

Somerset director of cricket Matt Maynard admitted: “The game has moved forward so all results are still possible. But it’s probably slightly in Essex’s favour now. But at the start of the play you’d suggest it was just in our favour, but two wickets in the first over changes things. There’s a lot of cricket left to be played.

“I think Nick Browne and Adam Wheater have played a really good partnership. Nick looks a fine player, very much in the mould of Alastair Cook in terms of his determination. He isn’t fazed if he faces two or three overs on the bounce without scoring; the next opportunity he gets he’ll take. It’s a good thing for our guys to watch, the young players especially.

“It’s an attributional wicket, you might get a good ball with your name on it like Eddie Byrom did in the first innings. It’s a wicket where there is something in it for the seamers and to be fair Craig Overton exploited it really well. It’s the kind of wicket where you’re not going to blast people out continuously, there are going to be partnerships. If you do get past your first 10-15 balls you can hang around there. As Nick Browne has shown, the way to go about it is to dig in and not give the opposition anything.”

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09/07/2022 19:00 - The Cooper Associates County Ground