County Championship
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Edgbaston, Birmingham

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Report: Warwickshire v Essex, County Championship

Day Three

Warwickshire underlined their LV= Insurance County Championship title-chasing credentials by completing a four-wicket win over fellow challengers Essex inside three days at Edgbaston. 

The story of seam-bowling dominance continued into the third day as Essex were bowled out in their second innings for 215. Chris Rushworth exploited helpful overhead conditions to finish with four for 62 (eight for 90 in the match) while Hassan Ali took four for 48. 

That left a victory target of 100 and, as batting remained far from straightforward, Warwickshire had to work hard to get there, reaching 100 for six from 27.2 overs. 

The skills of Rushworth and Hassan, ably supported in the seam department by Olly Hannon-Dalby and Ed Barnard, were the decisive factor in a fast-moving match which yielded a result on the third day despite the loss of 41 overs to the weather on the first two. 

A first defeat of the season came as a jolt for Essex after their impressive display in the draw against champions Surrey last week. Warwickshire’s third win in five games continued a strong start that has far exceeded expectations after they avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth last September.  

After Essex resumed on the third morning on 86 for four, still trailing by 30, overnight pair Matt Critchley and Michael Pepper took their side in front but neither lasted much longer as three wickets fell in 15 balls. Critchley edged Hassan Ali to Rob Yates at first slip and Rushworth pinned Pepper lbw and had Doug Bracewell brilliantly caught by Sam Hain at second slip. 

Simon Harmer (50 not out, 79 balls) and Shane Snater (31, 32) attacked effectively to ensure they would at least have something to bowl at, but the relentless seam team kept nagging away. Snater was snared lbw by Hannon-Dalby, and Hassan Ali had Sam Cook caught at long leg and Jamie Porter taken at slip. 

Chasing 100 in a minimum of 73 overs, Warwickshire had plenty of time but Alex Davies sought to do the job quickly and fell lbw to Cook when he missed an attempt to send the ball into the River Rea. 

Batting remained awkward as Essex’s seamers showed their skills. Yates edged Porter into the cordon and when Bracewell produced two superb away-cutters to remove Hain and Will Rhodes in three balls, it was 65 for four and Essex had a glimmer of hope. 

Dan Mousley and Barnard added an important 21 and, though the dismissal of Mousley and Michael Burgess in successive overs had a few home nerves jangling at 91 for six, Barnard (23 not out, 28 balls) steered his team home. 

First Team Coach Mark Robinson said: “We are absolutely delighted with the start we have made. If at the start of the season somebody had offered us three wins from five games we’d have bitten their hand off. Even with all the weather around we have forced three wins and we are very happy going to this next phase of cricket.

“Batting hasn’t been that easy with all the rain around and it also hasn’t been that easy to get continuity, this is only the second time we have batted in the second innings. But Will Rhodes scored a superb 68, the highest score of the match and absolutely vital in the context of the game, and then 70 from our last wicket was vital too. We were leading by 40 then all of a sudden it’s 110 and much more imposing and it just showed how important those runs were when we got over the line needing 100 with six wickets down.

“The chase was a bit scruffy from our point of view, we could probably have finished it a bit more calmly and not made it jittery, but we got over the line. We are not perfect but we are a team which has a bit of bottle and hopefully can learn more for the adventures which we are embarking on.”

Day Two

A buccaneering tenth-wicket stand of 70 restored Warwickshire’s control after Essex fought back hard on the second day of their captivating LV= Insurance County Championship match at Edgbaston.

Essex closed day two on 86 for four, still trailing by 30, in a mesmeric contest between two potential title-challengers.

After bowling Essex out for 126 on day one, Warwickshire appeared set for only a modest lead when they lost seven wickets in 17 overs to dip to 172 for nine.

The momentum was firmly with Essex’s seamers, led by Doug Bracewell (four for 51), but last pair Hassan Ali (53 not out, 47 balls) and Olly Hannon-Dalby clouted 70 from 69 balls to lift their side to 242.

The wagging tail extended the lead to an imposing 116 and piled the pressure back on Essex who need their middle and lower orders to bat big tomorrow. Further twists are likely in match which has fluctuated wildly throughout.

After Warwickshire resumed on the second morning on 17 for two, Will Rhodes (63, 158) and Sam Hain (45, 100) batted through the morning session to take their side to 104 for two at lunch – just 22 behind.

A big lead beckoned but the seeds of an Essex fightback had been sown by Sam Cook and Simon Harmer. Late in the morning they bowled 14 overs for 17 runs to ensure that, despite wickets intact, the home side had not got away. Then, after lunch, wickets came in a heap.

Shane Snater triggered the collapse with a brace of excellent balls which did for Hain and Dan Mousley in successive overs. Ed Barnard batted attractively for 28 (39 balls) but Bracewell’s removal of him, bowled through a drive, triggered the loss of five wickets in 32 balls. Sam Cook trapped Danny Briggs lbw while Bracewell forced fatal edges from Michael Burgess, Chris Rushworth and Rhodes who, having batted with great responsibility, departed cursing himself at being lured into reaching outside off stump.

From 172 for nine, Warwickshire’s last pair brought the crowd to its feet with an audacious counter attack. Hassan Ali began it by launching Cook twice into the Hollies Stand. Hannon-Dalby joined in with successive sixes pulled off Bracewell to raised the 50 stand from 50 balls. Hassan located the seating again to bring up his half-century from 33 balls. When Hannon-Dalby finally edged Snater behind, the flow of the match had reversed spectacularly again.

Second time around, Essex lost Nick Browne, bowled by Rushworth in the third over. Tom Westley and Alastair Cook started to put down roots of the hefty stand their team required but fell lbw in the space of three overs. Barnard ousted Westley before Hassan Ali dismissed Cook.

The former England captain trudged off the Edgbaston field where he enjoyed some of his greatest moments – 294 v India, 243 v West Indies – for almost certainly the last time: a poignant dimension to two days of cricket with more angles than you can shake a stick at.

Will Rhodes said: “There were lots of positives today. There are plenty of things that we can do better in future games but we are in a really good position to press hard to win a game of cricket.

“Essex have bowled really well all game. They have got a fantastic attack and Porter and Cook of two of the best in the country at opening the bowling so to see off the new ball with Hainy was really good. It was a contrast in styles, one of us bang in form and one slightly out of form but we managed to see the job through and get through the morning session.

“Then the way they came back after lunch was really impressive. Barny’s counter-punch of 30 has ended up being really important and then Hass and Olly batting so well at the end against the older ball was quite crucial. That 70-run partnership was huge. We’ve seen Olly hang around a few times with Burge and this time we saw his shot-making too. It was great to see Hass get some runs. He was dying to get a score and for him to get 50 was fantastic,

“Then we managed to get some wickets in the last session. To get Lawrence right at the end was a big blow – we know how destructive he can be. Now we have a real opportunity to put some pressure on.”

Day One

Chris Rushworth continued his stunning start to his Warwickshire career with another four wickets as Essex’s batting imploded on a rain-affected opening day of their LV= Insurance County Championship match at Edgbaston.

Former Durham seamer Rushworth went into this game, his fifth for Warwickshire, with 22 wickets at 15.27 apiece and enhanced those figures further with four for 28 as Essex folded to 126 all out.

Rushworth delivered a triple-wicket maiden in the last over before tea to reduce Essex from a relatively healthy 76 for two to 76 for five. Olly Hannon-Dalby followed up in the final session with four for 21, taking him past 450 wickets in all formats.

Warwickshire then encountered turbulence of their own as they reached 17 for two at the close of a day which provided abundant drama and entertainment despite play not starting until 3pm due to rain.

After Warwickshire captain Will Rhodes won the toss for the first time this season, Essex’s batters found life difficult in damp, seamer-friendly conditions. Only skipper Tom Westley (47, 94 balls) lasted more than an hour.

Both Essex openers fell to the new ball. Rushworth, fresh from his dazzling seven for 38 in Southampton last week, sent an inswinger into Alastair Cook’s pads to win an lbw decision. Hassan Ali, recalled in place of the rested Chris Woakes, struck with his fifth ball when Nick Browne feathered a leg glance and wicketkeeper Michael Burgess took a fine catch, one-handed and at full stretch.

Westley and Dan Lawrence added 52 in 12 overs before Rushworth’s brilliant over sent the innings into ruin. Lawrence chipped the first ball to extra over. Matt Critchley narrowly survived the second and third then edged the fourth to Rob Yates at slip. Michael Pepper fell lbw to the sixth. It was bowling of a level of control, intelligence and potency which would not look out of place in an Ashes series.

Control, intelligence and potency are attributes which Hannon-Dalby’s work consistently displays and he heightened Essex’s distress in the last session with a burst of four for ten in 28 balls. Simon Harmer’s obdurate 39-ball resistance for three was ended by a spectacular rearrangement of furniture, Doug Bracewell edged to slip and Westley was caught at extra cover.

After Hassan Ali returned to trap Sam Cook lbw and Hannon-Dalby hit Shane Snater’s off stump the last eight wickets had fallen for 50 runs in 19.2 overs. Who needs Chris Woakes?

Essex inflicted immediate damage upon Warwickshire’s reply when Jamie Porter’s first ball trapped Yates in front. Porter added a second wicket with the day’s final ball when Alex Davies edged to third slip to leave the visitors still right in the game despite their paltry first innings total.

Olly Hannon-Dalby said: “We were pleased to get out there at all. Once play didn’t start on time I think a lot of us were thinking we’re not going to play today. With the amount of rain we have had lately you just have to feel for the poor groundsmen all over the country.

“But Gary Barwell has got a great groundstaff team at Edgbaston so for us to get out there at all was a brilliant job by them and then for us to then take some wickets made it a good day,

“It was really pleasing to bowl them out quite cheaply. They are a good batting line-up and one of the teams that are going to be near the top of the championship, I’m sure. They are a good side, so to bowl them out for 126 is something we can be really pleased with.

“It was Rushy who cracked it open on his own there with three wickets in an over just before tea. He did similar down at Hampshire last week and he has got those sorts of spells in him. He’s a brilliant bowler and has been the best bowler in county cricket for a number of years now and he is really showing us how good he is since he joined us at Warwickshire.”

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