Cricket: Essex title hopes dented at Warwickshire
PUBLISHED: 18:24 11 September 2019 | UPDATED: 18:24 11 September 2019
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Essex's title challenge encountered a major obstacle in the form of a marathon maiden century from Warwickshire batsman Matt Lamb on the second day of their Specsavers County Championship Division One match at Edgbaston.
The 23-year-old Edgbaston academy product, playing his 15th first-class match, batted exactly seven hours for 173 (371 balls, 25 fours) to lift Warwickshire to 517 all out.
His implacable concentration meant the innings hoovered up almost all the first two days of the match and steered the home side a long way towards securing the draw which would take them to the brink of safety from relegation.
Essex, meanwhile, who reached 31-1 in reply by the close, will need to produce something remarkable over the remaining two days to achieve the win they need to keep pace with Somerset, who are strongly-placed against Yorkshire at Taunton, at the top.
How the Division One leaders will rue their decision to bowl first after Lamb added 150 in 49 overs for the fourth wicket with Sam Hain (82, 197 balls, 12 fours) and 105 in 34 for the seventh with Henry Brookes (46, 89 balls, six fours).
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Simon Harmer's reward for 59.5 overs of spin was 6-143 but the seam-attack was blunted by a pitch offering them little help.
Essex sensed an opportunity in the morning session when, after Warwickshire extended their overnight 269-3 to 290,three wickets fell for seven runs in 22 balls. Perfectly-shaped outswingers from Jamie Porter forced fatal edges from Hain and Michael Burgess and debutant Ethan Brookes turned Harmer to leg slip.
But Brookes the elder (Henry is Ethan's older brother) batted positively from his first ball. Two boundaries off Harmer halted the mini-collapse and Brookes' composed presence allowed Lamb to move patiently to his maiden ton from 211 balls (15 fours) and then advance to 150 from 312 (23).
Essex were gifted a breakthrough when Lamb called Brookes for a dodgy single and saw his partner run out by yards, but Jeetan Patel helped add 66 before Lamb's excellent knock ended with a weary swat to mid-wicket off Ravi Bopara.
Harmer trapped Olly Hannon-Dalby to complete his five-for but Patel and last man George Garrett cranked the total over 500 with an alliance of 46 in 12 overs before Garrett was stumped off Harmer.
A satisfying day for Warwickshire was crowned in the penultimate over when Alastair Cook edged Patel to second slip.