Essex v Somerset: Browne digs in for leaders

PUBLISHED: 17:59 29 August 2017 | UPDATED: 17:59 29 August 2017

Nick Browne hits four runs for Essex (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Nick Browne hits four runs for Essex (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

©TGS Photo +44 1376 553468

Nick Browne dug in for an unbeaten half-century to help Division One leaders Essex back into a game that looked in danger of slipping away from them.

When play was abandoned on the second day with 20.3 overs remaining following a cloud burst that turned torrential, Essex had opened a 112-run advantage in the top versus second-bottom 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 requires another 36 runs to pass 1,000 first-class runs for the third summer running.

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 staggered past Essex’s first-innings 159 by just 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 8-2.

Ravi Bopara hung around for 14 overs in helping Browne put on 31 for the third wicket but 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 39-3.

Browne’s innings had moments of explosion amid a plethora of dot balls but 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 mid-wicket.

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 when 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 soon 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 as 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.

Jamie 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. It took Harmer to 50 Championship wickets in his first county season.

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