Cricket: Leach leaves Essex in a spin
PUBLISHED: 15:38 22 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:38 22 August 2018
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Jack Leach returned career-best figures of 8-85 as Somerset maintained their challenge for a first ever County Championship title with a 45-run win over Essex at Taunton.
The left-arm spinner boosted his hopes of returning to the England side with a masterly display from the River End on a fourth day pitch that gave him plenty of encouragement.
Chasing a daunting 336 to win, Essex looked well placed at 256-4, with Nick Browne having contributed 86 and Tom Westley 56. But then captain Ryan ten Doeschate fell to Leach for 50 and the match swung Somerset’s way.
Leach bowled unchanged throughout the day, sending down 32 of his 48 overs in the innings and beating the bat on numerous occasions, as well as collecting the wickets that bettered his previous best first class figures of 7-106.
Somerset took 22 points from a riveting game of county cricket, while Essex had to be content with three.
Essex started the day on 147-1, needing a further 189, and Browne and Westley began cautiously and had added 24 without alarm when Browne top-edged an attempting sweep off Leach to be caught by Jamie Overton running from slip to leg-slip.
Overton then pinned Westley, who had reached a 117-ball half-century, leg-before to give Somerset a further boost with the score still on 171.
Dan Lawrence batted sensibly with ten Doeschate, but fell on the stroke of lunch for 21 to a fine arm-ball from Leach, which skidded through his defence and bowled him.
It was 225-4 at the interval, with ten Doeschate unbeaten on 31. He was joined by Ravi Bopara, who had been unwell, and together they frustrated the home attack, adding 31 meticulously.
The Essex captain was then beaten and bowled by a sharply turning ball from Leach shortly after reaching an impressive 72-ball half-century, with eight fours.
The visitors still required 80 and it was compelling cricket as Bopara fought to keep his side’s hopes alive. Adam Wheater fell caught and bowled by Leach off a leading edge before Somerset made the key breakthrough.
Bopara could barely believe it when bowled by Leach off an inside edge, stepping back to cut a short ball. He had made a valiant 27, but the target was still 55 runs away.
It looked out of reach when Simon Harmer fell to Dom Bess, caught off bat and pad at short-leg to give the off-spinner his first wicket.
So it proved as Peter Siddle was well caught by Overton at slip attempting to slog Leach over the short leg-side boundary on the town side the 49 still required.
Leach’s one-man show ended when Jamie Porter departed lbw pushing forward, sparking wild celebrations among the Somerset fielders at winning a game they seemed to have let slip the previous evening.