Essex turn the screw on day two
Simon Harmer claimed his first five-wicket haul of the season as Essex put themselves into an imperious position in their LV=Insurance County Championship clash with Somerset.
Harmer had taken 18 wickets in his first six Championship appearances of the season but tore through the Somerset lower order after Jamie Porter had dealt with the top order and seen the visitors slump to 10 for three.
Sean Dickson carried his bat for Somerset, the first since Tom Lammonby against Worcestershire in 2020, as he scored an unbeaten 82 – comfortably his best since arriving from Durham.
Somerset were bowled out for 167 and trailed after the first innings by 295 runs, but Essex didn’t enforce the follow-on and ended the day on 15 for onewith the lead extending to 310.
Tom Westley had earned opening bowlers Sam Cook and Jamie Porter 20 minutes to bowl at Somerset before the lunch break by declaring on 462.
Only 2.5 overs were possible before rain came but Porter had knocked over Toms Lammonby and Abell in the first over.
Lammonby had looped the third ball of this innings to point before Abell was brilliantly caught at second slip.
Things didn’t improve after lunch with George Bartlett lbw to Porter with the first ball on resumption, having previously survived some close call while stepping across his stumps.
Harmer arrived at his customary River End in the 13th over and challenged Tom Kohler-Cadmore to take him on down the ground after an enterprising 32 off 39 balls in his fourth over. It was to his detriment as Ben Allison swallowed a simple catch at long on.
In form James Rew edged Allison behind before Harmer went through the lower order.
Kasey Aldridge was caught and bowled, Craig Overton was unfortunately adjudged caught at short leg – replays would show that the ball bounced before ricocheting off Nick Browne – and Josh Davey and Matt Henry fell in successive deliveries.
It was Harmer’s 31st five-wicket haul for Essex and second against Somerset. Cook would round off the innings after a 40 minute last-wicket stand, which Shoaib Bashir edged to Alastair Cook, with Essex leading by 295.
Throughout the wicket-taking Dickson had held firm, and had shown little appetite for the collapses at the other end.
Having arrived from Durham in the winter, having desired to move back down south with his family, he had peaked at 19 in eight innings with three ducks.
Westley decided to rest his bowlers rather than go immediately again, and in seven evening overs lost Browne leg-before to Overton.
Earlier, Essex returned on day two searching for a fourth batting point, they would eventually miss out by three runs despite needing 40 runs in 14 overs.
Accurate bowling, with slightly more assistance off the pitch, and wickets were the main reasons for the failure.
Nightwatchman Ben Allison was bowled by Craig Overton with the third delivery of the morning before Matt Critchley was run out for 121 when attempting to complete a fourth run.
Harmer was caught behind, Will Buttleman swung to point and Sam Cook handed Bashir his maiden first-class wicket but Khushi opened up to take Essex to 462 for nine before declaring.
Khushi had initially struggled to time the ball as he reached 12 off his first 51 balls, before turning to T20 mode with 44 runs off his last 17 deliveries to end up unbeaten on 56.
Essex spinner Simon Harmer:
“It is nice to be back in the wickets. It has been a slow start in the red ball stuff this season so it was nice to get back to business in an important game in our season.
“I love bowling and I love taking wickets. You have to make sure when it is your day you make it a great day because there are lean patches around the corner.
“Professional cricketers are successful one in three innings, that’s the philosophical way I think about it. When I get on a run I need to make sure I maximise.
“Early on in the season I wasn’t get the ball in the right areas as consistently as I would have liked. I bank on my repetitiveness and that is where I probably let myself down.
“I can understand the train of thought for us to bowl again but what we need to understand is that we’ve had seven T20 games in 10 days. There are a lot of players whose workloads are very high and there was an opportunity to take a result out of the game by batting again and giving the bowlers a chance to recharge their batteries. That was the thinking by the brains trust.
“I think 450 would be a good place to start [where they will declare] but it is more about how quickly we get there and how much time is left in the game. We don’t want to leave ourselves three or four sessions to bowl them out. We need to get to where we need to be as quickly as possible.”
Somerset batter Sean Dickson:
“It is always starting the season off like I did and when moving clubs it is tough to come off an average of about nine.
“Having the opportunity to showcase what I can do means it is a good day for me. Obviously it was tough for the other lads but hopefully we can come back and rectify it.
“It was a lot of hard work; it wasn’t easy. It was just nice to contribute and show the boys what I’m made of.
“It is tough to say [about the pitch]. There’s some tired bodies and tired minds. It is a tough schedule and a tough fixture. We are professionals and need to get our heads down and crack on. Credit to them they bowled well up front, the two in the first over helped, and then Harmer bowled well and did his thing here at Essex and spins it around corners.
“I’m a believe that when you get a team under the pump you dig them under the ground even more, and put us into bat. I get why they’ve done it but it is whether or not it is the right call. It kind of opens the door for us to chase down if we bowl well tomorrow.”
On Craig Overton’s dismissal: “I didn’t think it hit [Browne’s boot] on the full. I did ask the umpires if they could see and looking back at the footage now it looks clear. I don’t know how we can be giving those out when you can’t see. That’s what’s really tough. I’m not saying it is the difference because he could have gone next ball. It comes down to fine margins when you win or draw games of cricket but it is what it is.”