Essex on the ropes as Surrey and Clarke turn the screw

Tom Westley

Tom Westley - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Essex (126 & 13-0) trail Surrey (351) by 212 runs

Rikki Clarke had an outstanding day all-round at Chelmsford before bad light sliced 25 overs off the second day with Essex, following on, still 212 runs away from making Surrey bat again, writes Martin Smith.

The veteran seamer had caned Essex for 56 runs from 69 balls at the end of Surrey’s first innings, which ended on 351. With ball in hand, Clarke ripped the heart out of the Essex batting first time round, taking four for 28. The reigning Specsavers County champions were dismissed for 126, and it could have been worse if they had got edges to any number of balls which flashed past the outside of their bats.

When the umpires took the players off at 4.37pm, openers Nick Browne and Varun Chopra had reduced the 225-run deficit by 13 runs in seven overs. The game was finally called off for the day at 5.15pm.

Clarke had been supported with the ball by Tom Curran, whose three wickets cost 36.

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Only Tom Westley showed any resistance, overcoming a tentative start to grow in confidence before he was out for 49 from 113 balls. Otherwise, of the Essex batsmen, only Peter Siddle, with an unbeaten 21, and Jamie Porter, with 12, reached double-figures.

Somerset’s tie with Lancashire means that, assuming Essex are finished off over the course of the next two days, that Surrey will extend their lead at the top by a further 11 points.

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Essex’s first innings fitted neatly into the period between lunch and tea, bar two overs after Surrey’s innings ended in the 120th over.

Essex had gone to lunch on seven for nought, but lost both openers in six balls straight after the break. Browne went on to the back foot and edged Morne Morkel to Dean Elgar at first slip. Chopra then played an injudicious shot against Curran and Clarke held on above his head at second slip. Dan Lawrence did not last long before going half-forward to Curran and departing lbw.

Westley had a torrid time against Conor McKerr, just failing to get a touch to three balls in one over, but surviving to put on 27 with Bopara for the fourth wicket. The stand ended when Bopara hooked Clarke, but the ball flew off the top edge and into the stratosphere before coming down plonk into Ben Foakes’s waiting gloves.

When Morkel replaced McKerr at the Hayes Close End, Westley pulled him over square leg for four to bring up Essex’s 50 in the 21st over. But he lost another partner when Ryan ten Doeschate went on the drive and edged behind.

The collapse continued apace with three wickets in seven balls. Michael Pepper had hung around for 32 balls for his nine before playing all around a delivery from Curran and losing his off-stump. Westley prodded at Clarke and was pouched in the slips by Rory Burns before Clarke pinned Simon Harmer lbw to claim his fourth wicket.

Siddle hit three fours, two in succession, before McKerr polished off the innings by having Jamie Porter lbw and Sam Cook caught in the gulley by Ollie Pope.

Essex had made the most of the damp, overcast conditions in the morning and removed Surrey’s final six wickets for 95 runs. Cook and Porter took two wickets each in the session to finish with three for 71 and two for 87 respectively, while Siddle took the first of the day – Will Jacks steering the ball into Lawrence’s hands at first slip – to end with three for 86.

Porter rapped Foakes towards the top of his thigh to bring the Surrey physiotherapist on to the pitch for the first time. Next ball Porter sent his off-stump cartwheeling.

Clarke was also in the wars when thumped on the inside of his knee by Siddle. He hobbled for a leg-bye before collapsing on his back at the non-striker’s end and calling for treatment. Curran saw out the over with three successive fours to dent Siddle’s figures.

Curran’s aggressive cameo ended on 26 when he flicked Harmer to Lawrence at short mid-on, and Morkel followed for one when Cook uprooted his off-stump. McKerr spent much of the rest of the over swishing at thin air before snicking the final ball, to Lawrence at first slip.

Clarke decided to go on a full-frontal attack against Harmer. His 15 runs off an over included a six over long-leg. A second six over long-off in the following over from Cook took Clarke to a 64-ball 50. His innings finished after two sixes and eight fours when he was snapped up by ten Doeschate at wide mid-on for Porter’s second wicket.

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