Essex on the ropes as Notts put themselves in a glorious position on day two at Chelmsford
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Nottinghamshire (380 & 35-1) lead Essex (206) by 209 runs
A dominant performance with bat and ball over two days carried Nottinghamshire into a strong position to end a run of back-to-back Specsavers County Championship defeats and leapfrog opponents Essex in the table.
However, after dismissing the reigning champions for 206 to lead by 174 runs on first innings, Notts decided against enforcing the follow-on. By the close at Chelmsford, their advantage had been extended to 209 in 12 overs in the evening sun, though they lost captain Chris Nash to a catch behind from a tentative prod to Matt Quinn.
Matt Carter, the 22-year-old off-break bowler, spun the web that led to Essex’s downfall inside two sessions with four wickets for 34 from 15.3 overs, of which eight were maidens. He kept his nerve when he briefly came under heavy artillery from Ravi Bopara, who stood head and shoulders above the carnage before becoming Carter’s second victim.
Bopara recorded his second Championship half-century of the season, finishing on 69 from 89 balls, with nine fours and one six. Without his efforts Essex would not have come within 25 of the follow-on target as he led the relative recovery from 26 for three.
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It started badly for Essex in their response to Notts’ 380. Varun Chopra scratched around for 21 balls before he played across the line to depart lbw for a duck, the first of Luke Fletcher’s four wickets for 43. Tom Westley, standing in as captain in the absence of the suspended Ryan ten Doeschate, followed straight after lunch, pinned on his crease by Matt Milnes.
Dan Lawrence had looked uncomfortable during his 18-ball stay for a single before he aimed to play through midwicket, but produced a leading edge to Chris Nash at gully.
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Alastair Cook and Bopara repaired some of the damage in a fourth-wicket stand of 54 in 18 overs. Bopara outscored his partner by more than two to one, caressing Fletcher through extra cover for four and adding a straight boundary in the same over. After gloriously square-cutting Harry Gurney for his sixth four, Cook edged the one-time England bowler to second slip where the ubiquitous Carter took the catch at the second attempt. Cook’s 33 came off 93 balls.
Bopara reached his half-century when he pushed a quick single to mid-off from his 69th ball. That, though, was the prelude to three wickets going down in 15 balls either side of tea. Adam Wheater had looked untroubled in crafting 24 from 31 balls before edging a straight lifter and giving Tom Moores a catch behind the stnmps.
Harmer went to the last ball before tea, lbw to Carter without scoring, at which point Essex were still 106 adrift of the follow-on target with four wickets left. That was three wickets left when Coles was lbw to a delivery from Fletcher that beat his defensive push.
At 130 for seven, Bopara decided to put caution to the wind and lofted Carter for six to long-leg in an over that went for 15. It dented the spinner’s figures, which had stood at 7-5-5-1 at its start. But Carter had the last laugh, Bopara taking a wild swing and getting a bottom edge and dragging the ball on to the stumps, via a pad.
Neil Wagner picked up Bopara’s mantle, taking 21 from a Gurney over, including sixes off successive balls, and added a third off Carter before top-edging to Fletcher at point. His 37 came off just 23 balls, and also contained four fours. However, it was left to Quinn to bring up an unexpected batting point for passing 200 with a lofted four off Patel before he was caught at deep midwicket.
At the start of the day, the last four Notts wickets added 69 crucial runs before Harmer closed the innings with his fourth wicket at a personal cost of 78.
Notts lost Moores to the third ball of the day when Jamie Porter had him caught behind for his overnight 28. Harmer claimed his third victim when Carter swung him towards the cow corner boundary where Wagner took a comfortable catch.
But the Notts tail made hay against some off-key bowling and chalked up their fourth batting point with five balls to spare. Fletcher launched a six next ball to celebrate and then kept out the rest of Harmer’s over to deny Essex a third bowling point.
Fletcher frustrated Essex for 50 balls for his 19. He was spilled to a difficult chance at backward point by a diving Chopra, but next ball spooned Wagner to Coles at mid-on. Milnes was the last man to depart for 22, a carbon-copy of Carter’s dismissal.
At the end of the day, Milnes, promoted to nightwatchman after Nash’s demise, was three not out and Jake Libby 20.