Essex on the threshold of title and they get Alastair Cook boost for final games as well
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Warwickshire 201 and 7-0. Essex 369-9 dec.
Essex’s advance towards the Specsavers County Championship title this summer has included some spectacular days - this wasn’t one of them but still brought a strong stride towards glory as they built a commanding position against Warwickshire at Edgbaston.
Replying to 201, Ryan ten Doeschate’s men made 369 for nine, a lead of 168, before declaring late in the day to give Warwickshire two awkward overs batting.
The home side survived those unscathed on seven without loss but will have to bat with a resilience that has invariably been sorely lacking from them this season to get out of this hole. With nearest rivals Lancashire in trouble, having followed on at Taunton, Essex are on the threshold of the title.
With plenty of time at their disposal, Essex’s batsmen built a position from which they will aim to close out victory on the third day. It was a collective effort led by Varun Chopra (98, 181 balls, 15 fours), Dan Lawrence (78, 130, 14) and James Foster (68, 107, 12) to which all the top eight, other than the skipper, contributed. After bowling well as a unit, the Division One leaders batted well as a unit, sustaining pressure on their opponents. The stuff of champions.
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Essex resumed on the second day on 69 without loss and lost two wickets in a morning. Opening pair Chopra and Nick Browne added 72 before the latter (24, 65 balls) edged Keith Barker to second slip. Tom Westley batted sweetly for 28 (40 balls) until he nicked England team-mate Chris Woakes behind, after which Chopra and Lawrence put on 92 in 29 overs. The princely Chopra was within two runs of a century against his former team-mates when he perished lbw to medium-pacer Matt Lamb.
Lawrence’s aggressive innings threatened to take the game away from Warwickshire rapidly but the beleaguered home side stuck to their task and hit back with two wickets in four balls for Ryan Sidebottom. Lawrence cut to gully and ten Doeschate played on for a third-ball duck.
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When Ravi Bopara fell lbw to Barker, Essex had lost four wickets for 51 runs in 17 overs and but Foster and Simon Harmer (24, 65 balls) calmly eased the total upward with a partnership of 76 in 23 overs.
Woakes ended that stand with an in-ducker which pinned Harmer, Neil Wagner edged Barker and, after Foster fell lbw to Jeetan Patel, Essex pulled out. Tomorrow they could be pulling out the corks on the champagne.
Meanwhile Alastair Cook is available for the final two Specsavers County Championship matches of the 2017 season.
Essex travel to the Ageas Bowl next week, followed by a home match against Yorkshire at The Cloudfm County Ground to conclude the season.
Cook will be available for selection after the recent Test series against West Indies and will bolster Chris Silverwood’s ranks for the Division One title charge.
Essex Head Coach Silverwood is thrilled to see Cook back and said: “Obviously it is always a massive bonus to get a player of Alastair’s calibre back into the squad and around the group.
“He made a massive difference earlier in the season and helped set us on the path we have been on. Hopefully now he can come back and help us achieve the dream of lifting the Division One title.”