Essex wrap up victory inside three days with Siddle to the fore

Essex's Peter Siddle Photo: PA

Essex's Peter Siddle Photo: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Essex (435) beat Hampshire (172 & 211) by an innings and 52 runs

Peter Siddle took five for 48 with some typically accurate bowling as Essex’s claimed their fourth Specsavers County Championship win of the season. Hampshire’s defeat by an innings and 52 runs was confirmed with 14 and a half overs left on the fourth day.

It was Siddle’s third five-wicket haul in six Championship appearances for Essex. He plays the last game of his stint against champions-elect Surrey, starting on Tuesday at Chelmsford, before returning to his day job back in Australia. He already has 34 red-ball wickets this wicket to his credit.

He was well supported by Simon Harmer, who alternated between his traditional haunt at the Hayes Close End and the River End, and finished with four wickets for 64. He has 43 wickets this summer to follow up his 72 last year

Hampshire, losing for the fourth time this season, moved deeper into troubled waters in the lower reaches of Division One.

Harmer admitted: “It took a massive effort from the group to play the cricket that we wanted to play, to bat first and look to bat big and then bowl them out twice. It was the only way we were going to win the game. It was a tremendous team performance and it was good to see the batting unit putting up the runs so that the bowlers could take care of the rest.

“I don’t think there was enough in the wicket for us to really bowl them out quickly, but they did dig in and hung around. It was a relief to get the wicket right at the end there – it could have been squeaky bums in the last few overs.”

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Tom Alsop and Sam Northeast kept Essex in the field longer than they would have liked into the early evening. Northeast steadied the ship during the morning with Kyle Abbott, finally departing after 101 balls for 41. The left-handed Alsop was even more the immovable object personified, his innings spanning all three sessions while eking out 51 runs from 141 balls.

After losing the whole of the first day to damp spots where the wicketkeepers stand, Essex managed to pull off their victory inside three days. It was reminiscent of many of the wins in last season’s title success, piling up runs in the first innings and bowling teams out twice. This was the first time this season they had managed to do so. They also took a maximum 24 points for the first time this year.

Needing to take eight wickets at the start of the fourth day, it looked as if Essex would wrap the gam inn double-quick time, especially when Siddle carried on from his devastating bowling of the previous evening. He had left Hampshire 17 for two overnight, and reduced them further to 24 for four in his second over of the morning.

With the second ball of the over he had Ian Holland playing on for a 25-ball two, and followed four balls later when Hampshire captain James Vince was undine by a beauty, an off-cutter that sent his off-stump flying.

Essex were held up for 14 overs while Kyle Abbott and Northeast added 39 runs. It was a classic example of obduracy, though there was the odd outburst of aggression. Northeast caressed Sam Cook for successive boundaries either side of the wicket and Abbott lofted Harmer back over his head.

The fifth-wicket stand ended in discord when Abbott called Northeast for a sharp single to substitute fielder Paul Walter at cover. Except Northeast didn’t move. Abbott was halfway down the wicket and applying the brakes by the time substitute wicketkeeper Michael Pepper had gathered Walter’s throw and removed the bails. The rock-like Abbott had gone for 22 from 70 balls.

Harmer kept changing ends to keep the pressure on the batsmen. He was on at the Hayes Close End to end Northeast’s stay to his 101st ball soon after lunch. Harmer turned one away and caught the edge of the batsman’s forward prod with Varun Chopra holding on at slip.

Bowling from the River End, Rilee Rossouw executed a reverse-sweep, rather out of synch with the match positon But Harmer hit back when the South African drove into Nick Browne’s hands at short cover for 14 from 30 balls.

Siddle had his fifth wicket when Liam Dawson got an inside edge that Pepper took one-handed going low down to his left.

Alsop, who hit 99 against Nottinghamshire last week, reached his snail-pace fifty with his eighth boundary, a square-drive off Cook. It had taken 135 balls. Next ball he brought up the fifty partnership with Gareth Berg. His three-hour vigil ended six balls later when Harmer extracted some extra bounce and Pepper juggled with the ball before finally claiming the catch in front of the wicket.

Berg showed some late aggression when he put Harmer over long leg for six But Berg became Harmer’s fourth wicket, lbw, after scoring 37 from 107 balls,

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