Surrey in the ascendancy over Essex at Chelmsford on first day

Essex's Simon Harmer

Essex's Simon Harmer - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Surrey (256-4) v Essex

Rory Burns and Dean Elgar compiled a second-wicket stand of 148 to underpin Specsavers County Championship champions-elect Surrey’s first-day ascendancy over reigning champions Essex at Chelmsford.

The pair weathered an early storm before settling into a patient, but punishing partnership as Surrey sought their eighth Championship win in a row to move inexorably towards the title. Surrey had ground out 256 for four in 96 overs at the close.

In scoring his eighth score above 50, three of them in the hundreds, the remarkably consistent Burns passed 1,000 Championship runs for the season. It was the fourth time in five years he has reached the milestone; he has hit 1,000 runs in first-class cricket in each of those five seasons.

The Surrey captain’s 90 spanned two sessions and took 217 balls. Dean Elgar kept him company for all but the first 10 overs while scoring 75 from 179 balls before both departed in the space of 11 overs.

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The Essex seam attack gave the batsmen a difficult time in the morning after asking them to bat on a strip that had been used in the pink-ball match against Somerset in June. It looked as though a wicket might fall almost every other ball. As it flattened, wicket-threatening balls became almost non-existent, particularly in the afternoon session.

Essex finally gained some reward in the gloom of the evening when Peter Siddle added two more wickets to his bundle of 34 in his seventh Championship appearance for Essex. This, though, is his last game before he returns for the Australian domestic season.

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Sam Cook had induced three involuntary edges through the slips before Mark Stoneman, on 12, got a thick-ish edge to third slip where Tom Westley took a juggling catch at the second attempt.

It would be another 55 overs and 148 runs before Essex gained a second success. Jamie Porter bowled an accurate and nagging line and length, and Burns did well to dig out a yorker. Simon Harmer, too, got his first delivery to pop up and have Elgar in some discomfort.

But Burns rocked on to his back to cut Harmer square for the boundary, his sixth, that took him over 39 and into four-figures for the season

Burns reached his 50 soon after lunch, angling a ball from Cook through the vacant third-man area for his eighth four. He had not added to his score when he edged Porter and the ball flashed through second slip’s fingers. Reprieved, the partnership sped through the century mark in 28 overs.

Elgar followed Burns to his half-century, pushing Siddle to the square-leg boundary for a three. It had taken him 93 balls, with five fours. But in the same over he was put down by wicketkeeper Michael Pepper, deputising for the injured Adam Wheater. Elgar feared the worse and had already taken a step towards the pavilion.

Burns added his 13th four from the third ball over tea, but his innings ended to the sixth ball when he chopped on to Siddle.

Elgar was next to go, bowled by one from Harmer that turned from middle to off. Harmer celebrated the wicket of his fellow South African as if he had won the FA Cup.

Ollie Pope, who plays the first two days of this match before joining up with the England party for the fifth Test, never looked comfortable. When he had make 21 from 57 balls, he chased one from Siddle to give Harmer the catch at second slip.

Ben Foakes and Will Jacks saw Surrey to the close not out on 24 and 15 respectively.

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