After a break and an away game, Essex return to ‘fortress’ Chelmsford for a Division One match against Hampshire.
This game was originally scheduled to be played Monday to Thursday when care homes need to do something with their clients but after pressure from County members, this game (and Middlesex v Glamorgan) were brought forward one day to give something tangible for working members to be able to see some play at weekends; the rest of the season is noticeably bare of weekends!
So, with minimal advertising (let’s be honest…none!) the expectation that the ground would be heaving with spectators- and a few dads being taken out for Fathers Day – was just a vain hope. The Essex faithful flocked in their tens rather than hundreds – put off perhaps by the poor forecast and a truncated and disjointed morning session. All eyes seem to be centred on Old Trafford and the billions watching in Asia so even if the UK audience had something else to do, cricket wasn’t their first choice (at least not here in Essex!)
Play began 35 minutes late after a light shower and Hampshire batting after winning the toss. The ball zipped about in the damp and cloudy conditions and Hampshire found themselves 8 for 3 in less than 30 minutes – must be the quickest time a bonus point has been earned!
Another break and back for 25 minutes before lunch and Northeast and Rossouw progress to 43/3 with no more alarms. It’s as if they’re playing on a different pitch from before…strange but let’s see.
Yes, they are playing on a different pitch or so it seems as Hampshire reach 94/5 by early afternoon; however a couple of questionable decisions both earlier and later mean they crash 24/5 to be all out for 118 just after 3pm. Poor display by Hampshire, good bowling by Essex although flatter to deceive and a number of poor umpiring decisions (at least three if not five wickets fell to the umpires judgment- they’re consistent which is what you want but both seem to be having an off day).
And as the weather improves, and I’m proved wrong as Dads have finished their special lunches at various venues and spectator numbers for the afternoon increase- almost approaching a healthy level but let’s not get too excited! Some still can’t watch or don’t want to!
Eleven overs before tea (extended day due to weather) see Essex glide to 37/0 with no real issues. The Hampshire bowling is perhaps a bit too full and too quick as the clouds roll in (non-threatening) and the breeze picks up to be quite strong. Hampshire need wickets…and soon!
The openers fall within balls of each other and both to leg before…although Sir A was initially given out to a catch (which looked ok from afar) but soon changed to lbw; Browne went similarly although from afar it looked an ‘iffy’ decision but there we are.
Westley fell for a few and at 64/3 Essex looked wobbly but this is a pitch where batting hasn’t been easy and overhead cloud has helped but as it dries, as it warms, it suggests batting will get easier and ending the day at 147/3 it’s all Essex today. Perhaps Hampshire will rue agreeing to the change of start date but it was good sport, reasonable weather and (eventually) a decent crowd but the ECB need to do something to promote awareness of the county game or change its name to the Extermination Cricket Board!