I can say with some degree of accuracy that the crowd at the 4th day of the Championship match at Chelmsford has doubled by lunch time to, oh, at least 200. Ok, it’s an overcast and chill day, there are other attractions locally no doubt (not sure what the ‘Ammers are up to) and the prospect of an Essex defeat will surely persuade the one-eyed Essex folk that there are better things to do on a Mayday Sunday.
After an hour and just as the new ball taken, Essex actually gain a lead but it’s taken them nine and a half sessions. By lunch, two more wickets have fallen – Critchley to a poorly chosen drive and Kushi caught behind for 30 not quite to the shiniest new ball but out nonetheless. Critchley and Walter had added 100 and Walter and Kushi 50, in quick time. So proving that it is possible to bat on this strip and raising the prospect of batting all day for a draw. Not quite what I thought yesterday!
Kushi is one of the young players Essex have and whilst it was a brief innings, it’s clear he’s a stylish and confident bat.
The lead at lunch is 36 with 5 wickets down; Walter (who only ever seems to play when Harmer is in the side?) slowly progressing to 79no and approaching his career best, but let’s not jinx it!
Which brings me to the other thought I had today is that the conditions appear to be ideal for swing, seam and plenty of wickets; other than the cold there’s little difference between todays weather and Friday’s. But I suppose it underlines the fact that science cannot explain why the ball swings in certain conditions and not others! Just as science can’t explain why bicycles don’t fall over when you ride one!
Northamptonshire need to get among the wickets and soon. They don’t want to chase too large a total and have no time to do so. Chasing 130/150 in the last session could be ‘interesting’
By mid afternoon Walter had gone for 93 just missing his best score (perhaps I jinxed him) and Essex are clearly just going to bat all day. The lead is closing in on 100 and whilst there’s plenty of overs and time, I fear Essex will look to get a lead of 150+ by 5pm and then agree a draw but there’s life (and hope yet for Northamptonshire).
Of course, that strategy only works if you don’t lose wickets at intervals – regular or otherwise! Since at tea, another has fallen (Harmer 13) to leave Essex 88 ahead with three wickets – and 36 overs – remaining. Essex scored 52 in that two hour session. Hardly brighter cricket but needs must!
During that session the crowd has thinned out – either due to cold, the state of the match or better things to do. With such low numbers – I counted 18 spectators in the public area (and I suspect most of those were members) – the Championship is becoming even more unaffordable for counties and more dependent than ever on the one day game and ECB handouts. But then that’s probably the ECBs strategy all along!
Essex not only cleared 200 but 300 and stuck to their guns all day! Poor light after tea possibly meant Northamptonshire were restricted to spinners only but maiden after maiden saw Essex strive towards the safe harbour of a draw. The lead with 20 overs left was close to 120 which in the trash and bash game is nothing but here…
With 50 nominal minutes left, a maximum of 14 overs to chase 132, the teams shook hands. It would have been interesting to see if Essex could have used their full attack given the poor light but we’ll never know!
So well done Essex and hard luck Northamptonshire but it does underline the need for top class bowling attacks if you’re going to succeed and sustain in this Division