After a brief hiatus whilst the ‘bash and trash’ filled county grounds, coffers, bars and in a few cases police cells (lager lout brigades in full drunken abandon), the Championship starts again. The ‘fun’ of the rail strikes means that some trains are in the wrong place in the train set that is Network Rail and a trip to the ‘Fortress’ is the best option.
There’s always an issue when you call yourself something grandiose and then don’t live up to the mark. ‘Fortress’ Chelmsford is about as impregnable as a molehill! But there we are…marketeers showing themselves up for what they are!
By lunch time it’s clear that Essex are still hungover from the bash and trash and seem to think that footwork in batting is an added or optional extra.
They’ve managed to scratch together 72 runs in 30 overs but with five bats back in the Pavilion. Hampshire – their opponents – showing why they’re towards the top of Division One with a good display of seam bowling in the first session.
Holland – born in the USA, educated in Australia but playing cricket in England and named after a near continental neighbour – takes two in three balls to make the opening dents in the Essex side even larger. One however – Pepper – looked a bit lucky but the umpire only has one look, whereas those of us with cameras can linger over a freeze-frame!
The great news is that the North Korean stewarding has been given permission to allow spectators onto the outfield and even to look at the pitch at lunch time but for a Sunday there is a distinct lack of families here to take up the option of playing on the ground!
The afternoon session is a bit better for Essex as they go to tea on 194/8; Snater 52no (Dutch one day international player but born in Zimbabwe) steadied the ship with Harmer as Essex lost two more wickets within 50 minutes of lunch. Nothing spectacular but it’s clear that the odd ball will still swing to the odd bowler so this looks like a strip where once the new ball is seen off, it’s ok for batting but you need to take care. If you don’t use your feet, you’ll lose your wicket.
One of the challenges of the ‘Fortress’ is that you’re either roasting alive on the open sunshine stands, being blown away by a cold wind (almost a gale) under the Pearce stand or cramped into the temporary stands which have been here for several seasons and would now be permanent! Spectator comfort is not high on the list!
A fly past by an old US warplane/bomber over the ground this afternoon failed to do make any improvements! 🤣🤣
One seemingly useless stat is that in the last 11 seasons, the Championship has been won 10 times by the team with the highest average score at the fall of their fifth wicket (both innings)! Not quite sure how this adds to the price of fish, but at the moment Lancashire are on course to be crowned champs but there’s another three months to go!
Essex had a bit of a trash after tea…Snater and Cook S deciding to copy the current England thinking of assertive play – both fell to loose shots in the deep for 72 and 33 respectively with Essex ending on 238ao. Match awareness seemed to go out of the window since a 2nd batting point was only 12 runs away and very achievable! Will that tell at the end of the season?
Hampshire decided to copy the Essex innings almost to a man with wickets falling rapidly. Vince was the worst – charging Harmer second ball and being stumped by a country mile. Harmer seems to be getting more spin and grip than Dawson did after Cook S had damaged the top order. One wonders if the fielding side watch their opponents bat since lessons from the Essex innings have not been learnt!
Hampshire close on 68/6 but after what we’ve seen this season on flat tracks and plasticine balls, I must admit it’s nice to see a match where ball dominates bat – for a change!