Warwickshire 243 for 8 (Lamb 47, Siddle 3-52) trail Essex
295 (Browne 68, Walter 66, ten Doeschate 56, Stone 4-89, Hannon-Dalby 4-73) by 52 runs
It was not, perhaps, the sort of day you would recall forever. There were no especially large innings or remarkable bowling returns. The run-rate – around 2.4 an over – was, by modern standards, pretty sedate.
But in terms of providing the tough, uncompromising environment which is required to provide players with the experience required to succeed at Test level, this was a fine advert for the virtues of County Championship cricket.
By the end of it, Essex’s relentless attack had earned them the upper hand. On a surface that is, perhaps, a little drier than might have been expected at this time of year, Simon Harmer‘s off-spin could prove a handful in the fourth innings. With the seamers having gone round the wicket to left-handers at times throughout the game, there is rough outside the right-handers’ off stump which may prove crucial.
But Essex are not in the overwhelmingly dominant position they might have been. And with Warwickshire having pulled off an impressive run-chase in their last game against Durham, both sides will know there is nothing inevitable about the course of this match.
That Warwickshire remain in the hunt was, in no small part, down to a ninth-wicket stand between Danny Briggs and Craig Miles. Coming together with Warwickshire still trailling by 102 runs, they have so far resisted for 28 overs in adding 50 runs and inching their side towards parity.
There was nothing especially clever in their method. It was founded on patience, a sound defence and accumulation when the opportunity arose. Miles has yet to hit a boundary in his 85-ball innings and, while Briggs heaved a six over the short leg-side boundary when Sam Cook dropped short, it was very much the aberration.
Essex also put down three chances of varying difficulty in the field. Firstly, Harmer dropped Rob Yates, on 3, in the slips off the deserving Jamie Porter, before then missing a sharp caught-and-bowled chance offered by Hanuma Vihari on 25. Later an edge from Tim Bresnan, then on 10, flew between Harmer and Alastair Cook in the slips.
Warwickshire were unable to take advantage, though. Yates was bowled through the gate as he pushed forward hopefully, before Vihari, who had looked ominously comfortable, was caught behind off a fine delivery which may have left him a fraction. Bresnan, who received his county cap from former England team-mate Ian Bell before play, was bowled when he attempted to drive an off-break which turned sharply out of the rough.
Ahead of that ninth-wicket stand, Warwickshire’s most resolute batting came from Sam Hain and Matt Lamb. But Hain was defeated by a beauty which dipped and turned sharply, before Lamb was bowled by one from Peter Siddle which nipped in sharply.
Siddle was not, perhaps, quite at his best. Playing his first game for a month, there were one or two more loose balls than usual at the start of his spell. But, having settled, there were also some high-quality deliveries. He complements this nagging fast-medium attack beautifully.
It’s an attack which lacks, perhaps, the pace you might see at Test level. But in terms of sustained pressure, in terms of offering a balance of seam, swing and spin, and on a pitch that offers a really good balance between bat and ball, this was a day when you could very much see the value of the competition.
“I was disappointed with our first innings, I thought we were probably 50 or 70 short,” Essex head coach Anthony McGrath said afterwards. “But the bowlers were absolutely magnificent. It is quite a slow wicket, but we chipped away all day and they never got away from us. We will bowl far worse than that and bowl teams out.”
At 193 for 8, Warwickshire were in real trouble. But Miles and Briggs have kept their side’s heads above water and sustained the resilience demonstrated at Trent Bridge last night. It is a characteristic that pleased their captain, Will Rhodes.
“It feels like we’re making progress,” Rhodes told ESPNcricinfo afterwards. “In the past, we’d go behind in games and fall away. But, as you saw at Trent Bridge last week, we’ve some fighters in that dressing room who are prepared to scrap their way back into the game.
“Yes, we’re probably slightly behind the eight-ball in this game. But we were last week, too, and we know how that finished. I want us to be hard to beat and I’m really pleased to see us scrapping like this.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo