As Essex tries to win, Matt Critchley gives the all-around squeeze
During Essex’s push for an important win against Somerset in the LV=Insurance County Championship, Matt Critchley hit his sixth fifty-plus score of the year before claiming two wickets.
Essex gave Somerset an improbable 466 runs to win in less than five sessions thanks to all-rounder Critchley’s 52 runs to go with his first-innings century.
With half-centuries from Tom Lammonby and Tom Abell leading the way, Somerset’s batters took advantage of a heavily picking pitch to settle in, display fine grit, and increase their hopes of salvaging a draw.
With Somerset still needing 294 runs, Essex needs six wickets on the last day to win at the Cloud County Ground in Chelmsford for the first time this season. Critchley struck with his first ball to dismiss George Bartlett and pin Lammonby for a two-hour 59.
The brain trust at Essex had decided against forcing the follow-on, basing their decision on giving the bowlers a longer breather, with the trade-off being less time to dismiss Somerset.
They increased their lead from 295 in the first inning to 310, but Nick Browne was lost in seven overs the next night.
However, the third morning’s play was going on, despite Essex facing some well-placed bowling and being in no hurry to declare. The session saw four wickets fall and 113 runs total were scored.
In the sixth over of the day, fast bowler Matt Henry from New Zealand bowled the leading run scorer in Division One leg before.
In advance of Feroze Khushi deflecting a ball that stopped in the ground to first slip, Paul Walter had some intent in his 25 until a drive with poor footwork was cleanly taken at gully.
As he had done during his 121 in the first innings, Critchley had shown drive to increase the lead to 450, which was the approximate number needed to trigger a declaration.
The former Derbyshire star hit debutant bowler Shoaib Bashir back over his head after he had carried Aldridge over midwicket for six runs.
His sixth of the season, his half-century took 64 balls to complete. No one in the nation has achieved more fifty-passes than Critchley has in the Championship, despite the fact that he has only reached three figures once.
Critchley left for 52 after lobbing a reverse pull shot softly to short fine leg after Simon Harmer had chosen up long on in a post-lunch frenzy.
When the advantage dropped below 450, Will Buttleman and Ben Allison both hit sixes, and Tom Westley retired with 55 overs remaining in the day and 151 to win.
Before Sean Dickson unexpectedly lifted Jamie Porter to midwicket, Lammonby and Sean Dickson, who had carried his bat in the first innings, appeared to be in little danger.
In these circumstances, Essex frequently places their faith in Harmer, especially following his five-for in the first inning. In the seventh innings, he was introduced.
14 unproductive overs from the South African bowler came to nothing before Critchley was given the chance to make something happen. He did so right away as a drag down stayed low and smashed Lammonby on the pads after he had hit his third fifty of the season.
The leg spinner changed to the Hayes Close End after two overs from the River End, and two balls later he affected an edge from Bartlett that was expertly taken at first slip.
Abell reached fifty in 124 balls, but Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who had put on 55 with his captain, was bowled by Harmer off the final ball of the day.
Somerset 167 (Harmer 5-64) and 172 for 4 (Lammonby 59, Abell 54*) need another 294 runs to beat Essex 462 for 9 dec (Critchley 121, Khushi 56*) and 170 for 7 (Critchley 52, Aldridge 4-36)