In what has so far been a low-scoring game, a last wicket partnership for Warwickshire of 70 between Hasan Ali and Ollie Hannon-Dalby may well prove to be crucial. At the end of the second day at Edgbaston, Warwickshire have established a strong position in this key Division One Championship match, with Essex still 30 runs behind and four key wickets lost.
At the start of the day, under overcast skies, Will Rhodes and Sam Hain set about chasing down the Essex below-par score of 126 whilst re-establishing the Warwickshire innings after the loss of two early wickets overnight. Early on, Rhodes’ bat seemed to have, in the immortal words of the late Fred Trueman, more edges than a broken chamber pot. But he persevered and gave good support to Hain who looked in far better touch than his partner.
Apart from a couple of looseners from Doug Bracewell that were contemptuously despatched to the cover boundary by Hain, the Essex bowlers gave little away. Simon Harmer, when he came on, extracted some slow turn from the pitch. Just before lunch, he had a confident lbw appeal against Rhodes turned down. But the Warwickshire pair were still together at the interval, taken at 104-2 after 40 overs of hard graft.
Rhodes was on 44. One of the scoreboards gave Hain no score, though the main board said 45 – possibly Edgbaston introducing a new game of cricketing sudoku.
After lunch, Shane Snater bowled Hain with a perfect delivery that pitched on middle and hit the top of off stump. Dan Mousley didn’t last long, edging Snater into his pad, from whence the ball lobbed to Lawrence in the slips.
Will Rhodes reached a hard-earned and much needed fifty off 135 balls with five fours. Ed Barnard, one of several inspired signings by the Bears, gave him good support in seeing them into the lead before playing a loose shot at a straight ball from Bracewell. Neither Michael Burgess nor Danny Briggs lasted long, each falling to decisions that they clearly didn’t like.
Will Rhodes had laboured long and hard so was understandably upset when he edged Bracewell to Michael Pepper behind the stumps for 63.
The Warwickshire collapse continued when Chris Rushworth became Bracewell’s fourth victim.
For entertainment, there’s nothing to beat a last wicket stand and Hasan Ali and Bears legend Ollie Hannon-Dalby (OH-D) didn’t disappoint. After an early tea due to bad light, we had the almost unbelievable sight of OH-D hitting two consecutive Bracewell deliveries into the Hollies to double his career tally of sixes. Hasan Ali was by no means the junior partner, striking four sixes of his own and reaching 50 off just 33 balls. Bizarrely, there were nine men on the boundary despite nine wickets being down.
OH-D added being part of Warwickshire’s highest ever last wicket stand against Essex to his batting credentials before he fell to Snater. The stand was 70 and the total of 242 gave the Bears a lead of 116.
When Essex batted again, Nick Browne was bowled for two by Chris Rushworth. Alastair Cook and Tom Westley, two of the batters key to Essex’s chances, stuck together against some tight bowling until Ed Barnard trapped Westley lbw for 28 with a delivery that nipped back. When Hasan Ali followed up his batting heroics by trapping the illustrious Sir Alastair lbw, Essex were 56-3, still 60 behind.
Essex would have been in worse trouble if Sam Hain had not dropped a straightforward chance at second slip from Lawrence off Hasan when he was on 9. Fortunately for him, Rushworth trapped the same man lbw for 16 to leave Essex precariously placed on 86-4 when bad light halted play early.