Vitality County Championship Match Report: Essex v Durham Day 1

Vitality County Championship Match Report: Essex v Durham Day 1

Durham dominate on day one at Chelmsford

On a lovely Sunday morning in Chelmsford, the quintessentially English pursuit of the County Championship returned to the English summer, bringing with it those calm, relaxing tones and the hum of the crowd sitting back and taking in the action as the actors in front start to tell the tale of the game to come. Some of the star actors were missing, but their understudies are no amateurs and provided ample entertainment. England captain Ben Stokes, perhaps the biggest star of all in English cricket, sat this one out as part of his international preparations, but plenty was on show trying to prove that they should share the same stage. 

Among those, Sam Cook was missing for Essex, thanks to a hamstring injury from his T20 Blast exertions. New overseas fast bowler Eathan Bosch made his debut, looking to further his reputation. He soon got the chance to show his skills with the ball as Durham won the toss and elected to bat first on a good-looking Chelmsford surface. 

It was a fairly sedate start; Jamie Porter had some close calls but was otherwise unthreatening as Michael Jones and Alex Lees weathered the new ball. Porter kept some control, but Snater was slightly unlucky with a few controlled edges going for four down to third man. As a result, Westley turned to spin early in the shape of Chelmsford legend Simon Harmer. Jones, recently returned from international duty at the T20 World Cup for Scotland, was still in T20 mode against Harmer, taking 16 off his first over, bringing up the Durham 50 in the 10th over. 

New signing Eathan Bosch was brought into the attack in the 13th over and struck with just his second ball, inducing the edge from Jones through to Michael Pepper, who took a good diving catch, just as Jones was threatening to take the game away from Essex. Bosch went bosh again to the Durham batting when the same combination and method saw the end of Durham captain Scott Borthwick for just 5, bringing in Durham’s key man, the leading run scorer in the County Championship, David Bedingham. Bosch certainly looked a canny signing by the Essex hierarchy, bowling with good pace and bounce. Despite what was occurring at the other end, Lees carried on to a composed 50 from 81 balls and looked to be building a threatening partnership with Bedingham. The latter looked in excellent form, dominating the home bowling to finish 49 not out at lunch, with Lees on 50 and the visitors well set on 144/2.

Lees and Bedingham carried on comfortably for the first 30 minutes of the afternoon session, threatening to put together an imposing score until Simon Harmer struck to remove the dangerous Bedingham for 65 off 72 balls, and it was fair to say Bedingham looked a class above anyone with the bat at this point. This brought Ollie Robinson to the crease and he looked his typically busy self as he tried to impose himself on Harmer. He perhaps looked a little skittish at times amongst some high-quality shots. 

Harmer himself had been expensive, as the Durham batters looked to attack him a la Bazball style. However he almost snagged Lees with a brute of a ball that turned past the outside with Lees out of his ground, but Pepper could not complete the stumping. Lees and Robinson continued to build, manoeuvring the ball into gaps for easy ones and twos as Durham continued to motor along at around 4.5 runs per over. Lees and Robinson continued to build nicely, taking Durham up to 250 and their first batting point in just the 59th over. The pair were both set on their own landmarks with Lees on 99 and Robinson 49 and it was a case of who would get to there first with the tea interval fast approaching. The winner of that particular race was Lees, who brought up his 26th first-class hundred off 184 balls with the traditional scampered single to mid-off. Robinson brought his up with the very next ball, off 74 balls, both in a settled rhythm of manipulating the ball into gaps for ones and twos, safely negotiating the session and ending it on 267/3, with Lees on 101 and Robinson on 52.

The same pair continued in the same vein after tea, bringing up the 100 partnership in relative calm and brought up their second batting point in the 71st over. Essex brought back Bosch to have a bash at the Durham pair and while he bowled with some pace, he lacked a little direction and control and also struggled with no balls. With the second new ball on the horizon, Westley brought back Matt Critchley, to rest the seamers for another blast and he managed to break the Lees-Robinson axis of domination when he pinned Lees LBW on the back foot for a well-made 113 off 220 balls, ending the partnership at 141. Robinson continued on his merry way towards his own hundred and eventually reached it off just 116 balls while bringing up Durham’s third batting point. The type of punchy, Gilchrist-ian style innings demanded of wicketkeepers in the modern age. 

The second new ball was taken immediately, with the score on 353/4 and breakthroughs were desperately needed. However, the first ball with the new ball from Porter disappeared for 6 over square leg off the bat of Ollie Robinson, in a symbolic show of dominance commensurate with the rest of the day’s play. The fourth was sent packing through extra cover for 4, which caused the umpires to warn Porter for foul language after showing his frustrations towards the end of a long, hard day in the field, a further symbol of how the day was going for the respective sides. Durham’s 4th batting point came up in 89th over, as Colin Ackermann and Robinson ruthlessly continued to dominate the bowling by bringing up their 100 partnership for the fifth wicket off just 102 balls, in just over an hour of cricket. Essex’s heads were well and truly dropping. Ackermann took advantage as he brought up his 50 from 72 balls with a rare false shot off Matt Critchley. The pair safely negotiated the remaining overs to leave Durham extremely well-placed at 445/4, with Robinson making an unbeaten 146 off of 164 balls and Ackermann not out on 58 off of 77 balls. 

Safe to say, Essex has had better days in the field in recent memory.


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