Published: 18th September, 2019
Simon Harmer spun Essex to the brink of the Specsavers County Championship title with seven wickets as reigning champions Surrey were beaten by an innings at Chelmsford.
Facing a first-innings deficit of 221, Surrey collapsed to 181 all out on a pitch that became a spinner’s paradise as it dried out the longer the game went on. The match was watched by a three-day aggregate of 7,100, the biggest at the ground in 2019.
Centuries by Dan Lawrence and Ryan ten Doeschate had underpinned Essex’s 395 – their highest total at The Cloudfm County Ground this summer.
But it was Harmer who again grabbed the limelight. He made the breakthrough in the third over after lunch when Mark Stoneman looked dazed on his crease as he went lbw.
Scott Borthwick followed him two Harmer overs later, attempting to pull over midwicket but getting a leading edge and popping up a dolly for Nick Browne at short cover.
Jamie Smith lifted Harmer for six over long leg, but was almost walking before the umpire’s finger went up as a quicker ball rapped him on the pads.
Ollie Pope hung around for 46 balls for 30 before pulling to Aaron Beard at midwicket. And next ball Harmer gave it a bit of extra air to deceive Will Jacks and dislodge the bails. At that point Harmer had all five wickets at a personal cost of 21.
Ben Foakes and Rikki Clarke saw Surrey through to tea without further alarm. But to the third ball after the interval Clarke drove at Jamie Porter and was held by the safe hands of Harmer at second slip.
Foakes’s 64-ball vigil ended when he was beaten by the extra pace imparted by Harmer to go lbw. Liam Plunkett didn’t hang around for long, caught behind off Porter.
When Harmer was granted a well-deserved rest after bowling unchanged from the River End from the sixth over onwards, he had figures of 30-14-44-6.
Jordan Clark and Morne Morkel frustrated Essex for 18 overs while they put on 43 for the ninth wicket before Clark nicked Ravi Bopara through to the wicketkeeper. Harmer wrapped up the innings when Morkel went for a heave to give Harmer figures of seven for 58.
Earlier, ten Doeschate had led from the front to help Essex rack up a formidable first-innings lead. The captain posted his second Championship century of the season – the other also scored against Surrey – with 12 boundaries in a 122-ball 103.
Ten Doeschate needed just 20 balls in the morning session to move from his overnight 78 to three-figures. A wristy square-cut for four off Amar Virdi took him to the milestone. But two balls later, trying a force off the back foot, ten Doeschate edged to Clarke at slip to become the first wicket in the match to fall to a spinner.
One wicket for Virdi quickly became two as Adam Wheater ended a 34-ball stay for six runs by charging down the wicket and being stumped by Foakes.
Sam Cook was the last to go, lobbing Virdi straight into Borthwick’s hands at mid-on and Essex were left stranded on 395.