Unbeaten Division One leaders Surrey need another 76 runs to beat Essex, with eight second innings wickets in hand, after fast bowler Dan Worrall took career-best match figures of 11 for 122 at the Kia Oval.
Worrall’s 5 for 66 was Surrey’s stand-out bowling performance for the second time in the game as Essex were dismissed for 208 to leave Rory Burns’ team chasing 161 to record a sixth LV= Insurance County Championship victory of the season.
By stumps on day three Surrey had reached 85 for 2, with Burns falling to Simon Harmer’s off spin for a solid 40 when he skied an attempted slog-sweep to mid wicket and Hashim Amla edging seamer Shane Snater to second slip for 16 three overs from the close.
But opener Ryan Patel held firm with a steadfast 22 not out, from 108 balls, after Worrall had followed up his 6 for 56 in Essex’s first innings 271 with another high-class effort in combination with West Indies paceman Kemar Roach, who finished with 3 for 58 for a six-wicket match haul.
Resuming on 19 for 2, still 29 runs in arrears, Essex might have lost Tom Westley leg-before to the very first ball of the day, a perfectly-pitched inswinger from Roach. Opener Nick Browne, meanwhile, had added just six to his overnight 9 when he was dropped low down at first slip by Jamie Overton off a disbelieving Roach.
Tom Lawes, though, introduced for the 19th over of Essex’s second innings, struck with his sixth ball to have Westley caught behind by a tumbling Ben Foakes for a 52-ball 32, only for Ollie Pope at second slip to grass a relatively simple chance when Dan Lawrence, on 0, edged a sharply rising ball from Overton straight to him at chest height.
That miss haunted Surrey for the next 21 overs as Lawrence, despite a nervy start, grew more assured to help Browne add 65 for the fourth wicket either side of lunch and double Essex’s total. Worrall, in particular, troubled both batsmen with his pace and swing but Lawrence also began to take the game to Surrey’s bowlers with a number of fine strokes including a thumping square drive off Lawes, a confident driven boundary through mid off when Worrall overpitched and then another four whipped off his pads against Overton.
It was Lawes, the highly-promising 19-year old swing bowler, who started an Essex slump that, from 130 for 3, saw them lose six wickets for 37 runs in just 10 overs as Surrey suddenly scented a quick kill.
Browne, wafting at a ball wide of his off stump, edged Lawes to Foakes after battling 101 balls for his 48 and Roach and Worrall then combined to send Essex sliding to 167 for 9.
Roach, recalled in place of Lawes, saw Paul Walter (9) drive his loosener straight to Burns at extra cover, a poor shot, and in his next over trapped Matt Critchley leg-before for 8 with an off-cutter.
Adam Rossington, Essex’s first innings century-maker, tried to drive Worrall into the offside before he had settled and edged to Overton at first slip to go for 3 and, in that same over, Worrall struck a major blow by having Lawrence lbw for 47, a two-hour innings spanning 99 balls.
Three overs later Roach had a third wicket when Snater (3) chipped him weakly to mid on and it was only Harmer’s defiance – featuring a couple of classy on driven fours as well as pulled and cover boundaries off Roach – that left Surrey, who began this round of games 15 points clear of second-placed Hampshire, with a trickier victory target than expected.
Eventually, with Harmer unbeaten on 38 from 68 balls, Worrall produced a beauty to hit Jamie Porter’s off stump after the No11 had contributed just 2 from 24 balls to a last wicket partnership of 41.