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RESULT - ESSEX WIN BY 9 WICKETS

Middlesex 138 & 150 lost to Essex 236 & 53/1

Unbeaten Essex confirmed their place in the Bob Willis Trophy final as South Group victors with an emphatic nine-wicket win over Middlesex.

Sir Alastair Cook, Paul Walter and Tom Westley knocked off the 53 required in 13.5 overs, after Sam Cook’s double, combined with wickets for Aaron Beard and Simon Harmer, had bowled Middlesex out for 150.

Essex’s place at Lord’s was confirmed when Derbyshire failed to get a batting point in their North Group fixture against Lancashire - which was met by cheers from the Essex dressing room.

It meant Derbyshire could only match Essex’s 90 points, if they manage to win at Aigburth, but due to their inferior win record they would miss out.

Therefore, Essex will face the winner of the Central Group – either Somerset or Worcestershire – for a five-day match starting on September 23.

Middlesex resumed with a slim lead of 25 runs, six wickets down, with the hope of the tail setting Essex a tricky fourth-innings chase.

It didn’t pan out how they would have dreamed overnight, instead, Sam Cook’s fantasies were realised.

The fast bowler, who had taken four wickets in the first innings, beat James Harris’ edge of the bat to uproot his off-stump with his second ball of the morning.

Cook only needed another 13 balls to strangle Blake Cullen down the legside, as the 18-year-old tickled through to wicketkeeper Adam Wheater – his first second innings catch having pouched five earlier in the match.

He thought Thilan Walallawita had top-edged a bouncer behind three balls later, but umpire XXX correctly adjudged the ball to have deflected off the batsman’s shoulder.

Cook was replaced at the Hayes Close End by Aaron Beard, on the back of three wickets in 21 balls on day three, and also struck immediately.

Walallawita saw his leg stump cartwheeling towards the River Can as Beard unleashed a yorker – the 22-year-old ended with career-best figures of 3-21.

And in the next over Tim Murtagh swung wildly and was stumped to hand leading wicket-taker Simon Harmer his 34th scalp of the Bob Willis Trophy.

Middlesex lost their last four wickets in just under 15 overs, as John Simpson was left unbeaten on 26 off 123 balls.

That left Essex needing a nominal 53 to an 11th straight first-class victory at the Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford.

Alastair Cook and Walter marched to 41 as both struck four boundaries apiece in what appeared to a procession to victory.

Murtagh castled Cook to slow Essex, but Walter (20) clipped the winning runs off Nick Gubbins, who bowled his spin while wearing his cap.


DAY TWO CLOSE OF PLAY - Middlesex 138 & 123/6 lead Essex 236 by 25 runs

Aaron Beard toppled the Middlesex top order after Adam Wheater’s chanceless 83 not out put Essex on course for the Bob Willis Trophy final,

Fast bowler Beard took three wickets in 21 balls after tea to leave Middlesex with their backs against the wall at the Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford.

The visitors did tip-toe into a lead but having ended the day on 123 for six, a slender lead of 25, they’ll need an extraordinary effort from the tail to set Essex a tricky fourth-innings chase.

Earlier, Wheater posted a three-year high to give Essex a commanding first-innings lead of 98, as they pocketed four bonus points.

After 15 wickets had fallen on the opening day at the Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford, batting seemed much easier for the most part on the day two.

Wheater used the friendlier conditions to his advantage with a mature innings, partnered well by Ryan ten Doeschate and Simon Harmer.

The home side’s morning, in which they lost just three wickets, was spoiled slightly by a back spasm suffered by ten Doeschate.

The Dutchman had seemingly run an innocuous single unharmed, but felt a problem while scratching out his guard.

He needed five minutes of treatment on the pitch before retiring hurt on 31, having put on 35 with Wheater.

Simon Harmer continued with Wheater and took Essex to a precious batting point.

It added to their three bowling points from the first day, and with Derbyshire’s batting woes, looks set to be the important point which will secure them a place at Lord’s later this month – if they win this match.

Wheater, who hasn’t scored a County Championship century since returning from a stint at Hampshire in 2016, cruised past a fifty in 76 balls.

He and all-rounder Harmer put on 72 before Harmer was lbw - the first of three quick wickets for Martin Andersson.

The fast bowler then had Aaron Beard and Sam Cook caught in the slips in the 62nd over to bring ten Doeschate back to the crease, albeit with Dan Lawrence as his runner.

The 40-year-old, who didn't field, added 12 more runs to his early tally before he departed to hand Andersson a fourth – Andersson returning figures of four for 38.

Jamie Porter was the final man to go, caught behind off Tim Murtagh (3-50), to leave Wheater stranded on his highest first-class county score since he reached 88 versus Somerset in August 2017.

All eyes were now on the Bob Willis Trophy’s leading wicket-taker Harmer and whether he could spin his usual magic.

Instead it was the seamers, in particular Beard, who took centre stage from the Hayes Close End with incessant line and length consistency.

Sam Cook was the first to pocket an early scalp as Sam Robson, on likely his final innings of the summer, pushed to Harmer at second slip.

Off-spinner Harmer, who was a threat throughout his 21 overs, picked up Nick Gubbins leg before on the cusp of tea.

Beard then entered the attack and found pace to accompany accuracy, demonstrated perfectly by sending Steve Eskinazi’s off-stump catapulting with a beautiful delivery which straightened.

Max Holden had provided a rear-guard with 37, which included a pulled six off Porter, but became Beard’s second victim when he also lost his off-peg.

Middlesex, still in arrears, were then 84 for five when a driving Andersson edged Beard to second slip.

John Simpson and former Essex loanee Robbie White took their side into the lead with a 38-run partnership.

But Harmer returned for a second spell to pin White leg-before to set up a likely three-day finish.


DAY TWO TEA - Middlesex 138 & 58/2 trail Essex 236 by 40 runs

Adam Wheater scored his highest first-class county score for three years as Essex boasted a decent first-innings lead over Middlesex in the Bob Willis Trophy.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Wheater was left unbeaten on 83, heights he hadn’t reached since an 88 against Somerset in August 2017, as Essex went 98 ahead.

The visitors bit back into the deficit but lost Sam Robson and Nick Gubbins to return for tea at 58 for two, 40 behind.

After 15 wickets had fallen on the opening day at the Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford, batting seemed much easier on the day two.

Wheater used the conditions to his advantage with a mature innings, partnered well with Ryan ten Doeschate and Simon Harmer.

The hosts’ morning, in which they lost just three wickets, was spoiled slightly by a back spasm suffered by ten Doeschate.

The Dutchman had seemingly run an innocuous single unharmed, but felt a problem while scratching out his guard.

He needed five minutes of treatment on the pitch before retiring hurt on 31, having put on 35 with Wheater.

Simon Harmer continued with Wheater and took Essex to a precious first batting point, to boost their hopes of reaching the Lord’s final later this month.

Wheater, who hasn’t scored a County Championship century since returning from a stint at Hampshire in 2016, cruised past a fifty in 76 balls.

He and all-rounder Harmer put on 72 before Harmer was lbw - the first of three quick wickets for Martin Andersson.

The fast bowler then had Aaron Beard and Sam Cook caught in the slips in the 62nd over to bring ten Doeschate back to the crease, albeit with Dan Lawrence as his runner.

Ten Doeschate, aged 40, was clearly in discomfort despite adding 12 more runs before he departed to hand Andersson a fourth after lunch – Andersson returning figures of four for 38.

Jamie Porter was the final man to go, caught behind off Tim Murtagh (3-50), to leave Wheater stranded.

In reply, Max Holden led the charge to give Middlesex hope of victory with an attractive 32 – which included a pulled six off Porter.

But after back-to-back stands of 29, he lost his partners – Robson edging Cook to second slip and Gubbins leg before to dangerous off-spinner Harmer to the last ball before the interval.


DAY TWO LUNCH - Middlesex 138 trail Essex 219/8 by 81 runs

Adam Wheater’s second half-century of the Bob Willis Trophy was tainted by an injury suffered by Ryan ten Doeschate as Essex raced into a first-innings lead against Middlesex.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Wheater reached 72 not out at lunch, his highest first-class county score for two years, as final hopefuls Essex moved 81 runs ahead.

But the hosts’ morning was spoiled slightly by a back spasm suffered by ten Doeschate, suffered while scratching his guard – although he did return to resume on 31.

In contrast to the 15 wickets that fell on an opening day in which Middlesex were skittled for 138, only three wickets fell in the morning session.

Wheater was the main reason for the fewer scalps as he confidently and carefully kept the scoreboard ticking alongside ten Doeschate – the pair putting on 35 together.

But the Dutchman was forced off the field following five minutes of on-field treatment after the innocuous incident following a slow single.

Simon Harmer continued with Wheater and took Essex to a precious first batting point, to boost their hopes of reaching the Lord’s final later this month.

Wheater, who hasn’t scored a County Championship century since returning from a stint at Hampshire in 2016, cruised past a fifty in 76 balls.

The duo put on 72 before Harmer was lbw - the first of three quick wickets for Martin Andersson.

The fast bowler then had Aaron Beard and Sam Cook caught in the slips in the 62nd over to bring ten Doeschate back to the crease, albeit with Dan Lawrence as his runner.


DAY ONE CLOSE OF PLAY - Middlesex 138 lead Essex 108/5 by 30 runs

Sam Cook returned season-best figures as Essex’s Bob Willis Trophy final hopes remained on track despite 15 wickets falling on day one at the Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford.

Fast bowler Cook celebrated analysis of 4-27 as he formed a formidable trident with new ball partner Jamie Porter (3-55) and spinner Simon Harmer (3-34) as Middlesex were dashed out for 138 in 53.3 overs.

But in reply, Tim Murtagh and James Harris both took two wickets to leave reigning county champions Essex 108 for five, despite Paul Walter’s 43.

Essex are heavy favourites to top the South Group but to qualify for the Lord’s final later this month they need to score more points than either the winner of the Central or North section.

They will likely need to get a bonus point more than northern leaders Derbyshire, if both teams were to win.

That quest for points started off well as they received the full three bowling points on offer by skittling Middlesex.

Having been put in the field by Middlesex captain Steve Eskinazi, they had their first point on the board inside half an hour.

Holden, who had scored a century in Vitality Blast fixture at Chelmsford earlier this season, was caught behind to Cook’s second delivery.

Gubbins and Robson both fell to Porter to leave Middlesex 18 for three – the former lbw and the latter, following back-to-back boundaries, was bowled while leaving.

Eskinazi was caught behind off his inside edge after sticking around for 15.

Simon Harmer was brought into the attack in the 18th over from his customary River End and immediately found massive turn.

Although the Bob Willis Trophy’s leading wicket-taker didn’t need to use the facilities when Martin Andersson slapped a full toss to midwicket.

Former Essex loanee Robbie White was the sixth batsman to depart when he edged Porter to Sir Alastair Cook at first slip – giving Essex a previous second bonus point and Porter his 350th first-class scalp.

The tumble continued as John Simpson edged Porter behind and Harris, following a patient innings high 34, was lbw to Cook.

The innings closed when Thilan Walallawita was adjudged to have edged behind and Blake Cullen handed wicketkeeper Adam Wheater his fifth catch of the day.

Middlesex had only finished their Vitality Blast defeat to Surrey at the Kia Oval a 9.20pm on Saturday evening, with five players featuring in both matches. They had travelled immediately after that match.

Having scored 113 for nine on the T20 and rolled for 138, Middlesex had a combined score of 251 for 19 in around 20 hours.

The pitch had offered nip, plenty of carry and offered the spinners turn, but it certainly wasn’t a wicket that would ordinarily suggest the number of wickets that fell.

That trend for quick wickets would continue into the Essex innings.

On the back of an unbeaten 129 on his last outing, Alastair Cook could only manage six as he edged to first slip, handing teenager Cullen a memorable third professional wicket in his second appearance.

Essex then lost three wickets in 19 balls to continue the instability at the wicket – with Tim Murtagh the chief instigator.

The veteran Irishman jagged a delivery in to take Tom Westley’s off stump before Dan Lawrence nicked behind while moving down the wicket. Before Harris took over to have Feroze Khushi lbw.

Paul Walter stood tall throughout, though, as he made his new role as opener his own with a well-made 43.

But he was castled by Harris to Essex on 87 for five – with Wheater and Ryan ten Doeschate helping their side head towards a first-innings lead, albeit still a long way from adding any batting bonus points to their tally.


DAY ONE TEA - Middlesex 138 lead Essex 17/0 by 121 runs

Sam Cook returned season-best figures as Essex bowled out Middlesex for 138 to boost their hopes of qualifying for the Bob Willis Trophy final.

Fast bowler Cook celebrated analysis of 4-27 as he formed a formidable trident with new ball partner Jamie Porter (3-55) and spinner Simon Harmer (3-34).

In reply, Essex reached 17 without loss at tea with Sir Alastair Cook and Paul Walter unmoved.

Essex are heavy favourites to top the South Group but to qualify for the Lord’s final later this month they need to score more points than either the winner of the Central or North section.

Having been put in the field by Steve Eskinazi, they celebrated a prized bonus point inside half an hour as Max Holden, Nick Gubbins and Sam Robson all fell.

Holden, who had scored a century in Vitality Blast fixture at Chelmsford earlier this season, caught behind second ball to Cook.

Gubbins and Robson both fell to Porter – the former lbw and the latter, following back-to-back boundaries, was bowled while leaving.

Captain Eskinazi was caught behind off his inside edge after sticking around for 15.

Simon Harmer was brought into the attack in the 18th over from his customary River End and immediately found massive turn, before Martin Andersson slapped a full toss to midwicket.

Former Essex loanee Robbie White was the sixth batsman to depart when he edged Porter to Sir Alastair Cook at first slip – giving Essex a second bonus point.

Harmer only needed three balls after lunch to continue to tumble of wickets as John Simpson edged behind.

James Harris provided the respectability to the visitors’ innings as he patiently top scored with 34 in a 34-run stand with Blake Cullen, before he was lbw to Cook.

Thilan Walallawita was furious to have been adjudged to have edged behind Cook, before the innings closed when Cullen gave Wheater his fifth catch of the innings.

Middlesex had only finished their Vitality Blast defeat to Surrey at the Kia Oval a 9.20pm on Saturday evening evening, with five players featuring in both matches. They had travelled immediately after that match.

Having scored 113 for nine on the T20 and rolled for 138, Middlesex had a combined score of 251 for 19 in around 20 hours.


DAY ONE LUNCH - Middlesex 68/6

Essex’s hopes of reaching the Bob Willis Trophy final were given a boost as Jamie Porter left Middlesex floundering on 68 for six.

Porter claimed morning figures of 3-33 on a pitch offering a little bit of nip and plenty of carry, with assistance from Sam Cook (2-19) and Simon Harmer (1-4).

Essex are heavy favourites to top the South Group but to qualify for the Lord’s final later this month they need to score more points than the winners of the Central and North sections.

Having been put in the field by Middlesex, they celebrated a prized bonus point inside half an hour as Max Holden, Nick Gubbins and Sam Robson all fell.

Middlesex had only finished their Vitality Blast defeat to Surrey at the Kia Oval a 9.20pm last evening, with five players featuring in both matches.

That hangover saw Holden caught behind second ball to Cook, before Gubbins and Robson both fell to Porter – the former lbw and the latter, on the back to back-to-back boundaries, was bowled while leaving.

Steve Eskinazi was caught behind off his inside edge after sticking around for 15.

Simon Harmer was brought into the attack in the 18th over from his customary River End and immediately found massive turn, before Martin Andersson slapped a full toss to midwicket.

Former Essex loanee Robbie White was the sixth batsman to depart when he edged Porter to Sir Alastair Cook at first slip – giving Essex a second bonus point.


Match report provided by the ECB Reporters Network

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