Surrey 369 and 55 for 1 lead Essex 383 (Lawrence 107, ten Doeschate 53, Browne 52, Wagner 50) by 41 runs
County Championship round-up: Somerset in a spin
“If Dan Lawrence goes big” is a phrase you hear a lot around Chelmsford. There are long- and short-term implications. They have him pegged as the next Essex player to represent England and the next in a long line to do them proud. But when a punter uttered that phrase at the car park gates, he meant today.
Essex still trailed Surrey by 154 runs and their hopes of safety rested in the hands of a 19-year-old. He allayed fears early doors with a four off his legs that eased them past the follow-on target. Then, with a single to cover off his 199th ball, he brought up his second Championship hundred of the season and sixth of his career.
Without his 107 which spanned from lunch on day two to a similar time on day three, Surrey would have been able to turn the screw on Essex. Instead, the visitors were the ones who welcomed the rains most when played was called off with 26 overs still to play.
A lot of younger players take to county cricket with ideas above their station. Even the ones that crack it early tend to have the odd patch when age can be a handy excuse for fair-weather attitudes. But Lawrence, in a first-class career only a couple of seasons old, has already developed a reputation as a kid for a crisis.
All runs are equal but some matter more than others. Already this season, Lawrence has a seven-hour vigil against Lancashire under his belt: 141 unbeaten runs to fend off the advances of James Anderson, Kyle Jarvis and Ryan McLaren.
Essex have never had doubts over Lawrence’s ability: his maiden Championship hundred, also against Surrey, came at the age of 17 years and 290 days and, crucially, at No. 3. While he started out as an opener and spent most of 2016 at No. 5, he says four is his best position, backing his ability to see off the new ball and also motor on from a good start. Responsibility that the club are happy to give him and he is more than happy to embrace.
Dan Lawrence made his sixth first-class hundred © Getty Images
So it was no surprise to hear how frustrated he was that he didn’t make this hundred “a big one”. He was trapped in front by Stuart Meaker, trying to make moves into the leg side, with Essex still 113 behind. Luckily by then skipper Ryan ten Doeschate was comfortable enough to open his shoulders, run hard – there aren’t many quicker in the domestic game – and punish any minor error in judgement from Surrey’s bowlers, who had begun to feel the toil of the best part of two days in the dirt.
Ten Doeschate’s first half-century of the season was soon followed by Neil Wagner’s first for Essex – and seventh of his first class career – which was frenetic early and devastating later. He took a particular shine to the offspin of Amar Virdi, twice taking a brace of fours off him in an over. The second, back-to-back in the 128th over, brought Essex level with Surrey’s 369.
Virdi, though, was able to take solace from his opening three wickets in professional cricket. The all important first came when he tempted a drive out of James Foster and span one sharply through his gate. The second came with the assistance of Ben Foakes, whose sharp work stumped an unbalanced Simon Harmer. The third, that of ten Doeschate, was a clever bit of bowling: using the turn on offer to change his angle to around the wicket and strike the right-hander in front. A debutant spinner who bowls 36 overs on a flat track and returns three wickets and an economy rate of 2.27 is something to be celebrated far beyond Surrey’s domain.
Lawrence felt, in no uncertain terms, that weather had saved Surrey from returning on the final day four down for not very many. A handful of near-misses – he counted three drops – allowed Rory Burns to remain unbeaten overnight. Mark Stoneman wasn’t so lucky when he was caught brilliant by Alastair Cook at first slip, who dived in front of where second slip might have been to take an excellent one-handed catch. Surrey lead by 41 and, perhaps, if runs come easy, could entertain a declaration. Essex, of course, eye a simple chase. The pitch, though, might have the final say.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo