Essex302 (A Cook 58, Bailey 4-54) and 105 for 5 (Bopara 36*) beat Lancashire 301 (Clark 79, Chanderpaul 58, Harmer 3-35, S Cook 3-65) and 105 (Porter 5-30, Harmer 4-34) by five wickets
Jamie Porter is one of the best young fast-medium bowlers in England. Spectators at Old Trafford could see this point proved during an extraordinary Monday’s cricket when he took five of the 19 wickets to fall and helped Essex to a deserved victory over Lancashire. Yet Porter has yet to win a Test cap and this is partly because he is a seamer in the Age of Anderson and Broad.
Graham Onions knows fine well what that is like; he has played a mere nine Tests for England. Two months younger than Anderson, he has laboured under the yoke for a decade yet remains a supremely skilled craftsman. This contention was also justified when Onions took three wickets as Lancashire vainly attempted to defend a target of 105 on a wicket whose cracks made batting troublesome but not impossible.
And as Ravi Bopara’s composed 36 not out took Essex to their third Championship victory of the season it was poignant to watch under-rewarded Onions running in and wonder whether this will be also be the admirable Porter’s lot. Well at least he will not have to spend his entire career competing with two of the best in history.
For the moment, of course, Porter will rightly derive enormous pleasure from this win against Lancashire, a team whose combative approach rarely fails to stir their opponents’ competitive juices. And an emotional response may also have been very evident in the Old Trafford pavilion, for this was the sort of day on which Lancashire members put their choler on draught. One can see their point: it is not pleasant to watch your top-order melt like snow in springtime and your side lose by five wickets amid dramas and eventual disappointment.
What became a very long morning session began on a sombre note when a Lancashire member suffered a suspected heart attack in the pavilion and an air-ambulance landed on the outfield. That caused a half-hour delay but the hold-up did not disturb the composure of the Essex batsmen. On the contrary, Adam Wheater and Simon Harmer extended their seventh-wicket stand to 42 before Tom Bailey removed both of them and Porter with a job lot of lbws, umpire Steve O’Shaughnessy obliging on each occasion.
Three overs later Lancashire swapped their marbles for the new ball. Believing the best way to dismiss Essex’s No. 9, Neil Wagner, was to tempt him to hole out, Livingstone sent almost everybody so far from the bat that they were more missionaries than fielders. Eventually it worked but not before Wagner and Sam Cook’s last-wicket stand had added 42 important runs in less than eight overs of nonsense. Livingstone’s side had conceded a one-run lead and much worse was to follow in the three overs remaining before lunch
Lancashire’s second innings began catastrophically. Porter extracted sufficient pace and bounce from the cracked pitch to take the edge of Keaton Jennings’ bat with the fifth ball of the first over and Sam Cook inflicted a similar indignity on Alex Davies with the second ball of the next. Harmer and Alastair Cook took the slip catches and Lancashire were nought for two after eight balls.
At that point one of the home side’s more caustic sympathisers observed that it would be some achievement “even for this lot” to concede a lead of one run and lose by an innings. Such an exotic embarrassment was soon avoided but Lancashire’s travails deepened like a coastal shelf in the afternoon session.
Haseeb Hameed’s wretched season continued when he played forward to a ball from Porter but only edged a catch to Wheater. Livingstone reached double figures but was then leg-before to a scuttler from the same bowler. Dane Vilas came down the wicket to Harmer and clipped the offspinner to short leg where ten Doeschate held on to a fine catch. Jordan Clark was leg-before for a duck to Porter and Shivnarine Chanderpaul was trapped on the back foot by Harmer. Lancashire were 41 for 7 and little treasure is ever salvaged from that wreckage.
Joe Mennie’s unbeaten 32 helped the last three wickets add 64 runs but the applause which greeted Lancashire’s three figures did not want for irony. A target of 105 may have seemed testing when Onions took three wickets and even more so when Mennie bowled Dan Lawrence for 3. But Bopara and ten Doeschate added a vital 53 for the fifth wicket before ten Doeschate skied Parkinson to cover. Essex secured their victory ten minutes later.