Cricket: Essex take upper hand

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Essex. . . . . .471-7 dec

Derbyshire. . . 203 and 5-0

ESSEX have won more four-day Championship matches than any other county, often by scoring heavily in the first innings and bowling their opponents out twice. This is exactly how they are doing it against Derbyshire, although they will have to do it in three days this time.

Having established a first-innings lead of 268, the plot now has Essex on track for their first Championship win of the season; presumably the first of many.

Having added another 50 runs in 25 minutes on a breezy sunny morning, Essex declared at a commendable 471 for 7. Derbyshire then lost their openers, Kim Barnett and Peter Bowler, for 11 runs in Neil Foster's first two overs, and batted as if they were intimidated by the Essex score. They fought back by staying in rather than scoring runs; 203 took 101 overs. Derbyshire's dour resistance was led by Frank Griffith, who was born in Essex, and Chris Adams. Both scored fifties and Adams played the only memorable stroke in the whole innings, a voluptuous six over the Tom Pearce Stand into the river Can. Attempts by the groundstaff to retrieve the ball from midstream provided an alternative attraction for the spectators when Derbyshire's innings became becalmed in mid-afternoon.

This dry pitch favours batsmen and Essex took full advantage of winning the toss, especially Nasser Hussain, who would surely be on the selectors' long-list for the Tests if he was able to take dubious umpiring decisions at all philosophically.

On the last day of matches here, the advantage generally swings to the spinners. In the meantime, Mark Ilott, a fine left-arm fast bowler, followed Foster's example, bowling fast and mostly straight and taking three wickets for 49. Ilott is said to be bowling a yard faster this season and may yet precede Hussain into the Test team.

The spinners, biding their time, ought to make sure of Essex's innings victory. It would be their sixth in a row against Derbyshire here.

(Photograph omitted)