County Championship round-up: Promotion battle heats up as Essex dismiss Worcestershire for 84


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The Independent Online

Essex began the final week of the season by dismissing already-promoted Worcestershire for 84 at Chelmsford to keep the pressure on Hampshire in the contest to join the New Road side in the First Division next season.

Since they were thrashed by Hampshire at the Rose Bowl in June, Essex have won five County Championship matches out of six to cut the gap between them from 52 points to 10. It means that Hampshire have to beat Glamorgan in Cardiff to be certain of holding off the Essex challenge.

Jesse Ryder, the New Zealand all-rounder, took a career-best 5 for 24 as his skilful medium pace again proved Essex’s most effective weapon, bringing his tally for the season to 43 as the county’s leading wicket-taker.

Left-hander Nick Browne made his third century of the season as Essex finished the opening day on 198 for 3, keeping their fingers crossed that the pitch liaison officer Tony Pigott was happy with the batting surface.

Hampshire were initially in trouble in Cardiff, choosing to bat first but sliding to 53 for 5. However, centuries from James Vince and Sean Ervine, who shared a partnership of 225 for the sixth wicket, swung the day back in their favour.

Elsewhere in the Second Division, the Indian Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara became only the 59th batsman in first-class history to be given out “handled the ball” when he was dismissed for six on his third appearance for Derbyshire at Derby.

Facing the Leicestershire seamer Atif Sheikh, Pujara used a hand to stop the ball hitting the stumps after playing it with his bat. The last batsman to be dismissed in that manner in England was another Derbyshire player, former wicketkeeper and coach Karl Krikken, in a match against the touring Indians in 1996. There had not been one in the Championship since Glamorgan’s Alan Rees against Middlesex in 1965.

Fortunately for Derbyshire, seeking to condemn Leicestershire to a second full season without a win, a maiden first-class century from opener Ben Slater helped them to 289.

In the First Division, Warwickshire strengthened their grip on the £225,000 prize for finishing second when they dismissed Durham for 201 at Edgbaston, where Ryan Pringle’s maiden half-century rescued the visitors from 78 for 6. Keith Barker, the left-arm seamer, took 5 for 59.

Not surprisingly, with the title secured, there was an end-of-season feel to Yorkshire’s opening day against Somerset at Headingley, where the home side were 241 for 9 at the close.

Sussex reached 300 for 7 against Northamptonshire, who face finishing the season relegated without a single win.