Essex grateful for Grayson's grit

Lancashire 423 Essex 236 and 334-8 Match drawn
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The Independent Online

One man who has prospered throughout Essex's turbulent season is Paul Grayson. He passed 1,000 Championship runs during this innings, his fifth Championship century of the season, and ensured that Lancashire remained a candidate for relegation.

It had not looked that way when Ronnie Irani had succumbed early to the medium- pace swing of Joe Scuderi with Essex still 72 runs adrift. The wicket, slow from day one, was still playing true, however, and Grayson batted with sense and some skill.

As hard as the Lancashire bowlers tried, they received very little help from the surface. Andrew Flintoff looked the most threatening, his brute strength making one ball bounce on Jamie Foster, and Neil Fairbrother took a thrilling, diving catch head high to his left.

For that one ball the game resembled good first-class cricket. A bowler charged in and bowled a quick ball just short of a length which bounced, took the edge off a defensive stroke and was well caught. For the rest of the first two sessions, though, the pitch dominated. There was little bounce or pace and when it turned it did so slowly, allowing the batter time to adjust. During the first day Flintoff had opined that "one more victory should keep us up but it might not come here – wicket's too slow''.

Lack of pace is a problem that many festival grounds suffer from, and laudable as it is to spread cricket around the shires, it is a pointless exercise if the pitches are not good enough. Having said that, Colchester is one of the better ones. It does not break up or have variable bounce, it just needs to be a yard or two quicker. If it was, Essex could play here more often because there are few more agreeable settings. Grayson enjoyed it, anyway, but his season has been one long rearguard action. He goes about his business in an unfussed manner, hitting the bad ball and blocking the good, and without his stubbornness Essex would have lost by lunchtime.

He played a couple of false shots, one committed off the left-arm spin of Gary Keedy, but rarely looked like getting out. Maybe if Chris Schofield had been more consistent in length or Keedy more adventurous with flight, Lancashire could have dislodged him and forced the win. They weren't, and they didn't.