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Essex Provide High Drama at Blackpool

Lawrence of Arabia is perhaps the best known individual of that name

and during his career he was often the hero of the day. But it was Dan of

that ilk who was the hero of the day and took the plaudits at Blackpool’s

Stanley Park last week. Lawrence of Essex not only struck a magnificent

135 in the Essex second innings, striking eight fours and nine sixes, but

he held the match-winning catch at leg slip with just 10 balls remaining

to win the game for his county.

The first day, 10 July, was bathed in sunshine in the early morning

but by 11am clouds were building up and there was only time for 4.1

overs before the rain came. Just enough time, it should be said for Nick

Browne to lose his wicket to the fourth ball of the game, caught by Colin

de Grandhomme at a wide fourth slip before he had scored. Sir Alastair

Cook had opened his account with one of his trademark shots, a square

cut through point that raced to the boundary and with the country’s then

leading runscorer Tom Westley striking two boundaries, it was 12-1. And

an unlikely restart in the gloom at 5.30pm produced just three balls

before bad light, followed almost immediately by more rain ended play

for the day.

On the morning of the second day Blackpool chairman David

Cresswell was to comment, ‘It is absolutely amazing how after the

almost Biblical amounts of rain we have had over the past three days

that play should start on time today.’ And it was, for the groundsman and

his crew had done a marvellous job and there was a full day’s play on a

sunny but a rather cool and very windy day.

And the day belonged to Westley who made 135 in 325 minutes

with 18 fours. He was ably assisted by Paul Walter, 76 in 156 minutes

with four fours and three sixes, and the pair put on a ground record for a

visiting team, 155 for the fifth wicket, overtaking the 152 added by Peter

Kirsten and Kim Barnett for Derbyshire in 1981. The end result was

Essex were all out for 282 in 92.2 overs. For Lancashire Tom Bailey took

5-59 and Will Williams 3-71 with Walters’ 76 being his top score of the


There was just time for Luke Wells to emulate Browne’s brief

knock, bowled by Jamie Porter from the fourth ball of the innings before

Lancashire closed on 37-1, Keaton Jennings on 12 and Josh Bohannon

on 20.

After a 45-minute delay due to overnight rain, the third day

belonged entirely to Essex who whittled their way through the

Lancashire batting in 44.4 overs as the red rose boys were dismissed for

a modest 145. Bohannon’s 44 and Phil Salt’s 35 not out were the main

contributors as Sam Cook took 4-42 and Walter 3-20, his first

championship wickets of the season; there was a wicket each for Porter

and Doug Bracewell for 38 and 24 runs respectively.

The Essex lead of 137 had not been extended when both openers

were dismissed, Browne from his third ball when he fell leg before wicket

to Bailey and Alistair Cook from his second when he cut Williams

straight to Vilas at point. Westley only made five but then came a 95-run

partnership for the fourth wicket between Lawrence and Matt Critchley

before Tom Hartley bowled the latter for 40 to make it 122-4.

In partnership with Lawrence, Walter was threatening to repeat his

first innings’ effort when Bohannon held a fine catch leaning almost over

the boundary at long on and Walter was gone for 24, with two fours and

one six, at 165-5. Two quick wickets then went down for 21 runs and

then the carnage began as all the Lancashire bowlers were put to the


In company with a belligerent Bracewell, Lawrence set about the

bowling with gusto and the pair added a visiting team ground record 106

for the eighth wicket. There was nothing the Lancashire bowlers could

do to stop it and even with nine fielders round the boundary the ball

continually defeated them. Indeed the last five overs the pair were

together they added an incredible 90 runs!

The onslaught ended when Lawrence, from the final over of the

day, struck Wells to long-off for what would have been another six had

not Jennings been stationed there to take the catch. He had made 135

from 125 balls in 205 minutes and with Bracewell 61 not out from 35

balls in 34 minutes with five fours and four sixes, Essex closed on 292-8.

Bailey again was Lancashire’s most successful bowler with 3-71.

Essex declared overnight, setting Lancashire a massive 430 for

victory in 96 overs. And they made a positive start, Jennings and Wells

putting on 58 in 15.5 overs before the former was well caught by a diving

Will Buttleman for 30. Bohannon joined Wells and continued the attack,

taking the total to 155 from 34.1 overs before the latter, dropped at short

leg when he had made 24, was caught by the same fielder off Critchley

for 75 with 11 fours and two sixes, made in 110 minutes from 126 balls.

Vilas unfortunately completed a pair before Porter caught

Bohannon in the deep off Walter for 68. Rob Jones and Salt then

continued the chase and put Lancashire in a strong position with a

partnership of 85 in 22.4 overs but at 279 the fifth wicket was lost when

Salt, 41, was caught at backward square leg by Sam Cook. At that point

there were still 30.5 overs remaining and with Lancashire requiring a

further 151 runs and Essex five wickets, the game was still in the


Jones, who was dropped by Browne at short leg on 49, was going

strong and with de Grandhomme as his partner the total advanced to

294 before the New Zealander was caught at fine leg by Porter off

Walter for nine. Jones and Hartley kept the momentum going until

Hartley, 17, edged Sam Cook to slip to make it 359-7.

Jack Blatherwick perished quickly, caught and bowled by Porter for

one to make it 360-8 but Bailey, a more than useful lower order

batsman, stayed put while Jones ran to a superb century from 149 balls

with 11 fours and one six. By now Lancashire were playing for a draw

and the Essex field had closed in significantly.

On seven Bailey skied what appeared to be a sitter to Walter at

mid-on but he inexplicably dropped it but it was not costly for two balls

later in trying to cut a ball it flew down to third man where Simon Harmer

took an excellent diving catch and he was gone for eight.

Last man Will Williams was protected to a degree by Jones but

even so he managed to keep out, quite comfortably, 17 balls and with

Jones stealing a single from the final ball of the 94 th over, it looked odds

on a draw … but no! He resisted the first ball but the second went down

the leg side and, unwisely as it turned out, Jones tried a leg glance off

Bracewell but only succeeded it feathering it to Lawrence who took a

nice clean catch; Jones had gone after battling for 241 minutes, 170

balls, for a fine 111 and the game was won and lost. For Essex,

Bracewell had 3-50 and Critchley 3-70.

The celebrations began with the Essex players hugging one

another in their delight before handshakes all round ended a thoroughly

sporting contest on a sporting wicket that had produced just over 1100


Despite the bracing weather, there had been good crowds on three

days and as chairman Cresswell commented, ‘There is nothing better

than seeing Stanley Park with a healthy crowd on and, despite the

weather spoiling the first day, the hosting of the match has been a huge

success.’ He stressed that it had taken plenty of effort from volunteers

and committee men as ‘even little jobs take time and effort’, adding ‘The

investment in upgrading the drainage was well worth the money spent

and this was much appreciated by Lancashire. We look forward to their

return on 9 August when Kent Spitfires will be the visitors.’

Gerry Wolstenholme

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