Essex 310 for 6 (Rossington 104, Critchley 83*, Westley 50) vs Hampshire
Essex ended the day on 310 for 6, Critchley still going strong on 83 after his 177-run stand with Rossington.
Essex began this penultimate round of fixtures 18 points behind leaders Surrey, and the final challenger to the London side’s pursuit of back-to-back titles. They started by winning the toss and electing to bat first.
Third-placed Hampshire will have a strong role in determining the location of the Championship as they face Surrey in the final round, after potentially making a decisive mark on Essex’s ambitions.
This could be Alastair Cook’s final match at the Cloud County Ground, Chelmsford, with his current two-year contract ending at the end of this season. His future is uncertain as he approaches his 39th birthday this winter. If this does turn out to be his finale, it didn’t start well as he was bowled around the wicket by a textbook Mohammad Abbas beauty.
His opening partner Nick Browne dangled his bat outside off stump to nick behind as Essex slumped to 18 for 2, but Westley and Dan Lawrence combined to improve the hosts’ position.y
Westley needed 15 runs to reach 1000 first-class runs this season, something he had only achieved once before – in 2016, when he Ryan ten Doeschate and Browne also piled up four figures. That was the last time at Essex player had achieved the feat.
In fact, only three Essex players – Stuart Law and Paul Grayson in 2001 and Andy Flower in 2003 – have ever scored 1000 runs in Division One since the Championship split into two in 2000.
Westley joined the trio with a flick into the leg side with his 25th delivery. He ticked along nicely, as he has throughout the season, unleashing the odd straight drive or trademarked flick off the pads on his way to his seventh half-century.
But he didn’t score another run as he drove Kyle Abbott to third slip. It ended a 64-run stand with Lawrence – who is definitely making his last home appearance ahead of his move to Surrey. Lawrence fell three overs later to Liam Dawson, having struck back-to-back boundaries, edging to first slip, with the left-arm spinner also picking up the skittish Paul Walter lbw to leave Essex 132 for 5.
The Essex slide was short-lived as Critchley found his flow quickly, reaching his half-century in 70 balls. It wasn’t a boundary-a-thon though. He only scored two fours and a sliced six down the ground off Dawson, with 28 singles milked along the way.
Critchley, Rossington and Walter had all been awarded their Essex county caps at lunchtime. Like Critchley, Rossington celebrated with fifty – his first of a frustrating season. It came in 83 balls and was brought up with a six over long on – which also moved his alliance with Critchley past 100.
He raced past Critchley’s scoring with his second fifty coming in 56 balls to bring up his second ton for Essex, since moving from Northamptonshire at the beginning of last summer. Rossington’s assault ended on 104 as he attempted to yahoo one over midwicket and was caught behind, but Essex cruised to the close – which came to an early due to bad light, having earlier been on and off for rain.