An encouraging second day display from Yorkshire was tarnished by the late loss of Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne after a fightback against Essex at Chelmsford.
Yorkshire’s endeavours with the ball on a slow pitch at the Cloud County Ground brought rewards as Essex, 234-3 overnight, were bowled out for 403 in their first innings on the stroke of tea
In reply, Yorkshire had faced 36 overs before the left-hander was caught behind off Sam Cook with the first ball of the day’s final over, leaving the score at 81-3.
Adam Lyth and George Hill had departed earlier, and Yorkshire will begin day three of this LV= Insurance County Championship fixture 322 behind.
Yorkshire claimed six wickets during an afternoon session which somewhat changed the look of this Division One fixture.
Essex lost only nightwatchman Sam Cook for 28 before lunch, bowled by one which was angled back at him by Hill, and were looking like eking out a first-innings total which would have left the draw as Yorkshire’s only target.
But Steve Patterson and his depleted attack enjoyed significant success after lunch, including Dom Bess and Jordan Thompson each striking twice in an over.
Tall left-hander Paul Walter reached his maiden first-class or county century.
Eighty nine not out at the start of the day, he nervily accrued the 11 runs he needed to reach three figures off 263 balls.
Yorkshire only claimed one bowling bonus point to Essex’s two for batting before Hill ousted Sam Cook to leave the score at 303-4 in the 121st over of the innings.
That Cook looked so comfortable at the crease indicates the placid nature of this surface, though there was a decent amount of playing and missing before lunch and Walter was dropped on 127 at cover off Bess.
However, wickets were about to fall.
Four balls into the afternoon Walter skewed a drive at the off-spin of Bess and was caught by Matthew Revis at backward point. And when Adam Rossington was bowled next ball for a golden duck, Essex were 321-6 in the 130th.
Patterson then had Feroze Khushi caught behind by Harry Duke in the 135th over – 322-7 – meaning three wickets had fallen for only one run inside the first six overs of the afternoon.
Yorkshire, who had held the rate impressively for the first day and a half after winning the toss, were back in business.
That theory was strengthened when Thompson struck twice in the 147th over. He bowled Matt Critchley and had Shane Snater caught at second slip by Lyth as the score fell to 345-9.
Unfortunately, Essex were able to limit some of the damage through their talismanic South African off-spinner Simon Harmer, who clobbered three leg-side sixes in an 82-ball 54.
He dominated a stand of 58 for the 10th wicket with fellow overseas player, the Australian Mark Steketee, before top-edging a short arm pull at Revis behind to Duke to wrap up the innings just north of 400.
Thompson bowled nicely for his 3-105 from 32 overs, but Patterson (2-48 from 31) and Bess stood out.
Bess finished with 3-82 from 44 overs, meaning that he and Patterson had gone at under two runs per over across their 75 combined.
Lyth fell early in Yorkshire’s reply when he was trapped lbw shuffling across his stumps by Sam Cook for 10, leaving Yorkshire at 22-1 in the 11th over.
Sri Lanka captain Karunaratne had got off the mark with a clipped boundary through square-leg with his first ball, against Cook.
Although he looked settled at the crease, he did offer a sharp second slip chance to a diving Harmer on 32 off Snater.
Hill, meanwhile, played confidently against the off-spin of Harmer.
Like he did against the spin of Simon Kerrigan during his 151 at Northampton a fortnight ago, he used his feet with good effect to hit down the ground.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to match his 151 at Wantage Road and fell shortly before close for 28 when caught behind off Snater’s seam as the score fell to 76-2 in the 29th over.
Nightwatchman Revis will begin day three at the crease on one, but without the company of Karunaratne after a sting in the tail.