Champions Essex dominated the second day of Yorkshire’s second-ending Specsavers County Championship match at Chelmsford to move into a winning position.
Yorkshire, replying to the hosts day one 227 all out, were dismissed for just 111 midway through the afternoon in helpful bowling conditions.
Essex then advanced their second innings, which started with a lead of 116 and 56 overs remaining in the day, to 134-2 from 48.
Bad light forced an early end to the day, with Essex’s lead at 250.
Unbroken third-wicket pair Nick Browne and Dan Lawrence both hit half-centuries and shared 128. They will begin tomorrow on 53 and 75.
Unfortunately, this was Yorkshire’s lowest total of a forgettable season with the bat.
They should certainly have done much better than 111, as Lawrence and Browne showed later on. But there was some misfortune at a key stage of their innings.
Prior to lunch, which Yorkshire reached at 90-6, captain Gary Ballance was run out for 13 backing up by New Zealand fast bowler Neil Wagner, who deflected a fierce drive from Andrew Hodd onto the stumps at the non-striker’s end.
Hodd was also given out lbw to a Wagner in-swinger which, for all money, looked like it was going down the leg side.
Only Adam Lyth and Hodd with 35 and 21 respectively made it into the twenties as Wagner, new ball seamer Jamie Porter and off-spinner Simon Harmer finished with three wickets each.
Wickets continued to fall, with Jack Brooks trapping Varun Chopra and Ravi Bopara lbw within three balls in the third over as the hosts slipped to 6-2 second time around.
But they managed to recover and strengthen their grip on the match.
Should Essex win or draw this game, they will have gone through the season unbeaten.
While conditions have suited bowlers throughout this match, there have been periods when the batsmen have looked comfortable, best highlighted during the second half of the day.
Kraigg Brathwaite was the first wicket of the day when he lost his off stump to Porter, leaving the score at 23-1 in the eleventh over.
It was the first of six morning wickets to fall for 67.
Lyth hit the first two balls of South African Harmer’s spell for a swept four and six over long-on, but Alex Lees was caught behind later in the over as the score fell to 40-2 in the 14th.
Lyth was then caught behind off Wagner, who had Jack Leaning and Hodd lbw and had the crucial hand in the Ballance run out.
After a quiet opening 10 overs of the afternoon, wickets started to tumble again.
Steve Patterson was lbw to Porter as the score slipped to 98-7 in the 41st, the first of three wickets to fall for one run.
Brooks edged Harmer behind before Matthew Fisher was bowled by Porter – 99-9 in the 43rd over.
Yorkshire’s innings was wrapped up when Karl Carver gloved Harmer behind as he attempted to leave a ball in the 46th.
After the two wickets for Brooks at the start of the Essex second innings, the hosts advanced with some comfort, despite 12 excellent overs from Ben Coad.
Coad, one away from 50 in the Championship wickets this season, deserved at least a wicket.
Lawrence was the first to reach 50 off 103 balls before Browne’s came off 125 balls.
“It wasn’t ideal, but I think we’ve stuck at it really well with the ball,” he said. “We were quite unlucky in that innings. If we keep doing that tomorrow morning, I think we’ll get our rewards. It was quite a frustrating night and not an ideal start with the bat.
“I don’t think the pitch has got any flatter. It’s still nipping around. It’s just that it’s doing it a bit slower now. Yesterday and this morning, it was nipping off the pitch and going quite quick, which was finding the edges. Now it’s a bit slower, they can react by playing inside the line.
“There were a couple of decisions which went against us here and there, but it happens. The run out with Gaz was a freakish thing.
“We have to take it on the chin.
“The last few games we’ve batted really well. We’ve applied ourselves. They’re a good bowling attack who bowled really well. Hopefully we can put that right in the second innings.”