Es­sex on brink of ti­tle af­ter rain thwarts Som­er­set again

Hosts cling to hope of mirac­u­lous fi­nal day Pope marks Test re­call with cen­tury for Sur­rey

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Specsavers County Championsh­ip - By Scyld Berry CRICKET JOUR­NAL­IST OF THE YEAR at Taun­ton

Es­sex will win their eighth County Cham­pi­onship bar­ring an in­cred­i­ble fi­nal day of this sea­son in which Som­er­set will have to bowl Es­sex out twice, and very cheaply. The pitch has been turn­ing, but not that much.

A sod­den out­field, topped up by show­ers, pre­vented any play on day three and slowly killed off any lin­ger­ing Som­er­set hopes of their first cham­pi­onship. In­stead, they ap­pear des­tined to fin­ish run­ners-up for the sixth time this cen­tury.

Som­er­set have yet to dis­miss Alas­tair Cook once, let alone twice, as Es­sex have reached 25 with­out loss in re­ply to Som­er­set’s 203. Free from Test calls, Cook leads the stronger bat­ting line-up which Es­sex have, in ad­di­tion to the lead­ing wicket-taker in the first di­vi­sion, Si­mon Harmer with 83 – much the same for­mula that won them their last cham­pi­onship in 2017.

Som­er­set’s bat­ting line-up is more like Eng­land’s in that some­times it could be re­versed, at least when

Jack Leach is pro­moted from No 11 to night­watch­man or opener. Their bowlers have had to do much of their bat­ting, as well as the bowl­ing.

“I have to­tal be­lief in our play­ers and staff,” Andy Hurry, Som­er­set’s di­rec­tor of cricket, said op­ti­misti­cally.

“This sum­mer there has been some amaz­ing cricket, with huge twists and turns. Any­thing can hap­pen and we have to keep be­liev­ing.”

In the only first di­vi­sion game to have play, Sur­rey’s Ol­lie Pope cel­e­brated his re­call to the Eng­land Test squad by com­plet­ing his eighth cham­pi­onship cen­tury, 106, in a third-wicket stand of 222 with Scott Borth­wick, who reached 137 against rel­e­gated

Not­ting­hamshire.

The dif­fer­ence in the qual­ity of bowl­ing in the two di­vi­sions was em­pha­sised when Dawid Malan and Billy Godle­man both reached 1,000 runs for this sea­son in the sec­ond di­vi­sion, dur­ing Mid­dle­sex’s match against

Der­byshire, mak­ing six bats­men in all. Do­minic Si­b­ley is alone in scor­ing 1,000 runs in the first di­vi­sion – al­though Cook will join him if he reaches 165 against Som­er­set.

As Glam­or­gan’s chances of a vic­tory have been washed away at Durham, Glouces­ter­shire and Northamp­ton­shire need not force their game at Bris­tol in or­der to ac­com­pany Lan­cashire into the first di­vi­sion, which will have 10 coun­ties next sea­son, while the sec­ond di­vi­sion will have eight.

Washout: No play at Taun­ton (cen­tre) leaves the Som­er­set cap­tain Tom Abell de­jected

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