Essex hit back on dramatic opening day

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Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer bowled Essex back into their opening Specsavers County Championship match of the season after the champions were skittled for 150 by Lancashire.

Porter and Harmer shared 147 wickets in Essex’s title triumph last year and claimed four each on Friday to put the brakes on Lancashire’s runaway train.

On a seamer’s paradise where 18 wickets fell for 291 runs, Essex finished marginally ahead by nine runs.

Australian seamer Joe Mennie took three for 52 as Essex were ripped out in just 50 overs but there were still demons in a soggy Chelmsford pitch under a scorching sun, as Lancashire found out in a marathon final session of 46 overs.

Lancashire opted for an uncontested toss in the match between last season’s top two and Mennie was ably supported by Lancashire’s hungry seam pack in which Graham Onions, Tom Bailey and Jordan Clark all chipped in with two wickets each – Bailey with two for 19 from 12 overs.

Essex were never happy against the swinging ball, a high proportion of their paltry total coming from inadvertent snicks and edges; of their wickets, four were picked up in the slips, another at gully and one by the wicketkeeper. There were also two lbws.

The carnage, watched by a crowd of 2,100, began as early as the sixth over when Varun Chopra was pinned back on his crease by Onions.

Nick Browne hung around for 54 balls before he was beaten for pace by Mennie on 23.

Bailey had Tom Westley caught at first slip by Haseeb Hameed for 17 and Ravi Bopara departed before lunch, taken low at second slip by Liam Livingstone off Clark.

After the break, Clark had Dan Lawrence snaffled by Keaton Jennings at third slip and James Foster swished expansively at Onions to give wicketkeeper Alex Davies, in his 100th senior game for Lancashire, a straightforward catch.

Paul Walter, replacing for the injured Sam Cook, chipped Mennie to Dane Vilas in the gully and captain Ryan ten Doeschate, after bringing up Essex’s hundred with a boundary off Onions, shuffled across his stumps as he attempted to flick Mennie off his legs and was lbw for 14.

Harmer became the fourth batsman caught in the slips before Peter Siddle gave Essex’s total a modicum of respectability. The Australian, formerly of Lancashire, hit sixes off Mennie and Matt Parkinson and was left top-scorer with 33 not out after a 37-run last-wicket stand, the best of the innings, was ended when Vilas’s throw from midwicket left a diving Porter short of his crease.

Porter was soon back in his 2017 groove with the ball, with Jennings caught behind and Davies clipping to Ten Doeschate at wide mid-off. Hameed then edged to Foster to leave Porter with three for 11 from five overs and Lancashire on 19 for three.

Harmer was off the mark with his fifth ball of the season. Livingstone had put on 46 for the fourth wicket with Vilas but in trying to avoid a high-bouncing delivery, popped it up to Ten Doeschate at forward short leg.

Vilas evidently learnt nothing as he went in similar fashion, the ball looping up to give Ten Doeschate his third catch of the day. The South African scored 25 from 43 balls.

Almost immediately, Porter found Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s edge to claim his fourth wicket at a cost of 25 runs.

Bailey came down the wicket to Harmer and found himself stranded as Foster removed the bails and the day ended with Mennie chipping Porter to Bopara at backward short leg.

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