Warwickshire on the ropes as Essex eye title knockout

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Warwickshire all-rounder Chris Woakes. Photo: Phil Britt

CRICKET
Report by Brian Halford

CHRIS Woakes admitted Warwickshire were ‘behind the eight-ball’ after Essex took control on day two of their Specsavers County Championship match at Edgbaston.
Replying to 201, Ryan ten Doeschate’s Essex made 369 for nine, a lead of 168, before declaring late in the day to give Warwickshire two awkward overs batting.
The home side survived those unscathed on seven without loss but will have to bat with a resilience that has invariably been sorely lacking from them this season to get out of this hole. With nearest rivals Lancashire in trouble, having followed on at Taunton, Essex are on the threshold of the title.
“201 wasn’t enough in the first innings, if we’re being realistic, and we’ve got a tough day’s batting tomorrow but we’re by no means completely out of the game,” said Woakes. “Obviously we’re behind the eight-ball but if we put a couple of partnerships together and make them work like they did to us today then we can get ourselves back in the game.
“We stuck at it well in the field through two 40-over sessions, which always make it harder for the fielding team. It’s a good pitch so we’ve just got to get stuck in tomorrow and build a few partnerships.
“It was really nice to get 24 overs in. I feel like I have been a bit match-rusty so to get those overs under my belt is pleasing. I felt like I bowled reasonably well on a wicket not offering a huge amount.”
With plenty of time at their disposal, Essex’s batsmen built a position from which they will aim to close out victory on the third day.
It was a collective effort led by Varun Chopra (98, 181 balls, 15 fours), Dan Lawrence (78, 130, 14) and James Foster (68, 107, 12) to which all the top eight, other than the skipper, contributed. After bowling well as a unit, the Division One leaders batted well as a unit, sustaining pressure on their opponents. The stuff of champions.
Essex resumed on the second day on 69 without loss and lost two wickets in a morning.
Opening pair Chopra and Nick Browne added 72 before the latter (24, 65 balls) edged Keith Barker to second slip. Tom Westley batted sweetly for 28 (40 balls) until he nicked England team-mate Woakes behind, after which Chopra and Lawrence put on 92 in 29 overs. The princely Chopra was within two runs of a century against his former team-mates when he perished lbw to medium-pacer Matt Lamb.
Lawrence’s aggressive innings threatened to take the game away from Warwickshire rapidly but the beleaguered home side stuck to their task and hit back with two wickets in four balls for Ryan Sidebottom. Lawrence cut to gully and ten Doeschate played on for a third-ball duck.
When Ravi Bopara fell lbw to Barker, Essex had lost four wickets for 51 runs in 17 overs and but Foster and Simon Harmer (24, 65 balls) calmly eased the total upward with a partnership of 76 in 23 overs.
Woakes ended that stand with an in-ducker which pinned Harmer, Neil Wagner edged Barker and, after Foster fell lbw to Jeetan Patel, Essex pulled out. Tomorrow they could be pulling out the corks on the Champagne.