Warwickshire v Essex: Leaders beat Bears by an innings to edge closer to title
|Specsavers County Championship Division One, Edgbaston (day three):|
|Warwickshire 201 & 112: Harmer 4-25, Porter 3-37, Cook 3-42|
|Essex 369-9 dec: Chopra 98, Lawrence 78, Foster 68|
|Essex (23 pts) beat Warwickshire (3 pts) by an innings and 56 runs|
Essex homed in on their first County Championship title for 25 years as they finished off relegation-bound Warwickshire to win by an innings and 56 runs inside three days at Edgbaston.
Chris Silverwood's side must wait on the result from Taunton, where Lancashire must now beat Somerset, before the silverware is confirmed.
Trailing by 161 overnight, on 7-0, the Bears slid to 47-5 before a rain break.
Simon Harmer and Jamie Porter did the job to bowl out the hosts for 112.
Spinner Harmer took the final wicket to end with eight in the match, while Porter and Sam Cook both claimed three apiece.
That leaves Division One's bottom club Warwickshire also on the brink at the other end of the table. The Bears' eighth defeat in 12 games this season was their fifth by an innings, two of which have come against Essex.
The relegation which has looked on the cards since they began this season with four innings defeats in their first six matches could be confirmed before this week's round of matches are completed.
Essex, who went up as Division Two champions in 2016, would become the second newly-promoted side to win the county title since two divisions were introduced to English cricket in 2000. Nottinghamshire are the only other team to achieve the feat, in 2005.
Essex have been told that, should they complete their seventh triumph, the Championship trophy will not be presented until their home game against Yorkshire at Chelmsford, starting on 25 September.
Bears on the brink
Warwickshire at least avoided the ignominious feat of a third sub-100 total this season, having been bowled out for 91 against Surrey in their first game of the season and then for 94 by Essex at Chelmsford in June.
Despite an encouraging second-innings 35 from youngster Matt Lamb, they picked up just three points from the game to stand 40 points adrift of safety with just two games left.
For Warwickshire's relegation to be confirmed this week, two of three results elsewhere must occur:
- Somerset must beat Lancashire at Taunton.
- Yorkshire must avoid defeat by Surrey at The Oval.
- Middlesex must pick up four bonus points against Hampshire at Uxbridge, assuming that their rain-affected game ends in a draw.
The keys to Essex's imminent success
- Only two bowlers in Division One have taken more than 50 County Championship wickets this season - Porter (64) and Harmer (63).
- Harmer's eight wickets in the match took his tally against the Bears this season to 22. He enjoyed match figures of 14-128 when Essex beat Warwickshire by an innings at Chelmsford in June.
- That was one of six 10-wicket match hauls in the top flight this season and four of them have been Essex bowlers - Harmer (twice), Porter in Essex's last win, and Mohammad Amir.
- As for Essex's run scorers, ex-England captain Alastair Cook's early-season form (667 in seven games at 66.70) set the standard but five others, fellow England man Tom Westley, Nick Browne, Dan Lawrence, Ravi Bopara and skipper Ryan Ten Doeschate, have all scored in excess of 500 runs.
- Essex, who did not win their first county title until 1979, are now waiting to clinch a seventh in the last 40 seasons but this would be their first since English county cricket adopted a two-division system in 2000. That was eight years on from Essex's most recent title triumph in 1992, clinched with two matches to spare, their sixth in 14 seasons.
Bears sport director Ashley Giles told BBC Coventry & Warwickshire:
"200 was never enough in the first innings. That's been the tale of our summer. We haven't got enough runs but equally we haven't bowled sides out either.
"We've only got 20 wickets in a game once this year. Bowling has probably been our strength in recent years and we really haven't fired in that department.
"It's disappointing. We're going to get relegated, we know that and it's important what happens now. Now it's a chance for us to start again."
Essex seamer Jamie Porter told BBC Essex:
"If I'm being brutally honest, winning the Championship was the ambition at the start of the season. A lot of people thought that was too ambitious but we thought 'why not?' We knew we have got the players who can win you games.
"In the first three games, it seemed we might just have to survive in this division but the way we bounced back and not only saved games we could have lost but dominated in the way we have has been pretty special.
"As a group of lads we are very tight-knit. When guys have a bad day we are all right behind them and we all get along so well off the pitch. We have got a great coach (Silverwood) and assistant coach (Anthony McGrath) and it works well."