County Championship: Simon Harmer takes 5-23 as Essex hurt Hampshire title hopes
|Specsavers County Championship Division One, Cloudfm County Ground|
|Hampshire 118: Rossouw 34; Harmer 5-23, Cook 3-50, Porter 2-44|
|Essex 147-3: Bopara 50*, Lawrence 34*, Browne 31; Barker 2-20|
|Essex (3 pts) lead Hampshire (1 pt) by 29 runs|
Essex finished day one well on top against Hampshire after yet another five-wicket haul for prolific South African spinner Simon Harmer.
After pacemen Jamie Porter and Sam Cook had made key early breakthroughs following a late start, Harmer took 5-23 as Essex made Hampshire rue their decision to bat first.
Having been bowled out for 118, Hants hit back with three quick wickets.
But Ravi Bopara's unbeaten 50 helped his side close at Chelmsford on 147-3.
The former England all-rounder has so far put on 83 with Dan Lawrence in a stand which threatens to transform this contest.
Having bowled out Hampshire in 34 overs, Essex slumped from 53-0 to 64-3 - including the wickets of Alastair Cook and Nick Browne inside five balls - when the pair came together. ut, in just under two hours, they helped build a 29-run lead.
With seven wickets in hand, Essex, beaten by an innings at Southampton in April, already look right on course for revenge.
Harmer has now taken 35 County Championship wickets this season at a cost of 19.40 each, 24 of them at Chelmsford, where, in 18 matches in just two and a half seasons, he has now gone past 100 first-class wickets.
Harmer's fourth Championship five-wicket haul of the season was his 11th 'five-fer' in total for Essex. His haul of 35 Division One wickets in 2019 puts him top of the charts, along with Somerset's Lewis Gregory and Warwickshire skipper Jeetan Patel.
Essex all-rounder Ravi Bopara:
"I would definitely have bowled first. At Chelmsford it does nip about and there was some drizzle and good overhead conditions, so it was the best time to bowl.
"Harmer shows the advantage of having such a good spinner. Even on a flat, placid, deck he usually picks up one or two. So when it is turning you know he is in for a five or six-for.
"It is not easy to be free flowing on that pitch. It sticks on a bit but if you run aggressively you can get runs. With any leg spinner you know you are going to get the odd loose delivery, the odd full toss and drag down, so you have to put them away.
"I'd personally like a second bat in this innings but the ideal situation is to get 300-plus and then hopefully bowl them out again. The first hour is very important."
Hampshire first team coach Adi Birrell:
"The stats were the reason we batted first. If you look at the stats of how many teams win here batting first it makes sense.
"We are way behind in the match and we are struggling but I'm not saying the toss is the reason behind that. We didn't bat very well.
"It wasn't impossible to bat out there and it wasn't spinning square. We were bowled out in less that 40 overs which is not ideal at all.
"We have a mountain to climb. We got three quick wickets but we didn't build on that. There was a good partnership at the end but we needed to control the run rate better."