County Championship: Somerset hit back with ball against Essex

Aaron Beard celebrates a wicket
Seamer Aaron Beard finished Somerset's first innings with career-best figures of 4-23
County Championship Division One, The Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford (day two):
Essex 216 & 164-6: Cook 47; Groenewald 3-39
Somerset 131: Porter 5-51, Beard 4-23
Essex (4 pts) lead Somerset (3 pts) by 249 runs

County Championship leaders Somerset hit back with the ball after being bowled out for only 131 on day two of their game with Essex at Chelmsford.

Resuming on 32-1, Somerset slumped to 74-6 as Aaron Beard took four wickets in 13 balls before Jamie Porter (5-51) polished off the tail.

Tim Groenewald then took 3-39 as Essex were reduced to 164-6 by the close, 249 ahead, despite 47 from Alastair Cook.

But Somerset will need the biggest score of the game to pull off victory.

After 15 wickets fell during the day - all to seam - third-placed Essex remain favourites to go on and win the game to close the gap at the top of the table, especially after the exploits of Porter and Beard, who the county announced at tea had both signed new contracts.

However, there had been little sign of the Somerset collapse to follow when captain Tom Abell and nightwatchman Groenewald added 22 to the overnight score in the morning session before Porter trapped Abell leg before.

Beard, 21, then took centre stage on his way to career-best first-class figures of 4-23, with his devastating spell starting when Groenewald edged to Tom Westley at third slip.

The dangerous James Hildreth quickly followed when he was caught in the deep by Nick Browne, before Tom Banton edged behind and Steve Davies drove straight to Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate.

George Bartlett and Lewis Gregory threatened a recovery with a stand of 40 for the seventh wicket, but Porter returned to have Gregory held at second slip by Simon Harmer before wrapping up the innings.

Essex found batting no easier in their second innings and lost wickets at regular intervals.

Former England captain Cook, the only batsman to pass 50 in the game, was within sight of his second half-century of the match when he edged to Jamie Overton at second slip to become the second of Groenewald's three victims.

Adam Wheater added a potentially crucial unbeaten 22 off 20 balls to extend Essex's advantage before bad light forced an early finish.

Essex fast bowler Jamie Porter:

"Aaron Beard has been very impressive this year. It has been a tough side to break in to but he has earned his right to play. He has always had a yard of pace but he has learned a few things about himself and he is bowling beautifully now.

"He was unlucky not to have a crack at the five-fer but I'm sure he will get a lot of five-fers for Essex. And those weren't just four wickets but four big wickets. Hildreth is a man who can hurt you, Banton has a lot of talent and Steven Davies is someone I hate bowling to, so I was quite glad that he got him out.

"He was the glue to our bowling performance. And it was very nice to chip in and take a few wickets myself. Hopefully we start by batting well and then the bowlers will do the rest.

"This is the biggest game for us this season. If we win this we will go 13 points behind Somerset and that is the position we want to be in going into the second half of the season."

Somerset fast bowler Tim Groenewald:

"There are two very different ends here at Chelmsford. One is level and the other you go up a slope before the wicket and that can play with your rhythm.

"So, switching to the other end helped me and I bowled quite nicely.

"I am not complaining about dismissing Alastair Cook in both innings. He is a massive wicket in any game.

"You just have to look at the way he has batted on a tricky surface to see why his record is so good. He sticks to his game plan and doesn't change it."

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