County Championship: Leaders Somerset lose to Essex at Chelmsford
|County Championship Division One, The Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford (day three):|
|Essex 216 & 183: Cook 47; Groenewald 5-51|
|Somerset 131: Porter 5-51 & 117: Gregory 40; Porter 4-22, Beard 3-22|
|Essex (20 pts) beat Somerset (3 pts) by 151 runs|
Division One leaders Somerset slipped to their first Championship defeat of the season at Chelmsford, losing a low-scoring game to Essex by 151 runs.
Jamie Porter took 4-22 to end with match figures of 9-73 as Somerset, chasing 269 to win, were 117 all out.
The seamer removed Somerset openers Tom Abell and Azhar Ali inside three overs.
Aaron Beard (3-22) also chipped in to seal an Essex win that moved the hosts up to second place in the table, 13 points behind Somerset.
Somerset, who are seeking a first County Championship title in their history, won five of their first six matches to build a healthy advantage at the top.
However, at the halfway point of the season, 2017 champions Essex are well in the title hunt alongside Hampshire and Yorkshire, who trail the leaders by 27 and 34 points respectively.
Somerset went into day three already 249 behind and took the remaining four Essex wickets for only 19 runs, Tim Groenewald (5-51) and Lewis Gregory (3-37) wrapping up their second innings for 183.
After being reduced to 7-2 by Porter, any chance of a successful Somerset run chase ended with wickets falling in three consecutive overs either side of lunch.
James Hildreth (32) edged behind after being cramped for room by a Peter Siddle bouncer, before Harmer and Porter left Somerset 67-6 to all-but finish the contest, despite Gregory smashing 40 off 34 balls.
Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate:
"Batting has been tough here this season although I still think there is a lot to come and the scores aren't necessarily reflective of the pitch. If you get stuck in like Alastair Cook and Nick Browne there are runs to be had.
"If you look at how Somerset's season has gone they have managed to manufacture results. Those are the sort of things you need to swing a Championship your way - picking up points when things aren't going your way.
"We are only at the halfway stage and Hampshire also have enough points to be challenging but Somerset will be there or thereabouts. Their six wins from seven games is very impressive.
"For us this was a must-win game. It would have been very hard to catch them if they were 55 points ahead at halfway. If we play good cricket and stay in our bubble and not look too far ahead then that last game of the season against Somerset will be the showdown."
Somerset captain Tom Abell:
"We were completely outplayed this week and didn't deserve anything. We've got a few shortcomings with the bat at the moment which we need to address before the next game. We need to be on the ball and I am confident we will be.
"It is by no means the end of the world. We are still in a great position and have been playing great cricket in the Championship. We weren't good enough and have lost comprehensively because of that but we will be back next week for Hampshire.
"It was tricky to bat out there but, if you really applied yourself and got, you could score runs. There were always good balls out there but Alastair Cook scored 130 and, in the context of the match, that was massive.
"We couldn't quite do that with that bat. Some of us got in in the first innings but couldn't take it on when we needed to and we lost wickets in clusters again. There have been times when we haven't been at our best this season when we've shown that fight and character to wrestle back the momentum. But we didn't do this week."