Essex sets up Championship showdown with Somerset after big win over Yorkshire

Peter Siddle lets out a roar Getty Images

Essex 328 (Westley 81, ten Doeschate 70*) and 94 for 2 (Browne 33*) beat Yorkshire 208 (Harmer 5-76) and 211 (Maharaj 85, Siddle 4-32) by eight wickets

The Championship race is now down to two counties. Perhaps that has been true for a while, but Somerset and Essex are now the only realistic contenders after Essex completed an emphatic defeat of Yorkshire late on the third day at Chelmsford.

Essex's eight-wicket win was secured shortly before five o'clock as they knocked off the 92 runs needed in routine fashion. Yorkshire, the last side to deny them victory - indeed, they almost made them follow-on at Headingley last month - became just the latest victim as Essex stretched their 100% record at Chelmsford to five matches.

Essex led Somerset by a point for a heady hour or so before Somerset resumed the leadership by making short shrift of Nottinghamshire at Taunton on the final day. Hopes are building of a grand finale in the final match of the season when the sides meet at Taunton as the September nights draw in.

Until that time, with delicious irony, some Essex and Somerset supporters will cast aspersions upon the spin-friendly surfaces of which they believe themselves to be entirely innocent while alleging that their dastardly opponents are pushing legality to the limit.

It's a dust storm in a teacup. The truth so far appears to be that both counties have stayed the right side of the line. The best players have tended to come to the fore, there has been an acceptable balance between bat and ball and the cricket has been compelling. The technique of county players against the sort of good quality spin bowling they encounter so little should be English cricket's prime concern.

As the dust settled (literally), Yorkshire's captain Steve Patterson reflected upon another eight wickets in the match for Simon Harmer, who now has 57 for the season. He is having a wonderful season and his stock is rising, but not all his wickets have been hard earned. Essex felt that their first-day bowling display was as poor as anything they have delivered this season.

"He got five wickets in the first innings and we were bowled out in less than 50 overs," Patterson said. "If you look at those wickets he hasn't really bowled us out. Are we trying to be too aggressive against him? Are we playing him on his name? I don't know the answer. But at the end of the day we haven't played him well enough."

Until Keshav Maharaj launched an exciting, if unavailing counterattack on the third afternoon, Yorkshire could potentially have fallen to an innings defeat. They were still 39 short of making Essex bat again when he came to the crease at No. 8, but his freewheeling 85 from 71 balls with seven fours and five sixes (four off Harmer) at least saved face.

Satisfaction, beyond the boost to the bank balance, can't be easy to find for an overseas player on a short-term Championship deal. Many are brought in because of a perceived immediate need and are expected to address it. In Maharaj's case, the second of his three matches, brought him a match-up against Harmer and, although his figures did not compare, he did remind all concerned that there was a shared responsibility for that.

Maharaj played conventionally until Patterson became the eighth Yorkshire batsman to be dismissed with Yorkshire nine ahead. He responded by striking Harmer for a straight six, a four to midwicket flew through Peter Siddle's hands in front of the pavilion - his only let-off, on 43 - and, two balls later, he flat-batted Harmer straighter over midwicket for a 46-ball 50.

That was enough for Essex's captain, Ryan ten Doeschate to have a brief chat with Harmer, whose lustre was further tarnished when Maharaj deposited a quicker ball onto the roof of the pavilion. It landed, apparently, close to a seagull's nest but, regretfully for Yorkshire, it was not of the mutant Elgin variety that has gained so much attention this week in which case legend has it that Essex's fielders could have been pecked into submission so affording Yorkshire an unexpected victory.

That eventuality not occurring, Harmer briefly switched to the Hayes Close End (a rare event) in search of a bigger leg-side boundary and Siddle was charged with sorting out his own mess, eventually plucking out Maharaj's leg stump with a length ball. Ben Coad, who had been the junior partner in a stand of 64 in 9.2 overs, was then caught at first slip as he made room to attack Jamie Porter.

That Yorkshire's innings would almost achieve nuisance value had seemed unlikely. They began the day on 38 for 3, still 82 behind, and in the first hour lost Adam Lyth and Harry Brook lbw to the seamers before Jonny Tattersall fell tamely, turning Harmer to backward short leg, standing in self-admonishment before allowing himself a kick at the crease.

Essex's chase was untroubled. Maharaj found consolation when he beat Tom Westley on the charge, but Duanne Olivier, who was denied the new ball in both innings, brought a shoddy end to proceedings with some pointless short stuff. The only problem he caused for Essex was in the pronunciation of his name which the PA announcer experimented with in an infinite number of ways.

Essex 4th innings Partnerships

1st22AN CookNLJ Browne
2nd39T WestleyNLJ Browne
3rd33NLJ BrowneDW Lawrence