Wheater fifty aids Essex draw
Essex 291 and 196 for 7 drew with Middlesex 385 and 211 for 6 dec
Adam Wheater's highest score for Essex helped them to a battling draw in their County Championship Division Two match against Middlesex at Chelmsford. The 21-year-old middle order batsman struck 76 as the home side were content to finish on 196 for 7 after being set the formidable target of 306 in a minimum of 53 overs.
Essex were never able to mount any sort of challenge after Tim Murtagh had got rid of Jaik Mickleburgh, Owais Shah and Mark Pettini in the space of 16 deliveries at a cost of just four runs. Shah was bowled without scoring following his 96 in the first innings.
But after destroying the top order, Murtagh retired to the pavilion with a knee problem and although he later returned he did not bowl again. Anthony Ireland, who completed Murtagh's unfinished over, went on to pick up the wickets of Ravi Bopara and Matt Walker to reduce Essex to 80 for 5.
However, Wheater and James Foster resisted for a further 20 overs. During that time they added 95, with the pugnacious Wheater playing the major role. He wasted no opportunity to drive and pull with power and authority as he helped himself to 13 boundaries in an innings which spanned 83 balls.
In the end he succumbed to legspinner Dawid Malan, who followed up that success by removing Graham Napier - both batsmen falling lbw while playing back. But Foster, following his half-century in the first innings, and Tim Phillips carried Essex to safety and no doubt left visiting captain Neil Dexter wishing he had declared earlier to give his bowlers more time to try to force victory.
Foster finished with 44, a superb effort of defiance which spanned 94 deliveries. Murtagh had figures of three wickets for nine runs from 5.2 overs, while Ireland and Malan each picked up two victims at a cost of 51 and 10 runs respectively.
Earlier, Middlesex declared on 211 for 6, with the bulk of their runs coming from opener Chris Rogers and Dexter. Rogers' aggression brought him 10 fours in an innings of 63 which spanned 60 balls, before 17-year-old paceman Reece Topley trapped him leg before wicket.
Dexter finished on an unbeaten 73 from 86 deliveries, which contained one six and eight fours. Fast bowler David Masters was the pick of the Essex attack with 4 for 61 from 18 overs. Middlesex emerged from the game with 10 points which keeps them in third place in the table, while Essex had to settle for seven.