Gloucestershire v Essex, Bristol, 3rd day May 31, 2011

Late strikes give Essex victory chance

Gloucestershire 255 and 37 for 2 v Essex 321 v

Half-centuries from Adam Wheater and Owais Shah and two late wickets from David Masters helped put Essex on top in the County Championship Division Two match with Gloucestershire at Bristol.

Wheater (69) and Shah (51) led Essex to 321 and a first-innings advantage of 66, despite the best efforts of Gloucestershire veteran Jon Lewis, who took 4 for 65. Gloucestershire were left with 19 overs to bat and Masters accounted for Ian Cockbain, caught at third slip, and Richard Coughtrie, bowled, before the hosts reached 37 for 2 at stumps - with Kane Williamson on 22 and Chris Taylor on 9.

Essex started the day on 25 without loss and Mark Pettini and Jaik Mickleburgh extended their partnership to 65 before the the former fell leg before wicket to David Payne for 37. Mickleburgh and Shah put on 42 for the second wicket, before Gloucestershire were boosted by two dismissals just before lunch.

Gloucestershire skipper Alex Gidman struck in his first over from the Jessop Stand End when Mickleburgh, on 42, edged to wicketkeeper Coughtrie. Then Ravi Bopara, on nought, pushed forward to a delivery from Lewis and had his off stump uprooted.

Shah and Matthew Walker added 47 in confident fashion before the latter got a leading edge to a ball from Will Gidman and skied a catch to Williamson at midwicket. Ryan ten Doeschate got his innings off to a brisk start with a succession of boundaries and with Shah looking in fine form at the other end, Essex were in the ascendancy.

Shah brought up his 101-ball half-century with a pulled boundary off Alex Gidman, but departed three deliveries later when he was lbw playing back to the Gloucestershire captain. Ten Doeschate, in his first Championship game since returning from the IPL, had eased his way to 44 from 49 balls when he pushed forward to off-spinner Williamson and was bowled.

Soon after, Wheater reached an impressive 61-ball half-century with a single to deep mid-on off Williamson, in the last over before tea, which Essex took on 277 for 6. Gloucestershire were able to take the second new ball two overs after the interval and Lewis and Ian Saxelby used it to good effect to claim the last four wickets for 22 runs.

Wheater, who had hit eight fours in his 69, was the first to go when he played forward and was lbw to Lewis. Saxelby had James Foster taken low at second slip by Chris Dent, and he held another catch in the next over when a sharp-rising Lewis delivery found the edge of Chris Wright's bat.

Lewis brought the innings to an end when teenager Reece Topley was caught behind by Coughtrie.