Glamorgan again hope for weather fortune
Glamorgan 244 (Bragg 93, Cooke 68, Topley 6-41) and 188 for 8 (Topley 4-44) lead Essex 280 (Foster 86, Pettini 51, Hogan 3-76, Wagg 3-59) by 152 runs
It's often said that luck, over the course of a season, evens itself out. Last week, Glamorgan's push for a victory, in a game they had governed from the outset, was rebuffed by a combination of rain and bad light: the Cardiff faithful were cursing their misfortune. Here, they are hoping for a similar outcome, but only this time it will be they who will be hoping for assistance from the elements.
It's unlikely that Toby Radford and his players will be seen performing a rain this evening - such measures are unlikely to be required on the basis of the bleak forecast for the final day - but their backs are firmly against the wall.
On a surface that has facilitated nothing more than uncomplicated, put it on a right length seam bowling, only Reece Topley - on his first Championship appearance of the season - has consistently done just that; as his match figures of 10 for 92 affirms. But while Topley has broken the back of Glamorgan with a stellar display of swing bowling, Tom Moore, in only his second first-class outing, has provided consummate support.
The pair combined to account for seven of the eight Glamorgan wickets that fell on a day when the covers were pulled hither and thither. Still, Essex are not quite on the victory trail yet. Resistance by the infallible Jim Allenby and a late cameo from No. 10 Michael Hogan meant the visitors stayed afloat for the night.
In the brief time they were together in the middle before the close, the lead was extended past the 150 mark with an unbeaten 22-run stand and with the prospects of play on Wednesday looking increasingly improbable, it's likely such defiance will be enough to ensure defeat is avoided.
That said, Essex won't fancy chasing anything more than what's on the board currently on a surface that thus far, batsmen have made survival even look an arduous task. Again though, there were cameos throughout the day that reaffirmed the theory that there are no demons in this pitch.
If there are any, Topley has certainly unearthed them. He resumed where he had left off on Sunday, bouncing in from the River End with vigour, using all of his six foot plus frame to extract pace and bounce that others have failed to find. He was relentless for much of the day, switching his point of attack like a yo-yo and outfoxing the batsmen with a combination of in- and out-swingers.
Such tactics worked to a tee but it was a more direct approach that yielded dividends for Moore at the other end. After failing to find any rhythm early-on, he returned with greater aggression after a two-hour rain delay in the afternoon to dismantle the Glamorgan lower-order.
In near-identical circumstances, both Graham Wagg and Dean Cosker were undone by his pace and tamely chipped straight to the gleeful Greg Smith at midwicket. But it was his dismissal of Bragg that caught the eye. Bragg was solid and well-organised as he combined defence and attack to great effect but pushed his hands at one that should have been left to edge to Jesse Ryder, who took a sublime catch at wide second-slip.
Bragg and Jacques Rudolph had punished Essex's profligacy with conviction. Matt Salisbury, in particular, strayed too often onto the pads and neither left-hander needed a second invitation to tuck into such bowling.
But, right on the verge of lunch, the dynamic of the game swung in Essex's favour. Having trundled in for his first couple of deliveries, Ryder sent down a near unplayable one to Rudolph and James Foster did the rest, diving away to his right to cling onto a fine inside edge one-handed.
From that juncture, the momentum was with the hosts. Topley returned to claim three in quick succession - including an unerringly accurate yorker that trapped Mark Wallace in front - but it remains to be seen if his exploits will prove to be in vain.