Essex v Surrey, Specsavers Championship Div One, Chelmsford, 2nd day May 27, 2017

Lawrence rallies Essex after Sangakkara 200

Essex 215 for 3 (Lawrence 78*, Bopara 33*) trail Surrey 369 (Sangakkara 200, S Curran 90, Porter 4-89) by 154 runs

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Sometimes, the feeling in county cricket is that the moments to savour come from the same old faces. That's not necessarily a complaint: when Kumar Sangakkara, five centuries on the bounce, turned his 319th ball to square leg to bring up his maiden double hundred for Surrey and 14th of his first class career, no one booed.

But once Stuart Meaker fell one short of a first fifty in three seasons, Sangakkara had to do it all on his own. And while he was able to farm the strike successfully and pick off the remaining runs for 200, he fell trying and failing to clear the ropes down the ground, towards the media box. That's when Dan Lawrence stepped up with a high-class knock that occupied most of what remained of the day.

They think he'll play for England in these parts. The reasons are plentiful: the runs, the wrists, the way he assesses and subsequently plays to various match situations. All this with a home-spun technique that is a nod to the game's diversity within Essex.

It's important not to focus too much on the flourishes, such as the way he hits through point like he's lassoing cattle or how he could probably take a wall for a walk through midwicket if he fancied. There is a maturity that now underpins his game that was evident during his unbeaten 141 that saved Essex against Lancashire in the opening game of the season.

Today, he arrived with the score 87 for 2: Tom Westley had just departed playing a loose drive to Sam Curran. Hardly precarious, but a measured head was welcome. Seventeen overs later, Nick Browne, having just brought up his first fifty of the season from 150 deliveries, somehow stuck a short ball from Meaker into the hands of Tom Curran at midwicket, when it should have cleared the pavilion at square leg.

That, though, was the last bit of joy Surrey had, as Ravi Bopara and Lawrence batted for the remaining 33 overs of day two, putting on 89 to cut the deficit to 154. Lawrence resumes tomorrow 22 away from a second century of the season.

Essex got their innings off to a good start partly because Rory Burns, captaining in the absence of Gareth Batty from this match, was happy to leave cover and mid-off open to entice drives. The thinking was laudable but Nick Browne and Alastair Cook were more than happy to tuck in before lunch, going into the interval on 58 for no loss after 13 overs.

That gameplay was tweaked to good effect at the start of the second session when Tom Curran, Ravi Rampaul and Sam Curran combined in a tighter 12 overs which saw only 19 runs scored. Tom Curran's persistence, hammering away at a length from both sides of the wicket, saw him pick up Cook for 36, as the former England captain tried to manufacture runs into the leg side by moving across his stumps.

With 25 overs gone in the Essex innings, Burns turned to Amar Virdi for an unbroken spell of 19 overs, his first in first-class cricket, which crossed into the evening session. While he didn't fill the wicket column, he did return an economy rate of 2.21, three maidens and a handful of deliveries that spun sharply past the outside edge. He is certainly not afraid of giving it a rip.

Virdi first represented Surrey at Under-12 level but also spent time in Middlesex's age-group sides as he searched for his best route into the professional game. That eventually came last August when a scholarship contract was followed up with a full three-year deal which is due to last until the end of the 2019 season. Impressing showings for England U19s - he took 5 for 77 on Test debut against Sri Lanka last summer - and Surrey's 2nd XI have furthered his progress.

He cites Pakistan and Surrey's Saqlain Mushtaq as a hero of his and looks to have adopted Saqlain's front arm. Looking to a man who took 424 first-class wickets for Surrey at an average of 21.86 should steer him right.

There were of course moments when things didn't go his way: his second delivery in first-class cricket was a full toss that Browne bunted down the ground for four and another allowed Bopara to get off the mark with an easy four through cover. While there are of course things to work on, there seems to be a lot more to work with.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Devinderpal Singh on May 28, 2017, 3:07 GMT

    As Ansari has rightly retired as he was never good enough in the first place (if he was good enough, he could achieved something of note for England, and left like Rosberg in F1 did), and with Batty imminently retiring due to age, Virdi will be Surrey's primary spinner, so with security over his spot, and the chance to work with Mushtaq for a long while (rather than the ridiculous idea of short-term consultants), I'll restate that Leach and Virdi will be an excellent pair in Asian conditions, if England allows 2 spinners without batting ability to play!

    Diatribe over, if Essex can bat for about 75 overs at a decent rate, they should get a lead between 50 and 100, which isn't much, but a mirror image start with the ball, and they might be able to bowl out Surrey and chase the small target down. In reality though, the match is probably going to be a draw, though a Surrey win is less likely than an Essex win. Still, 5 matches and no losses would be impressive for a promoted side. P2.

  • Devinderpal Singh on May 28, 2017, 2:57 GMT

    After the dreadful Test series's of Bangladesh and India, I said that the next time England tour Asia, Jack Leach and Amar Virdi will be the two best spinners in Eng and Wales, and should be treated as such. Leach's supposed dodgy action should have been risked (given no county umpire called him), and if he got called for his action, Eng could easily revert to what they love: fast bowlers in abundance, even in Asian conditions. In Virdi's case, I was also making the argument that Eng should have picked him for the tours, if only to expose him to the ins-and-outs of the Eng set-up, but alas, there is no foresight with the spinners, and Eng's choices in Batty and Ansari were a stunning failure. Side note: somehow, Bayliss deemed it to be acceptable to hand a Test debut to Liam Dawson, on a plate, despite having exhibited no first-class spin-bowling skill. At the international level, he is a limited-overs cricketer only. P1.

  • Kevin on May 28, 2017, 0:15 GMT

    Shame Essex couldnt push on after that first morning but a lot of it was down to good balls as opposed to bad batting as evidenced by today. Lawrence has the talent and depending on which spaces crop up in the England lineup I dont think it will be too long before we see him representing. Draw has to be the favoured outcome but will sweat a bit if Essex lose a cheap few on Sunday mornig!

  • Lee on May 27, 2017, 20:00 GMT

    Draw on the cards...without Sanga this could have been humiliating for Surrey after being 5 down so cheap. Lawrence will undoubtedly play for England...he is sheer class but so will Sam Curran. Still so young but showing he can do it with both bat and ball...he is more of a test player than his brother who is certainly a more accomplished limited overs player at this time. If we can get close to surreys score we have a chance...but we need more from our overseas signing.

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