Mickleburgh holds up Essex batting
Essex 248 for 9 v Durham
Jaik Mickleburgh again showed his liking for the Durham attack with another polished effort that underpinned the Essex innings in the Country Championship clash at Chelmsford. The 20-year-old right-hander, who took 174 off Durham earlier this season, struck 72 as Essex closed on 248 for 9 on a day cut short by 10 overs because of rain.
Despite Mickleburgh's contribution, Essex nevertheless appear doomed to drop into the second division next season. They already seem to have accepted that fact as they went into this match without leading wicket-taker David Masters, preferring to rest the fast bowler ahead of Saturday's Clydesdale Bank 40 semi-final with Somerset.
Mickleburgh, whose 10 boundaries included a straight-driven six against spinner Ian Blackwell, survived a scare on 59 when wicketkeeper Phil Mustard, at full stretch, failed to hold on to a catch offered against Ben Harmison. But it did not prove too expensive as 13 runs later he drove straight into the hands of Dale Benkenstein at mid-off when Scott Borthwick gave one of his leg breaks a little more air.
It was not such a rewarding day for England opener Alastair Cook. He progressed to 33 without too much trouble but then undid his good work by pulling a delivery from Liam Plunkett into the hands of Mitchell Claydon at square leg. Matt Walker was another to perish in the 30s, turning Blackwell into the hands of Mark Stoneman at leg slip after helping Mickleburgh add 74 for the third wicket.
Following Mickleburgh's dismissal, skipper James Foster reached 20 for the first time in eight Championship innings and also guided Essex to their first batting point in four games.
But there was little else to cheer the Essex faithful, with Durham making inroads at regular intervals. Foster had moved to within eight runs of his half century, an effort containing seven boundaries, when he was trapped leg before by Plunkett with the second new ball.
Plunkett's two wickets came at a cost of 27 runs while spinners Blackwell and Borthwick also picked up two scalps apiece at a cost of 30 and 41 runs respectively.