Somerset take the plaudits after Dutch display
Essex 231 (Jefferson 75, Dutch 5-65) and 36 for 1 drew with Somerset 400 for 3 dec (Bowler 187*, Burns 124*) at Chelmsford
Unless you happened to be a Leicestershire batsman, this week's round of county matches were draws from the moment they were conceived. Nevertheless, Essex had to struggle for their share of the match at Chelmsford. After being forced to follow on by Somerset, they lost Will Jefferson to the first ball of their second innings, and had struggled to 36 for 1 by the time bad light ended the match with 24.5 overs remaining.
Peter Bowler's unbeaten 187 was the highlight of the third day, but the fourth belonged to the offspinning allrounder Keith Dutch, who picked up 5 for 65 as Essex were bowled out for 231 - a deficit of 169. Dutch has an affinity with all things Essex. Four years ago, while still playing for Middlesex, he picked up a career-best 6 for 62, again at Chelmsford. And then last season, after his move west, he cracked them for his highest first-class score of 118 at Taunton.
Only two men stood in Dutch's way during Essex's innings. Jefferson may have picked up a golden duck in the follow-on, but had it not been for his bullish 85 in the first innings, Essex's plight would have been all the worse. Even so, when he became the second of Dutch's victims at 131 for 4, Essex were still 269 adrift. Mark Pettini followed swiftly for 10, and when Andrew Caddick grabbed his two wickets of the match in consecutive deliveries, Essex had slumped to 173 for 7.
Not for the first time this season, James Foster sensed an chance to nudge the selectors. His hundred for MCC in the season's curtain-raiser came at an opportune moment, after Chris Read had been dropped as England's Test wicketkeeper, and now he proved once again that he has a cool head in a crisis. His unbeaten 75 came from 101 balls with 10 fours and a six, and enabled Essex's last six wickets to add exactly 100. Hardly riches, but useful nonetheless.
Alistair Cook, Andy Flower and the fading light prevented Somerset from stealing the match at the death, although Somerset themselves were feeling the strain by the close. Their fitness coach Andy Hurry and the first-team coach Kevin Shine were both pressed into action as replacements for Peter Bowler, who was stiff after his third-day heroics, and Richard Johnson, who bowled just one over before pulling up with discomfort in the knee on which he had an operation over the winter.