Glamorgan 256 for 7 (Carlson 101*, Morgan 51*, Napier 4-46) v Essex
Delayed at the start of the day by the absence of Glamorgan's equipment from the ground, Essex were delayed at the end by the presence of a record-breaking teenager at the crease. Needing six points to confirm promotion and the Division Two title, Essex managed two in short order before Kiran Carlson's maiden first-class hundred staved off a seemingly inexorable collapse. At 18 years and 119 days, Carlson became the youngest player to score a first-class century for Glamorgan.
These are heady days at the ECG but Essex are not yet champions and Carlson's unheralded intervention - his previous best score in four innings was 10 - meant the metaphorical bunting that was being brought out by the time Graham Napier's fourth wicket reduced Glamorgan to 83 for 6 had to be stowed away by the close. As if to compound the frustration Napier, playing in his last home match before retirement, limped off during the afternoon and will have to wait until the morning to find out how much more of a role he can play.
A club that have become so used to near misses have embraced their status as frontrunners warily. The Essex members who had seen their team finish third in each of the last three seasons were convinced that, with only one promotion spot available as the ECB whittles away a couple of games from the Championship schedule, this would doubtless be the year they finished second. Three innings wins in a row at the climax of the season - not to mention Kent's welcome capitulation against Northamptonshire last week - has grudgingly brought people around.
They have become used to waiting, however, and the news that the start would be put back, ultimately by an hour and a half, because Glamorgan's kit van was stuck on the A12 was met with ironic chuckles by those Essex fans who had got in early to see every moment of a game that is expected to be a coronation. Bonus points alone could be enough to see Essex go up - they lead Kent, who only have one game left, by 20 points and Sussex by 43 - and this game pitted the team with the most wins in Division Two against the team with the most losses.
Napier began the first spell of his final appearance at Chelmsford with two wickets in two balls and it was all beginning to seem disconcertingly easy. It took the contributions of a couple of young Welshmen to give the Essex worry ball a squeeze, as Carlson and Owen Morgan put on an unbroken 129 during the second half of a shortened day. Truly a case of better late than never for Glamorgan.
Carlson took a five-for with his offspin on debut at Northamptonshire a couple of weeks ago but this performance, eclipsing that of Mike Llewellyn in 1972, was less of a surprise. Batting at No. 6, he produced several stylish drives and cuts among plenty of watchful accumulation that was capped off by a scampered single to bring up three figures and an ovation from his team-mates on the balcony.
"I am more of a batsman, it's lovely to get my first hundred under my belt pretty soon into my career," he said. "It's amazing, I can't put into words how I feel. When you start playing cricket, aged seven or eight, you go and watch Glamorgan and think that could be me in a few years. It's great to have Welsh boys doing well."
To emphasise the latter point, his team-mate Morgan then went on to conduct an interview in Welsh. Both players gave chances, with Carlson dropped on 67 in the gully by Daniel Lawrence - a sharp catch that would have given Napier his five-for - and coming close to running himself out on 81. Morgan was put down at second slip when he had 7, by Nick Browne off Ravi Bopara, and gave a tough caught-and-bowled opportunity to Jamie Porter when had reached his half-century.
Glamorgan's young batsmen are making their mark. Carlson was the fourth Glamorgan player aged 22 or under to score a first-class hundred this season and three of them are Welsh born: reasons for pride in a challenging season.
After a sorry morning session (which technically began at noon), it appeared losing their bats on the motorway had been Glamorgan's best chance of holding Essex up. A great cheer went up from the pavilion when the van was spotted driving in through the gate shortly before 11.30am - an hour after the scheduled start due to an accident on the motorway - and it was as if the Chelmsford regulars knew what was in store.
Glamorgan were initially compliant extras. Jacques Rudolph requested a toss, doubtless concluding that the pitch was firm enough and the sun high enough to bankroll a day of batting if only the opening exchanges against the new ball could be won; he and Nick Selman then got through nearly a dozen overs of fretful playing and missing before Napier, the local hero and man for this season of all seasons, took centre stage.
His fifth delivery was full and wide - it is probably not a calumny to call it a half-volley - but Rudolph's flailing bat could only deflect a thick edge to second slip. The next ball, to Will Bragg, offered no such margin for error and thudded into the front pad, Steve O'Shaugnessy's front finger duly raised. Graham Gooch, watching on from the executives boxes, might well have repeated his enquiry to Ian Botham in 1986: "Who writes your scripts?"
The slide became 3 for 0 in six balls when Selman was bowled by Porter - Essex's other 50-wicket bowler this year - and although Aneurin Donald stroked Napier's hat-trick delivery through the covers for four, he followed David Lloyd back to the pavilion a couple of overs later as the carefully piloted Glamorgan dirigible plummeted from the cautious optimism of 30 for 0 to the grim reality of 34 for 5. It was all too much for one wag to resist the question: their kit has turned up but have Glamorgan? Time for Carlson and Morgan to deliver a pithy riposte.