<
>

Harmer's 14 inflicts grievous harm on Warwickshire's survival hopes

Essex 541 for 9 dec (Bopara 192, Foster 121, Browne 84, Patel 4-138) beat Warwickshire 283 (Hain 58, Harmer 6-92) and 94 (Harmer 8-36) by an innings and 164 runs
Scorecard

Simon Harmer did the hard yards on the third day. On the fourth, gifts were bestowed upon him. For Harmer, it all added up to his career-best figures of 8 for 36, and 14 for 128 in the match. For Warwickshire, dismissed for 94, it added up to a whole lot of trouble.

While Essex strengthened their hold at the top of Division One, Warwickshire are marooned with Somerset at the bottom, 40 points away from safety. Defeat by an innings and 164 runs underlined the extent of their challenge and, soon after the finish, their coaching team were huddled in earnest conversation.

As Harmer took the last wicket, in a hospitality box overlooking the ground Mohammad Amir confidently predicted that he could help Essex win the Championship. Neil Wagner departed with a magnum of champagne and public thanks during a lunchtime celebration - a sign that Essex are doing the small things well - and, in Amir, they have quite a replacement.

Ryan ten Doeschate, Essex's captain, was delighted with his side's response so soon after their last-over defeat in the Royal London Cup semi-final against Nottinghamshire. "Obviously Friday's defeat was massively disappointing, but it was up to us to bounce back and the Championship is vitally important," he said.

Bouncebackability owed much to Essex's first-innings batting, but it was ultimately down to Harmer. A switch of ends, a decision made late in Warwickshire's first innings, and a harder ball, both contributed to faster turn than he had achieved the previous day and Warwickshire succumbed shortly after lunch.

"We didn't think the wicket was going to turn all that much, hence we only played one spinner," said ten Doeschate. "Harmi is a turning spinner and there is not much more you can say about 14 wickets in the match. It was great for Harmi - he has predominantly done the holding job for the first six games of the year so to be able to fulfil that attacking role is a feather in his cap."

"The English summer has arrived," said Harmer with a smile. Hmm, perhaps somebody should have a word and warn him that it is an itinerant beast.

Harmer had put in a 39-over shift on the third day, the bulk of it to take 6 for 92 in the first innings, but there were immediate indications that he had managed to fall out of bed in decent order as he took up a central place in Essex's attack.

By the time he came on for the ninth over of the day, Essex's pace attack, encouraged by dark, thundery skies, had already struck. Ian Bell, a Warwickshire captain who must find a way out of a calamitous season, fell to an excellent diving catch by wicketkeeper James Foster after nicking a good ball from Wagner, which bounced a shade from a demanding line. There was no shame in that dismissal, although Bell had also edged just short of first slip earlier in the over.

Harmer needed just six deliveries to start adding to his tally, Andrew Umeed edging onto the back foot and falling lbw. In his next over, Sam Hain tried to bale out of what seemed to be a pre-meditated sweep, got in a tangle, and squirted a catch off one knee to ten Doeschate at short leg.

For the second time in the match, Rikki Clarke eschewed his attacking inclinations and concentrated largely on survival. The lbw decision against him that Harmer won was bound to get a few replays in the Warwickshire dressing room. Clarke shouldered arms to a good-length ball that pitched well outside off stump and was adjudged lbw. With his departure, Warwickshire's last chance had gone and Tim Ambrose cast his bat aside in frustration.

Next ball, Keith Barker tried to paddle the delivery away, got a top edge and was caught behind by Foster. Jeetan Patel, whose leg-side assault had damaged Harmer's figures in the first innings, fell lbw. By lunch, Harmer's morning's work amounted to 5 for 31 off 15 overs.

The lunch interval was delayed by 15 minutes, without success, to try to complete the match, but Warwickshire's last two wickets did not delay overlong thereafter. Boyd Rankin was lbw to surely the slowest, loopiest full toss that Harmer has ever bowled, leaving Sunny Singh to push a turning delivery to first slip in the next over.

So the pitch upon which Essex suffered a heartbreaking 50-over defeat had provided consolation by wearing sufficiently quickly for Harmer's benefit. Patel, a fellow offspinner, and a fine one at that, will rue the fact that Warwickshire lost the toss and imagine that he might also have felt the benefit.

But luck rarely runs with a side at the bottom of the table. It is Essex who have become the story of the summer. Their top six has been sheltered from the storm by Alastair Cook and will soon have to prove its mettle without him. Harmer is the signing of the summer and the combative qualities of Wagner are about to give way to the sheen of Amir. And a clutch of promising young pace bowlers are a reminder that Essex remain committed to unearthing their own.

Chris Silverwood, a coach with a rising reputation, was absent from the final day because he was feeling unwell, but there was much good news to aid his recovery.