Lancashire 319 (Vilas 74) and 317 for 3 dec (Davies 140*, Vilas 92*) drew with Essex 159 (Bopara 46, Parry 3-28) and 316 for 6 (Lawrence 141*, Westley 61)
Sometimes a teenager just won't be budged. Lancashire went into the final day at Chelmsford needing eight wickets for victory but they foundered on the rock of Dan Lawrence, Essex's 19-year-old No. 4, who refused to cooperate for a full seven hours in order to help save the game for his side. Lawrence finished unbeaten on 141, having faced 333 balls, and was applauded from the field at around 6pm as Lancashire finally conceded the draw.
James Anderson, England's leading Test wicket-taker, was foremost among the six Lancashire bowlers he kept at bay. It was an innings of immense application, even more so because of Lawrence's youth; for the home supporters, watching a local player dig their side out of a rather large hole, it was an especially soothing sight. Lawrence had resumed overnight on 17 off 53 and batted throughout the day, offering nothing so much as a chance during his longest first-class innings. This teenager clearly doesn't shirk hard work.
"It was certainly my most important innings," Lawrence said. "First game of the year, there's obviously always nerves around and it was nice to bat a long period of time for the team. It's still not a win, so we can't really celebrate too much but to get the team out of a tricky situation was nice.
"It was more of a mental battle for myself today, I never normally try and play innings like that, I try and put the pressure back on the bowlers. It was nice to bat all day. I took it ball by ball and then, when I wasn't batting, tried to switch off. I honestly didn't believe I could [bat all day]. It's obviously very nice that I did and it's a very good start to the year for me."
Having conceded a 160-run first-innings lead, Essex fought with impressive zeal to stave off defeat in their first match back in Division One. While the pitch seemed to have lost the pace that contributed to 21 wickets falling on the first two days, there was still just enough to keep Lancashire interested; the dismissal of Ryan ten Doeschate inside the final hour left Essex hanging on but that was the last wicket to fall. It is more than a decade since Essex batted out as many as 133.4 overs in the fourth innings.
Alongside Lawrence, and ten Doeschate's doughty 110-ball 41 during a century stand for the sixth wicket that chewed up almost 38 overs, Essex were indebted to Tom Westley's 61, carefully compiled from 190 deliveries. His innings was chanceless on the final day, until his dismissal - although he had benefited from two drops on the previous evening - and helped lay the platform for Essex's escape.
Having gone wicketless during the morning session, Lancashire finally managed to shoulder open a window of opportunity when Stephen Parry turned a delivery past Westley's hesitant defensive prod - his footwork perhaps compromised by the sight of a grubber shooting through the ball before - to hit off stump. At that stage, there were still more than 50 overs left and Lancashire looked a good bet for victory as Kyle Jarvis struck twice with the second new ball.
Talk, understandably, will be of an England future for Lawrence. He is a loquacious talent with the bat. In 2015, he announced himself with 161 at The Oval, at 17 years and 290 days the third-youngest player to score a Championship hundred. Last season, he passed 1000 first-class runs at a little under 50. Still only 19, he now has a first Division One hundred - scored against a Lancashire attack featuring Anderson among three bowlers with Test experience.
With a Gooch-like backlift allied to nimble feet, Lawrence is set up to play all the shots. He has wrists like Stretch Armstrong but this innings was about unbending defensive technique and bucketloads of concentration. After lunch, Lancashire went with leg theory, asking Jordan Clark to hit the middle of the pitch while deploying short leg, midwicket, backward square leg, deep square leg and fine leg. Lawrence sized up the field, stood tall and pulled Clark's first ball for four, picking a path through all obstacles.
Anderson did trouble him once, a short delivery with the second new ball thudding into Lawrence's chest; but he shook it off and reapplied himself. It was against Anderson, switching to the River End, that he brought up his fifth first-class hundred, with a glance wide of fine leg from the 216th ball he had faced.
At that stage, Essex nerves were still fraying. The value of Parry's breakthrough was immediately enhanced as Lancashire took the second new ball and while Ravi Bopara received a decent delivery from Jarvis, which got him coming forwards before straightening to graze the edge, Adam Wheater presented Lancashire with a lavish gift by driving at a wide half-volley and plopping a catch to cover, where Haseeb Hameed just about held on. Having replaced James Foster behind the stumps because of his prowess in front of them, Wheater collected a pair of 1s.
Anderson was captaining Lancashire in the place of Steven Croft, who hurt his thumb while batting on the first day. He kept himself on for most of the first hour, delivering an exacting spell of 8-5-9-0, but was unable to get much out of Essex's third-wicket pair - perhaps beyond a pithy word or two in reply. Anderson kicked the turf in frustration after Lawrence pulled him smoothly for four and looked to have been offering advice to both batsmen in the over, though it was received cordially enough.
Lawrence spent the winter playing for Wanneroo in Perth, so he has presumably learnt how to deal with sledging. His first scoring shot of the day was about as close as he came to a misjudgement, when a thick inside edge off Jarvis flew to fine leg for four, and he was the first to reach his fifty, overtaking his partner. Westley was equally sure-footed, bringing up his half-century shortly before lunch as Essex controlled the morning session - but it was Lawrence who would carry the day.