Essex 114 (Podmore 4-34) and 153 for 7 (Wheater 30*) beat Kent 226 (Bell-Drummond 55, Podmore 54*, S Cook 5-42, Amir 4-48) and 40 (S Cook 7-23) by three wickets
Running a casual eye over the scorecard from this chaotic match you would be forgiven for assuming that the pitch was a snake pit on which batting was impossible.
Let us begin with the raw facts from day three: 275 runs scored for the loss of 26 wickets. Kent bowled out for the fourth-lowest County Championship total in their history. Two top-order Essex batsmen dismissed for a pair in a day. Twelve batsmen adjudged lbw. No one reaching double-figures in Kent's innings despite the country's leading wicket-taker, Simon Harmer, not even coming on to bowl. Even Jamie Porter was required to deliver only 13 balls, which was enough for him to pick up Kent's last wicket.
These facts tell a part of the story, but not all of it by any means. Some of the batting was shambolic. Dan Lawrence shuffled across his stumps twice, was correctly given out and twice looked bemused at his perceived misfortune. Twice Ravi Bopara decided attack was the best form of defence. Twice he got a nick, plunging his side into disarray.
That Essex survived to register a vital win that keeps them top of the Division One and places enormous pressure on Somerset to chase down 258 runs to beat Warwickshire at Edgbaston on the final day was down in no small part to Adam Wheater and Harmer. Their partnership of 57 was the highest of the day and it rescued Essex from the depths of 84 for 6 to bring them within 12 runs of victory.
A feature of this match-winning effort was Harmer's willingness to bat out of his crease, advancing on the trio of Kent seamers and negating what was on offer from the pitch. It came as something of a huge surprise when he was trapped lbw as, unlike his more garlanded team mates, he actually seemed to have a plan, and the technique to pull it off.
The more worrying story of the day was the almost complete absence of nous on show from any of the other batsmen, Alastair Cook and Wheater excepted. All too often batsmen shuffled across their stumps pushing at deliveries that either shaped ever so slightly away from groping bats on to the edge and into the grateful hands of slips and wicketkeeper, or cut ever so slightly back past the inside edge on to pads placed demonstrably in front of stumps.
One former Test cricketer was beside himself with frustration as front-foot defensive qualities appeared almost entirely absent from the day's proceedings.
Credit must be given to Sam Cook, whose 7 for 23 in Kent's second innings was a model of remorselessly consistent line and length bowling. He was ably and poignantly assisted by Mohammed Amir, playing in perhaps his last first-class match. He produced the ball of the day, a true snorter that lifted on Sam Billings, giving the Kent captain no chance as he feathered an edge through to Wheater.
The match had resumed with Essex on 32 for 1 in their first innings and most people were expecting a tight finish late on day four. Kent confounded those expectations the moment evergreen veteran Darren Stevens, 43, trapped Cook bang in front with the score on 40. Thereafter it was a procession. Stevens sent down 15 overs for his three wickets, conceding just 17 runs, while Harry Podmore was an able foil bowling down the hill. That they were both made to strap on their bowling boots again two hours and 20 minutes after dismissing Essex - which included the 40-minute break for lunch - didn't help Kent's cause as the match went deep into the final session.
Perhaps that lead of 112 that Kent took into their second innings encouraged a laissez-faire approach; each batsman expecting someone else to score the 30 or 40 runs that would have been enough to build an impregnable position. If so, this would be uncharacteristic from a side that has shown great resolve this season, and largely refused to be rolled over. Perhaps there was more in the pitch than any of us could see up in the commentary box, but it would be hugely surprising if Kent get sanctioned for this surface.
Rather, we might best dwell on Essex's extraordinary resilience. Since their return to Division One three seasons ago they have played 38 matches (not counting the total washout at Headingley last season). They have won 25 of them. Somerset are going to have to respond strongly or the title will likely be heading back to Chelmsford for the second time in three years.