Yorkshire 81 for 3 trail Essex 403 (Walter 141, Cook 107, Harmer 54) by 322 runs
There is only one Nobel Prize winner to have played first-class cricket – and it is not hard to see why the game appealed to Samuel Beckett. Waiting is a practically part of the mise-en-scene
. And so, while the players of Essex and Yorkshire embraced their roles to the full during an engaging tussle at Chelmsford – and other protagonists commanded the stage in far-flung parts of the county circuit – Joe Root
stood in the wings and readied himself for a first bat of the summer.
His wait was extended into day three, presumably at his own discretion after the fall of Yorkshire’s second wicket with 6.5 of the scheduled overs remaining. The batter emerging from the marquee serving as the away team dressing room turned out not to be Root 66, but Revis 77
, 20-year-old allrounder Matthew promoted up the order as nightwatchman.
With England’s new Test captain, Ben Stokes
, launching himself into the season with trademark vigour at the expense of Worcestershire’s bowlers
, and a number of Root’s international team-mates past and present notching hundreds already in this round of Championship action, the sense was that Yorkshire’s No. 4 would be champing at the bit to do his bit. But there was no requirement to add to the three overs of offspin he bowled on day one, and he largely remained inscrutable behind his shades while trooping from mid-on to fine leg as Essex extended Yorkshire’s stay in the field to five sessions.
Perhaps his reticence come the evening was well judged: Root made 0 and 2 on his first visit to Chelmsford in 2012
, and a golden duck when Yorkshire were bowled out for 50
on this ground (but still went on to win) four years ago. On this much flatter surface, Essex chiselled out the wickets of Adam Lyth, George Hill and Dimuth Karunaratne – to the last ball of the day – as Root opted against an examination by Sam Cook, Shane Snater and Simon Harmer in the fading light.
It may have ranked a few notches below Root’s much-anticipated return to the fray – or Stokes teeing off at New Road, for that matter – but the morning began in Chelmsford with all eyes on Paul Walter
, the high-tower Essex batter in search of his maiden first-class hundred. Walter had been 89 not out overnight, having spent the large part of day one putting in place Essex’s foundations alongside Alastair Cook
, and there was an atmosphere of expectancy around the County Ground as the members bustled in to take their places.
They could afford to take their time, safe in the knowledge that Walter would not be rushing to the landmark. Having been out for 93 against Northamptonshire last week – just shy of his first-class best, the 96 he made against Gloucestershire last season – and after enjoying a couple of reprieves on Thursday, this was an opportunity not to be passed up.
To the complete absence of ball-by-ball updates on Sky Sports News and hastily compiled Twitter highlights packages, Walter ticked along in his quest. He started by playing out a maiden from Jordan Thompson, moved into the 90s with a push to mid-off, then crept closer with a sliced drive wide of the slip cordon for four. Thompson came perilously close to locating his outside edge on 98, but after 45 minutes of the morning session – and 28 balls in the 90s – a fine leg glance ran away to the rope and enabled Walter to remove his helmet and raise his bat for the first time in professional cricket.
Walter knows a bit about waiting, too, having made his Essex debut in 2016 (batting at No. 10
) as a 22-year-old. His hundred came off 263 balls, although despite an increasingly lugubrious reputation in the longer format, he was first brought into the set-up on the back of his long-levered hitting in T20 – one mighty six in a 2nd XI fixture leaving its mark on a window pane in Chelmsford’s famously compact press box.
There was an occasional glimpse of higher gears, such as when Walter thumped Dom Bess into the hospitality suites at cow corner, but no sense that Essex were keen to set about Root and Co. with the ball. Such was their dedication to platform-building, that you might have imagined this was in fact Cape Canaveral readying for a space launch (under the aegis of NASA Hussain, of course). At the 110-over cut-off, they were still well shy of 300 and a third batting bonus point, with Walter and the nightwatchman, Sam Cook
, batting through most of the morning in compiling a 73-run stand.
Yorkshire were complicit, with both Walter and Matt Critchley put down in consecutive overs from Dom Bess. But the drawback of Essex’s stodgy approach became apparent when they promptly lost 5 for 24 in the space of 16.3 overs after lunch. After more than six hours at the crease, Walter could be forgiven a tired swipe at Bess, to be caught at backward point, but Essex’s middle order then departed in a hurry: Adam Rossington missed his first ball from Bess, which hit the top of off, before Feroze Khushi was given out caught behind and Critchley bowled by one which perhaps kept a touch low.
From 303 for 3, and seemingly intent on batting their way into an impregnable position, the Essex innings was threatening to subside for less than 350. It took some calculated biffing from Harmer, with five fours and three sixes in his half-century, to lift them above 400 – the last-wicket pair adding 58 at almost exactly a run a ball, and extending Root’s spell patrolling the outfield a little longer.