Simon Harmer returned his best first-class match haul as Essex stunted Hampshire’s LV= Insurance County Championship charge in a three-day thriller.
Off-spinner Harmer, who bowled unchanged on day three, claimed seven for 161 to go alongside his eight for 46 in the first innings to return 15 for 207.
Hampshire, who were only three points behind leaders Surrey ahead of the match, were only 12 runs shy of victory after Felix Organ’s 65, and contributions from Ian Holland, Ben Brown, Aneurin Donald, Keith Barker and Kyle Abbott got them unbelievably close to their 299-run target.
Harmer was frustrated initially as Organ and Holland played with a decent tempo to keep eating into the 299-run target. Organ had already smashed Harmer over mid-wicket for three sixes the previous evening, and sailed another two over the dressing room as he found a way to deal with the turn and bounce.
He reached his second half-century of the season with a carved boundary behind point off 67 balls. However many times you hit Harmer over the boundary he will win the battle in the end, and thus it proved as Organ was bowled going back to the spinner. The opening stand worth 97, the highest of the match.
James Fuller had been promoted from No.9 to No.3 as ‘BazBall’ became ‘BirrellBall’ and a slightly better than run-a-ball 18, which included another six over midwicket, gave the idea credence. But he guided Aaron Beard to second slip to break the run of 19 straight wickets falling to spin.
Holland had bedded in by facing 95 balls and looked relatively comfortable before turning Harmer to short leg, and Nick Gubbins and James Vince made the fatal decision to go back to Harmer to fall lbw and bowled respectively. In between the Harmer scalps, Beard picked up his second on his first red-ball appearance for Essex since 2020 as Liam Dawson was adjudged to have edged behind.
Hampshire had lost six wickets for 65 runs, and thanks to Donald’s slogging, a 46-run partnership with Ben Brown, gave the visitors a sliver of hope again.
But Harmer had Donald castled while going back to cut, in almost identical fashion to Organ earlier, and Brown leg before while coming around the wicket.
Abbott and Barker gave a nervy feeling to proceedings as they put on 41 with very little resistance before Abbott was leg before giving Beard his third.
Barker and last man Brad Wheal put on 32 as an unlikely victory edged closer but Barker picked out long-on to fall for 42 and give Harmer his best.
Simon Harmer tormented Hampshire with bat and ball as Essex racked up a huge advantage in their LV= Insurance County Championship fixture.
South African Harmer claimed eight for 46 – his first of the season and the best figures by anyone so far in the 2022 Championship – to condemn Hampshire to a 75-run first-innings deficit.
He then totted up 61 to go alongside Adam Rossington’s 60 to ease Essex away from 51 for five and to set Hampshire a target of 299, taken down to 264 by the close.
Across the three innings, all 14 wickets in the day fell to spin bowling – with Liam Dawson picking up his best Hampshire figures of seven for 68 and Felix Organ three for seven on a pitch full of turn.
Harmer, who began the day with four for 23, unsurprisingly began from the River End and bowled 15 balls before he added his 25th five-wicket haul for Essex – bowling a reverse sweeping Keith Barker around his legs.
Hampshire’s mantra for the morning was clearly to ‘score their way out of trouble’. Barker had struck two fours and a six off Harmer alone and Kyle Abbott would thrash three sixes in a 23-run over off Dan Lawrence. 95 runs were scored in 55 minutes, but Harmer was constantly taking wickets.
James Fuller screwed to cover, Ben Brown – following a punchy 38 – was caught behind and Abbott was caught at deep midwicket as Hampshire were bowled out for 163, with Harmer mimicking his figures from the previous evening. He now has over 200 first-class wickets at the Cloud County Ground, Chelmsford since joining in 2017.
Spin continued to be the way forward as Hampshire turned to Organ and Dawson in the fifth and sixth overs. Organ initially did the damage as he had a driving Alastair Cook caught at first slip and Tom Westley brilliantly caught at short leg with his fifth and sixth deliveries.
Dawson had Dan Lawrence lbw to a full ball on the stroke of lunch before Paul Walter and Michael Pepper came and went after the interval – the former leg before to Organ and the latter reversing Dawson to point.
Hampshire looked on a roll and Essex in trouble, but Browne and Rossington’s contrasting styles navigated the hosts back to a strong position. Browne was resolute, while Rossington’s assertiveness was best typified by dispatching his second delivery for six.
Both helped to soften the ball and make batting easier, as the bounce and turn started to be nullified, in a 54-run partnership – with Rossington contributing 42 of them.
Browne fell for a 98-ball 33 when he turned Dawson to leg slip, the lead on 180 before Harmer entered to show off his batting prowess. He and Rossington added 47 more runs.
Rossington stamped his authority and batted Hampshire out of the game will have gone some way to do that, his fifty coming in 52 balls, although he fell for 60 when he chipped to mid-off.
Harmer added a further 34 with Shane Snater before the Dutch international splintered to midwicket to give Dawson his fifth wicket – only the fifth five-for of his first-class career.
Harmer moved to his 82-ball half-century with a six into the Hayes Close gardens before he and Sam Cook fell to successive balls to give Dawson the second seven-wicket return of his career – in doing so he became the first spin bowler not called Harmer to take a five-wicket haul at Chelmsford since Gareth Batty in 2014.
In 13, overs Organ lifted Harmer out of the ground thrice as Hampshire reached 35 without loss by stumps.
Simon Harmer spun four evening wickets to entangle Hampshire after Shane Snater’s 71 had dug Essex out of a hole in their LV= Insurance County Championship clash.
All-rounder Snater became Essex’s third-highest Championship run-scorer and recorded his third half-century this season to help Essex recover from 105 for seven to 238 all out.
Harmer entered, after Sam Cook nabbed the openers, to bamboozle Hampshire’s batters on a spinning wicket with four for 23 to see the Championship hopefuls slump to 68 for six at the close.
The Cloud County Ground pitches had proven to be slow and incredibly flat thus far this season – resulting in three bore draws. As such, Harmer had only taken 12 wickets in the Championship this season.
This was a renaissance to the wickets prepared in the last half a decade or so and brought great success to Essex, and Harmer. Kyle Abbott and Keith Barker, in particular, found good bounce off a length, while Liam Dawson and Harmer would get good turn. It wasn't a surprise 16 wickets fell in the day.
Hampshire’s opening duo of Felix Organ and Holland have been fallible throughout the season, so the former falling in the first over – edging to a juggling first slip Alastair Cook – and the latter in the ninth was hardly atypical.
Harmer was unsurprisingly introduced from the River End in the eighth over, and it was equally unsurprising that he had a scalp within seven balls. The only surprising aspect was the manner of the wicket as James Vince danced down, missed the ball and was stumped.
Ten balls later, Dawson dabbed towards short leg but it sat up for wicketkeeper Rossington to grab. Soon after, Nick Gubbins’ otherwise spritely 34 ended when he edged to second slip, Hampshire slipping to 55 for five, almost mirroring the 56 for five earlier in the day.
Aneurin Donald edged his next delivery to short leg, and Barker just about survived a hat-trick ball. Ben Brown and Barker survived the final 29 balls of the day.
Earlier, after Essex had chosen to bat, Nick Browne was bowled on the angle by Abbott for a 14-ball duck, Alastair Cook pushed Barker to third slip and Dan Lawrence was lbw to Brad Wheal to leave Essex 17 for three.
Tom Westley held things together with a leg-side dominant 46 and partnerships of 40 with Paul Walter and 47 with Adam Rossington – with Walter and Michael Pepper falling within three Ian Holland balls.
Rossington and Westley also fell in quick succession – bowled by an Abbott ripper and lbw to Dawson, respectively – to leave the hosts 105 for seven.
Nine days ago, Snater was a part of the Netherlands’ bowling attack which was flailed for a world record 498 by England in Amstelveen. He went for 99 runs, although he picked up the wicket of his cousin Jason Roy, before getting tanked for 26 in 19 balls two days later.
His fortunes spun around as he counter-attacked with some style. Much of his scoring could be described as agricultural but bordered into inventiveness with a sublime duck-come-uppercut before hooking and straight-smashing a pair of sixes.
Snater’s fifty came in 47 balls while putting on 59 with Harmer, 58 with Aaron Beard, and after he had lifted to 71, the final two put on 16 – in total, the final three wickets were worth an invaluable 133 runs.