Recent Match Report – Essex vs Warwickshire Group 1 2021


Warwickshire thwarted after reducing champions to 36 for 5, and face stiff run-chase

Essex 295 (Browne 68, Walter 66, ten Doeschate 56, Stone 4-89, Hannon-Dalby 4-73) and 213 for 9 (Harmer 62*, Lawrence 55, Miles 4-62) lead Warwickshire
284 (Briggs 66, Harmer 4-89) by 224 runs

In normal circumstances – well, circumstances in which Simon Harmer is not involved – you would think that Warwickshire had a decent chance of victory going into the fourth day of this game.

Certainly, in adding 91 for their final two wickets and then reducing Essex to 36 for 5, they had clawed their way back into this match. Even a final-day target of 250 or so doesn’t sound so intimidating for a side who chased down 333 against a Nottinghamshire side containing Stuart Broad only a week ago.

But such has been Harmer’s dominance over the last few years that, in his period at the club, the highest fourth-innings score made to beat Essex is two. With 272 wickets coming at a cost of 19.62 since the start of the 2017 season – and remember, he only played six games in 2020 – he is a giant of the modern county game. If Warwickshire win this game, they will have achieved something no county side has in denying him in a first-class run-chase. You suspect Hanuma Vihari’s encounter with Harmer may be crucial.

Harmer may already have produced the defining performance of this game. His unbeaten 62 has been the highest score in Essex’s second innings and helped them rebuild from 93 for 6 when he came to the crease.

Warwickshire threw everything they had at him. And while Olly Stone inflicted a thumping blow to his helmet with a sharp bouncer, there was a determination about Harmer’s batting – a sense that Warwickshire were going to have to chisel him out rather than wait for him to play a loose stroke – that has exemplified the uncompromising nature of an outstanding Championship match in which the initiative has changed almost every time you sensed that one side or the other had played the decisive hand.

Harmer’s innings has been every bit as much about what he has not done as what he has. Noting that his colleagues perished by failing to play straight, pushing for the ball or hitting it in the air, he resolved to do none of those things. And while that reduced his scoring opportunities, he pulls and cuts well and is strong off his legs. There may have been moments when the bowlers thought they had the better of him but, with much of the pace having left this surface and the ball appearing to lose its menace after 25 overs or so, he was able to play the ball down so that even when his edge was found, he picked up runs down to third man. There’s nothing pretty about Harmer’s batting. But from an Essex perspective it really is quite beautiful.

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