Cricket: Mixed start for Essex against MCC
PUBLISHED: 11:00 28 March 2018
There was certainly a sense of anticipation as the curtain raiser to the 2018 season drew ever closer in Barbados.
And after Ryan ten Doeschate won the toss and chose to bat first, it was Nick Browne and Aron Nijjar who opened the batting for Essex.
The match is Nijjar first appearance for the club since he featured against West Indies last in 2017, with a thigh injury to Varun Chopra during the tour giving the 23-year-old a chance to show his skills with the bat in the vacant opening spot.
The morning session started slowly as the players got used to the pink ball and it was Browne who kept the scoreboard ticking along and looked comfortable.
Nijjar eased himself into the innings and started to grow in confidence, especially after two hook shots found the boundary.
And his was the only wicket to fall before the first break of the day after he was caught by Fidel Edwards for 20, off the bowling of Dom Bess.
Browne took his score to 46 before the break, as Tom Westley began his innings in a confident manner.
But it was opener Browne who was next to depart just two runs short of his half century after edging Barbadian paceman Edwards to give Middlesex wicketkeeper John Simpson – the first of four catches.
Veteran all-rounder Paul Collingwood dismissed Westley playing forward, adjudged lbw for 32 as the sun began to set at the Kensington Oval.
And the introduction of the floodlights sparked a flurry of wickets for the MCC in tough batting conditions.
This was primarily down to a devastating spell from Northants’ Richard Gleeson, after he had already had Dan Lawrence strangled down the leg-side for 23.
The collapse began with the wicket of Adam Wheater who played a straight bat, sending the ball back into the bowler’s hands for seven.
Three noughts closely followed as Callum Taylor’s off-stump was struck and Matt Coles, making his first-class debut for Essex, played across the line and found Sam Northeast at point.
Gleeson then trapped Aaron Beard lbw to complete his hat-trick, spread across two overs, and a five-wicket haul.
Number 11 Jamie Porter came to the middle with a tricky task ahead of him but a commendable unbeaten knock of 10 alongside James Foster (34) helped put on 45 for the last wicket as Essex reached 187.
Porter and Coles opened the bowling for Essex and quickly put pressure on MCC openers Daniel Bell-Drummond and Brett D’Oliveira, with the latter playing some nice strokes; three of which found the boundary early on.
Porter soon got his wicket tally up and running for the season when Bell-Drummond edged behind to James Foster for three, but Sam Northeast continued to try and play positive cricket before D’Oliveira was caught and bowled by Coles for 30.
Northeast (35 not out) and Sam Hain (five not out) saw MCC to the close at 73-2 and Porter said: “It started off well as it was a good pitch in normal light, but as soon as that started to fade in the twilight period and the lights took full effect, then it became much harder.
“You then have to take in consideration the dew which also plays a part in getting a good grip on the ball but overall I think it was good day and we played some decent cricket at times. It should be an exciting few days ahead.
“It was great to contribute with the bat, especially with Foz (James Foster) as I always enjoy batting with him. Hopefully it turns out to be an important partnership come the end of play and I even thought I played some nice shots too!
“I’ve spent much of the winter playing alongside most of their players so it was good to be coming up against them. From a bowling point of view I felt that I knew enough about them to decide what plans I was going to bowl to and how to execute them.
“Even with my batting, I’ve been with ‘Glees’ (Richard Gleeson) for the last eight weeks so I knew how he would look to get me out, so from that perspective it gave me an advantage.
“It’s going to be tough work in the early session so its important that we try and dry up their runs, bowl to our plans and get some early wickets. If we can get their middle order in under the lights and then second new ball comes towards the end of the second session, but hopefully it doesn’t go that far.”