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Cricket: Lawrence ton leads way as Essex revive title hopes

PUBLISHED: 19:01 17 September 2019 | UPDATED: 19:01 17 September 2019

Daniel Lawrence hits 4 runs for  Essex during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019

Daniel Lawrence hits 4 runs for Essex during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019

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Dan Lawrence crafted his first Specsavers County Championship century of the season to put Essex in a strong position as the race for the title heads for its dramatic denouement.

Sam Cook of Essex celebrates taking the wicket of Ben Foakes during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019Sam Cook of Essex celebrates taking the wicket of Ben Foakes during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019

The last of Lawrence's previous eight first-class centuries had come just over a year ago when he scored 124 against Hampshire, also at Chelmsford.

And he leapt in the air as he turned Scott Borthwick to fine leg to bring up the milestone before taking off his helmet and acknowledging two sides of the ground with bat raised.

Lawrence was out just before the close of the second day when he edged Morne Morkel to Scott Borthwick to end a 245-ball innings for 147 during which he hit 20 fours and a six.

At the close, Essex had built a first-innings lead of 128 on 302-6 with Ryan ten Doeschate 78 not out.

Liam Plunkett of Surrey is bowled out by Jamie Porter during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019Liam Plunkett of Surrey is bowled out by Jamie Porter during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019

The 22-year-old Lawrence, who had five fifties to his name this summer before this, dominated stands of 72 for the fourth wicket with Ravi Bopara and 173 with ten Doeschate for the fifth.

More importantly, in the context of the Championship race, it enabled Essex to reduce Somerset's overnight eight-point lead at the top by three - with further opportunity for more batting points in the morning. Next week's match at Taunton looks increasingly like being a winner-takes-all showdown.

Lawrence led the recovery after Essex slumped to 53-3 when Sir Alastair Cook was pinned on his crease by a full-pitched delivery that gave Jordan Clark his third scalp.

Essex lost Nick Browne just before lunch, bowled by one that straightened from Clark, and then saw Tom Westley depart to the first ball after the interval, lbw as he played all around one from the same bowler.

Morne Morkel of Surrey is bowled out by Jamie Porter during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019Morne Morkel of Surrey is bowled out by Jamie Porter during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019

There might have been a third fairly soon after but Mark Stoneman put down Lawrence at short midwicket when he had nine. It proved costly and Lawrence took immediate advantage by straight-driving Clark for four two balls later.

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After Cook's exit, Lawrence and Bopara initiated the fightback and put on fifty in 16 overs with a mixture of patience, strong running and some elegant strokes. Lawrence pushed Amar Virdi into the covers for the single that brought up his fifty from 88 balls.

But the stand was broken four balls after tea when Bopara got an inside edge to Morkel and showed graphically his self-disgust as the ball diverted into his stumps. Bopara's 34 had taken 80 balls.

Sam Cook (right) and Jamie Porter (waving cap) celebrate taking five wickets each as they leave the field during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019Sam Cook (right) and Jamie Porter (waving cap) celebrate taking five wickets each as they leave the field during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019

Lawrence continued to punish anything wayward, lofting Virdi straight back over the bowler's head for six as if in T20 Blast mode ahead of Finals Day on Saturday.

ssex were still only four wickets down when they went into the lead in the 60th over. Soon after, ten Doeschate's sixth four brought up not only his own fifty - from 64 balls - but also the century partnership in 25 overs. That preceded, by an over, Lawrence reaching his century from 82 balls with 14 four and a six.

fter Lawrence's demise, Essex lost a sixth wicket when nightwatchman Jamie Porter lasted just two balls before falling lbw to Rikki Clarke.

After being confined to barracks for nearly half of the first day amid mounting frustration while leaden grey skies enveloped the ground, it was a different mood in the Essex camp as The Cloudfm County Ground was bathed in unremitting sunshine.

Sir Alastair Cook of Essex in batting action during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019Sir Alastair Cook of Essex in batting action during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019

Surrey's innings lasted just 70 minutes in the morning as they crashed from their overnight 137-4 to 174 all out.

The final six wickets went for the addition of 22 runs in 10 overs against the remorseless accuracy of Porter and Sam Cook, who both returned five-wicket hauls.

Cook's 5-53 was the third in his last four innings while Porter's 5-62 was his second of the season. More importantly, in the context of the Championship race, it also helped Essex to three bowling points to stay in touch with Somerset.

Ben Foakes and Will Jacks had just taken their fifth-wicket stand beyond fifty when the stand-in Surrey captain received one from Cook that kept low and took out his off stump.

Tom Westley of Essex in batting action during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019Tom Westley of Essex in batting action during Essex CCC vs Surrey CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at The Cloudfm County Ground on 17th September 2019

Clarke followed three overs later, caught low down at second slip by Simon Harmer off Porter. Jacks drove Cook imperiously through the covers for four, but edged the next ball behind for 28.

iam Plunkett lasted just six balls before he was bowled through bat and pad by Porter, who then cleaned out Morkel in his next over. Cook completed the rout when Clark went for an unsightly heave and lost his leg stump.

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