Essex v Yorkshire: Dom Bess and Steve Patterson toil away at Chelmsford

IF you imagine watching paint dry and multiply the boredom factor by 10, then you have a fair idea of what it was like to watch long periods of the Essex first innings.

It was the sort of cricket during which thoughts instinctively turn to all the things that one might be doing instead, such as cleaning the bathroom, cutting one’s toenails, and all manner of contrastingly useful pursuits.

Technically, one could have taken off one’s shoes and socks, whipped out a pair of scissors and started clipping one’s toenails while also keeping an eye on the game, but that would have been bad form – not to mention unfair on those sitting nearby.

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And so there was little choice but to grin and bear it – over after over of relentless grind on a turgid pitch that does nothing for the sport.

Essex and Yorkshire play at The Cloud County Ground. (Picture: Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

One jests, of course, but it was also a tribute to Yorkshire’s bowling that the cricket was not of riveting quality.

Dom Bess and Steve Patterson, in particular, gave Essex little to hit en route to combined figures of 75-33-130-5, a magnificent effort as they wheeled away with stamina, heart and no little skill.

When Essex were dismissed for 403 in their first innings on the stroke of tea on this second day, having inched their way through five long sessions, a 2,000 crowd applauded perhaps in relief as much as anything.

Yorkshire reached stumps on 81-3, losing Dimuth Karunaratne in the final over to leave the match situation in a much more interesting state than the actual cricket.

Harry Duke of Yorkshire catches the ball. (Picture: Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

“It was tough work, but the lads stuck at it really well,” said Bess, who continued his impressive early-season form with 3-82 from 44 overs. “We thought the wicket would probably do a little bit more than it has, but as a bowling group we bowled pretty well.

“A few catches went down, but the positive is that opportunities have been created. We’ve got a real long batting line-up and plenty of boys with the ability to go and bat big.”

The sun shone and the thermometer rose on the warmest day of the year so far. The smell of suncream was in the air, as well as that of bacon butties, as spectators arrived in summery garb.

Essex had scored 234-3 on the first day, 107 of them to Sir Alastair Cook, and it was not long before Cook was followed to the three-figure mark by Paul Walter, a tall and muscular 27-year-old left-hander playing his 30th first-class game.

Dom Bess of Yorkshire bowls. (Picture: Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Having started the day on 89, Walter went on to his maiden hundred, in fact, from 263 balls with 12 fours, celebrating with a rare attacking shot off Bess, whom he slog-swept for six over mid-wicket and into the hospitality boxes where hopefully he scattered the corporate lot.

It took Yorkshire 90 minutes to break through as Walter and nightwatchman Sam Cook lifted their fourth-wicket stand to 73, Cook finally bowled through the gate by George Hill operating from the River End.

It should have been 305-5 in the next over but Walter was put down at cover by Jordan Thompson off Bess, who almost immediately had Matt Critchley spilled by Adam Lyth at slip, although the ball seemed to deviate off wicketkeeper Harry Duke’s body, making the chance more difficult.

That said, catches win matches and Yorkshire dropped at least five or six during the course of the innings – according to those who had their eyes open, anyway.

At least there was justice of sorts for Bess after lunch, the off-spinner striking with the fourth and fifth balls of the afternoon session when Walter sliced to backward-point for 141 and Adam Rossington was bowled playing inside the line.

Patterson had Feroze Khushi caught behind pushing forward as Essex lost 3-18 in the 15 overs straight after the interval.

There was reward for Thompson, too, when Critchley was bowled off an inside edge and Shane Snater taken at the second attempt by Lyth at second slip, which left the hosts 345-9.

A quick wrap seemed likely but Simon Harmer, the South African off-spinner and Mark Steketee, the Australian pace bowler, had other ideas, adding 58 for the last wicket at an incongruously rapid rate of around six runs per over.

Harmer did the bulk of the scoring, striking 54 from 82 balls with five fours and three sixes – he clubbed Thompson, Bess and Matty Revis over the onside boundary – before he attempted one pull shot too many and skied Revis to Duke.

Bess was tremendously accurate from the Hayes Close end, finding a consistently good line and length.

When Yorkshire replied, Lyth tried to turn Sam Cook to leg and was lbw, Hill then walking out to strike the same bowler for successive fours through the offside, the strokes of the day.

Karunaratne was spilled on 31 by Harmer at second slip off Snater, a difficult chance as he flew to his left, the Sri Lanka captain perishing when he feathered Cook to wicketkeeper Rossington.

When Hill edged behind a rising delivery from Snater not long before stumps, Yorkshire chose to protect Joe Root by sending out Revis at No 4.

Root will be eyeing a big one today in his first innings since resigning the England Test captaincy. If he gets it, no one will be taking their eyes off the cricket in Chelmsford this Saturday.