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County DIV1 2024, ESSEX vs DURH 36th match match report, June 23 – 26, 2024

Essex 339 (Walter 134, Critchley 53, Potts 4-71) and 208 for 2 (Elgar 120*, Westley 63*) drew with Durham 587 and 184 for December 8 (Borthwick 71, Harmer 4-75, Porter 3-18)

Dean Elgar scored his 50th first-class century as he and Tom Westley dropped anchor to secure a draw against Durham in the Vitality County Championship.

Former South Africa international Elgar hit four all day, almost exclusively with Westley, to ensure Durham had no sniff of victory.

He finished with 120 after an epically stoic 165 runs, 421 balls and 276 minutes third wicket stand with Westley – who scored 63 not out.

Essex are now 12 points behind leaders Surrey ahead of their meeting next week, while Durham remain in the chasing pack after picking up 16 points from a match they led throughout.

The hosts needed 405 runs to win on the final day, a tough but not impossible task, but made no attempt to secure a fifth win of the season.

The reasoning was sound with a draw meaning Essex would be 12 points behind table-toppers Surrey, but victory at the Kia Oval next week would likely level things out again.

Durham’s original goal had been to take out night watchman Jamie Porter.

They managed to do that in the fifth over as the day Matthew Potts beat his fellow fast bowler on pace and crashed into his stump.

From then on, Elgar and Westley took out their tents and air mattresses to camp for the day – as Durham could not get anything out of the field to help a wicket.

Westley took 19 balls to get off the mark, and when he did he also ended a run-less spell of 27 balls.

The lack of opportunity or entertainment also seemed to affect the Durham team, who clapped the bowler’s hands slowly, in a similar manner to a long jumper preparing to jump.

The crowd wasn’t happy with the jokes and things got tense when there was a shout of “no ball” as Ben Raine was halfway through his run-up. The incident prompted officials to speak to Durham captain Scott Borthwick, while angry comments were fired between spectators and field players.

Elgar and Westley were undeterred by the antics and reached the lunch break with just 54 runs scored in the morning session.

Things didn’t change after that, but milestones started to appear. The fifty came in 168 balls, Elgar reached a half-century in 96 deliveries and the century partnership in 247 balls.

The closest Durham came to a wicket was when Elgar attempted to clip Borthwick in the leg side, but the ball struck Michael Jones at short leg and ballooned up for Ollie Robinson to pocket. But the officials and subsequent replays made it clear that it had been a bump ball.

It was one of only three appeals against Elgar, with the other two hopeful lbw calls at his best, with technique and temperament coming to the fore.

His first first-class century was scored for Free State against Limpopo in 2007 as a 19-year-old in Bloemfontein.

Now 37, Elgar has half a century of them helping the Eagles, South Africa A, Knights, Somerset, Titans, Surrey and Northerns, although his most prized will be the 14 Test tons he plundered before retiring from last winter international cricket.

This one came up in 170 balls with a pronounced tickle around the corner before lifting his helmet, clapping on the balcony and earning a hug from Westley.

Only 85 runs were achieved in the afternoon session, and once Westley had reached an 86th first-class fifty in 198 balls – and 5pm BST had been reached, hands were shaken on a draw.

To summarize the thoroughness of Elgar and Westley, there were exactly 400 dot balls delivered in Essex’s second innings.