Essex close in on title while Sangakkara scores seventh century


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Authors: Rio Sports

We now know this much: if Essex beat Warwickshire and Lancashire fail to beat Somerset, Essex – after 25 years, and having been promoted last year – will be the county champions, and with two games to spare. Both outcomes are likely, and would have ramifications at the foot of Division One, too: Somerset would take their greatest step yet to a memorable escape, and render Warwickshire’s drawn-out relegation inevitable.

The major movement took place at Taunton, where the estimable Jack Leach took five for 47 as Somerset skittled Lancashire for 133, and enforced the follow-on with a lead of 202. Lancashire’s openers, Alex Davies and Haseeb Hameed, negotiated 12 overs to reach stumps 174 behind.

This took Leach to 103 Championship wickets in the last two seasons, and this was his third five-wicket haul of the summer, a mighty comeback from a painful winter that brought a remodelled action. His art, left-arm finger spin, is unfashionable, and so, it seems, is he. But he is mightily effective.

After Craig Overton and Peter Trego got rid of the openers (Hameed was bounced out for four off 56 balls), Leach picked up the prized wickets of Liam Livingstone and Shiv Chanderpaul, then ran through the tail. He and the 20-year-old Dom Bess – who have 85 wickets in nine Championship matches in tandem – hold the key to Somerset’s snowballing survival hopes.

Essex charged serenely on against Warwickshire, building a position in which they were able to declare nine down, 168 in front. Warwickshire’s openers survived two overs to stumps.

Varun Chopra, back at Edgbaston, made 98, while Dan Lawrence scored a stylish 78 – full of legside flicks – and James Foster contributed a punchy 68 to take them from 271 for six to the declaration. Tom Westley was earlier dismissed for 28 as Chris Woakes got one to leave him; that pair’s England team-mate Alastair Cook will be available for the last matches against Hampshire and Yorkshire. He will hope it is a mere lap of honour.

At The Oval, the pitch is bulging with runs and Surrey’s Kumar Sangakkara, a fortnight from the end of his first-class career, was not about to miss out. He scored his seventh Championship century of a golden farewell summer, a gorgeous 164 against Yorkshire, which leaves him with 1,250 Championship runs, 291 more than the nearest mortal in Division One, Mark Stoneman. Sangakkara has missed four matches, yet never misses out against Yorkshire: this season he has a ton against them with a red, white and pink ball.

This was vintage Sangakkara. When Yorkshire posted two short covers barely five yards apart, the ball was threaded between them. He skipped down and stroked straight sixes, off seam and spin. We should all beg him to stay on but his fellow centurion Ben Foakes, with whom he shared 258, says his mind is made up: “He’s well and truly done,” said the wicketkeeper. “All day out in the field, he just tells you how tired he is.”

When he fell, hooking Jack Brooks (who plugged away for five for 113), Foakes ploughed on for his first century of a stellar summer; he was stylish and patient, largely operating in Sangakkara’s slipstream, until Brooks got him too.

Surrey were dismissed for 592, but Yorkshire found batting just as simple. This is the first time since May 2012 that neither Adam Lyth (absent for the birth of his first child) nor Alex Lees (at No3) has opened for them, but Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Shaun Marsh impressed.

Kohler-Cadmore eventually became the debutant Freddie van den Bergh’s maiden Championship wicket, but not before making his first Championship fifty for Yorkshire, while Marsh – who is of interest to both these counties for next season – auditioned fluently with 77, as the visiting side reached stumps on 171 for one.