Ben Sanderson blasts gaping hole in fragile Essex batting

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Essex193 (Snater 79*, Sanderson 4-24) and 149 for 3 (Critchley 44*, Walter 40*) trail Northamptonshire 390 (Procter 113, Berg 75, Young 63) by 48 runs

Paul Walter and Matt Critchley staged a belligerent rearguard action to frustrate Northamptonshire’s hopes of claiming a morale-boosting victory at Chelmsford.

The fourth-wicket pair came together at 58 for 3 shortly before tea and were still there at stumps having put on 91 valuable runs as Essex fought to save the LV= Insurance County Championship match.

Essex, eventually dismissed in their first innings for 193, with Ben Sanderson finishing with 4 for 32, were asked to follow-on by Northamptonshire. By the close on day three they were 149 for 3, requiring another 48 to make the visitors bat again. Walter was 40 not out, Critchley 44.

That Essex are still in the game was largely down to Shane Snater, who almost single-handedly ensured the calamitous batting of the previous evening – when they were reduced to 83 for 8 – did not become even worse. However, his career-best unbeaten 79 could not prevent Essex going straight back in again, 197 runs in arrears.

Snater dominated stands of 69 for the ninth wicket with Mark Steketee and 41 for the last with Sam Cook. More importantly for Essex, in their attempt to avoid back-to-back Championship defeats, his stoic resolution took a session out of the equation.

The Zimbabwean-born Dutch international shone with a series of hooks, pulls and drives that were as effortless as they were exquisite. He accounted for the majority of the 98 runs scored for the loss of the last two wickets in an entertaining morning session.

When Snater dabbed down to the vacant third-man boundary for the ninth of his ten fours, it carried him not only from 47 to 51 but to both his highest score for Essex (previously 48) and his highest in first-class cricket (50 not out for the Netherlands).

Northamptonshire’s tactics seemed a little awry on a pitch that returned to its earlier placid state, and it was 70 minutes before front-line bowler Gareth Berg was finally introduced. To underline what his absence might have missed, with his fourth ball he had Steketee playing all around a full-pitched delivery and losing his off-stump.

Still, Snater motored on regardless, capping his 94-ball knock with a towering straight six off Rob Keogh. His fun was curtailed, though, when Cook pushed forward to the off-spinner on the dot of lunch and was snaffled at slip.

Without a moment’s hesitation Essex were asked to bat again. They were breifly in trouble losing three wickets in 14 overs. Sir Alastair Cook went for 19, caught at first slip off Tom Taylor, who had just been hit for three back-foot, off-side boundaries in an over by the former England captain.

Tom Westley was next to go, pinned in a muddle of indecisiveness on his crease by Luke Procter, before Nick Browne wafted at Keogh and became the latest victim to a slip catch.

Browne’s wicket went down in the midst of a sequence of 38 dot balls as Essex bustled along at a rate of barely two an over. There was another spell of five successive maidens that epitomised the Essex approach as Walter and Critchley effectively shut up shop after tea.

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