Essex crowned County champions after eventful final day draw at Somerset

Essex are the County Championship winners again
Essex are the County Championship winners again

Essex had a slight final day wobble before drawing with title rivals Somerset to confirm their County Championship victory.

2017 champions Essex were big favourites to clinch a second title in three years after rain shortened what was a title decider against Somerset, who also finished as runners-up last season.

Essex claimed the Vitality T20 Blast title just six days ago, and adding the county title to that made it an incredible weak for them. Essex were also our pre-season tip to win the title from our cricket expert Richard Mann.

The hosts, though, showed great fight at Taunton by bowling the visitors out for just 141 and then went for broke by forfeiting their second innings and setting Essex a victory target of 63.

There was to be no more drama though, as Somerset managed to get just one wicket in the remaining hour or so of play - Sir Alastair Cook standing firm on 30 not out as the two sides shock hands with Essex on 45-1.

It meant there was to be no fairytale ending for Marcus Trescothick, who brought the curtain down on his glittering 27-year career as a professional cricketer in the game. He did, though, manage to take the final wicket of the match with a catch after coming on as a sub fielder.

One of England's Test stars of the summer Jack Leach did the damage in Essex's first innings as he took 5-32 with his left-arm spin to see Essex lose their last nine wickets for just 39 runs and all of a sudden pile the pressure on.

Given all the time taken out of the game by the weather though, Essex didn't have long to hang on with just 68 minutes of play left before Somerset had to yet again settle for second as their wait for a first ever County Championship title goes on.

Essex's star men

Essex have secured a second Specsavers County Championship title within the space of three years after resisting Somerset on a turning Taunton pitch on the final day of the season.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the key men behind their triumph:

Sir Alastair Cook

Twelve months ago, Cook ended a record-breaking England career spanning 161 Tests across more than a decade, saying "there is nothing left in the tank". While that may have been true in the international sphere, the opener's innate appetite for runs means he is still among the best operators at domestic level. A haul of 913 runs at an average of 45.65 may seem underwhelming but Cook has been plying his trade on difficult Division One decks that have been heavily weighted in favour of bowlers. More often than not, he has laid decent foundations at the top of the order.

Tom Westley

Another whose tally of 794 runs at 36.09 hardly leaps off the page, Westley has nevertheless made some important contributions on some troublesome surfaces. The former England batsman with a penchant for clipping into the leg-side ensured there would be no hiccup chasing 105 against Nottinghamshire, sealing Essex's first win of the season with an innings of 49. Meanwhile, stellar knocks of 141 and 97 meant they avoided defeat against Warwickshire earlier this month to keep Essex hot on the heels of Somerset in the title race.

Simon Harmer

One of Essex's most instrumental performers over the last three summers, the South African spinner has bamboozled a number of batsmen this year to the tune of a Division One best 83 wickets at 18.28. Harmer has featured in five Tests for his native Proteas but admitted recently he would "love to play for England", having joined Essex on a Kolpak deal. While any call-up from national selector Ed Smith would lead to an outcry, there is no denying Harmer is one of the best at his occupation, as his 10 five-wicket hauls and two 10-fors this season would attest.

Jamie Porter

While Porter stole the show two years ago, he has been in Harmer's shadow this summer although 48 wickets at 25.7 is not to be sniffed at. Calls for international recognition have quietened down in the last year, with the suspicion being he may be found wanting on flatter pitches in Tests, but England's loss is Essex's gain. The seamer delivered his best performance earlier in the season against Somerset at Chelmsford, bowling an attacking length and exploiting helpful conditions to claim match figures of nine for 73 in Essex's 151-run win.

Peter Siddle

Before helping Australia retain the Ashes courtesy of a 2-2 series draw, Siddle warmed up for the contest at Chelmsford. The 34-year-old Victorian rejoined Essex at the start of the season, having first signed for the county as an overseas player last year, and was instrumental in wins over Yorkshire and Warwickshire. Before departing in mid-July, Siddle, renowned for bowling a metronomic line and length, had taken 34 wickets at 20.08 in eight matches, putting them firmly on the right path for another title.

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