Dan Lawrence’s hard labour sees Essex to a draw with Lancashire
Since Dan Lawrence scored 161 in his second Championship match, against two years ago and aged only 17, he has been identified as a player of rare promise.
He has become known for his flair and his rubbery wrist-work when hitting it through midwicket – no matter where the ball pitches – and for the obvious joy with which he bats. Here, playing his first Division One match, against a attack led by Jimmy Anderson, he reined himself in to score his fifth first-class century and save a game his team looked likely to lose, at the start of play and after they lost three quick wickets after lunch.
He soaked up 333 balls for his undefeated 141 runs across seven hours and seven minutes and barely offered a chance. By the close, Anderson – captaining in place of Steven Croft, who has an injured thumb and seems unlikely to face Surrey on Friday – had tried every field imaginable. Lawrence was not for moving: if he made Division Two look like a pleasure, this is evidently business. “I honestly did not think I was capable of batting all day like this,” he said.
Lawrence found accomplices in his captain and before him the vice-captain. Tom Westley, dropped twice on Sunday evening, was with him when they walked out, two wickets down and 388 behind. He was still with him when they went to lunch, each with 55.
Not long after that Westley was bowled by a turner from Stephen Parry, spooked by a shooter the ball before. A skittish innings from Ravi Bopara – who, like Varun Chopra, faces a fight for his place with Alastair Cook likely to play at Taunton on Friday – was soon over, caught behind off Kyle Jarvis, who then had Adam Wheater caught at cover playing a witless drive. Lesser players than Lawrence would have been cowed; it is no coincidence that he is batting above Wheater and Bopara.
Soon after Ryan ten Doeschate came out, Lawrence reached a 216-ball ton with the first ball of a third and final fruitless spell from Anderson (who is happy with how his problem shoulder held up). Lawrence’s helmet stayed firmly on in muted celebration of his ton, and he knuckled down to share 102 with the captain until, with the lights on and handshakes being readied, Jarvis returned and trapped Ten Doeschate in front with one that nipped back and stayed low. So, with the field closing in, it was left to Lawrence and Harmer to see (eight points to the visitors’ 11) through 63 balls for the draw.
It took Surrey an hour to complete an innings victory – just the second opening‑round win since 2002, when they last secured the title – against Warwickshire at The Oval. It was Tom Curran’s turn to take the wickets, with Jeetan Patel trapped in front and Chris Wright’s stump sent cartwheeling either side of the end of Jonathan Trott’s vigil. The former England batsman was caught at third man, but not before reaching 150. “We wanted to send out a message and we did that,” said Gareth Batty, whose side took 23 points while the visitors claimed only one.