Bob Willis Trophy final: Essex draw with Somerset but take inaugural title

By Adam WilliamsBBC Sport at Lord's
Essex Bob Willis Trophy winners
Essex have won four domestic trophies in the past three years
Bob Willis Trophy final, Lord's (day five)
Somerset 301: Byrom 117; S Cook 5-76 & 272-7 dec: Lammonby 116; Porter 4-73
Essex 337-8: Cook 172; Gregory 6-72 & 179-6: Ten Doeschate 46; Leach 3-38
Match drawn - Essex win trophy after gaining first-innings lead
Scorecard

Essex defied Somerset's bowlers to draw the Bob Willis Trophy final but take the first title after they had secured a first-innings lead of 36 runs.

The county champions were set a target of 237 to win, but after being reduced to 98-4 batted out for a draw.

Ryan ten Doeschate (46) and Adam Wheater (14 not out) survived for almost two hours under the floodlights before Essex finished on 179-6.

It means Somerset's wait for a first red-ball county title continues.

In a repeat of the County Championship-deciding fixture of last season, it was again Essex taking the silverware at Somerset's expense.

They proved the only team throughout the competition able to keep Somerset's four-pronged seam attack, plus England spinner Jack Leach, at bay as they restricted them to just 14 wickets over the two innings.

Somerset began the final day with a lead of 191 and three wickets in hand, knowing they had to give themselves a chance of bowling Essex out to win the title.

They had 81 overs to defend 236 after adding 45 runs without losing a wicket, after declaring their second innings on 272-7.

Craig Overton (45 not out) and Josh Davey (16 not out) negotiated the opening half an hour and Essex appeared content to let them set up a run chase rather than take the remaining three wickets.

Essex started that chase positively, but Nick Browne was well caught by Tom Abell at third slip off Lewis Gregory for 13 and captain Tom Westley departed without scoring in the following over to leave them 26-2.

The prize wicket of Alastair Cook continued to elude them until just after lunch, but Gregory snared the former England captain for a second time in the match to put the brakes on again.

Lewis Gregory has Alastair Cook caught behind for 31
Alastair Cook's dismissal for 31 by Lewis Gregory stalled Essex's pursuit of 237

Cook was given out caught behind for 31, but showed his disappointment at the decision as he stood for a while with a hand on his hip, perhaps suggesting to umpire Russell Warren the sound had been his bat clipping his front pad rather than outside edge.

His departure saw Essex retreat into defensive mode as Dan Lawrence (35) and Paul Walter (21) stood firm. But the introduction of slow left-armer Leach had an immediate impact for Somerset.

Lawrence was trapped leg before from his second delivery as Leach took his first wicket for almost 10 months since dismissing New Zealand's Tim Southee in England colours in a Test match at Mount Maunganui in November.

As the last session began, Somerset still needed six wickets and Essex another 109 runs.

But Walter lasted just a couple of overs into the evening as Leach came around the wicket and pinned him on the front pad, putting Somerset back in the driving seat.

Essex had around another 30 overs to survive and all-rounder Ten Doeschate and wicketkeeper Wheater had few alarms in doing so.

Ten Doeschate fell just before stumps as Leach claimed 3-38, but shortly after both sides shook hands as Somerset knew their victory chances had passed.

Bob Willis' widow Lauren Clark then presented Essex captain Tom Westley with the trophy, the county's third first-class title in the past four seasons.

Essex captain Tom Westley:

"It's hard to put into words how chuffed I am for the boys.

"It's been a challenging year as many people will know and at one stage, we didn't know if we would get any cricket at all, so to win this first Bob Willis Trophy is a great feeling.

"We set out when the competition started really not knowing if this would be a one-off or not, but that there was a chance to play in a Lord's final at the end of it.

"It's fitting that arguably the two best red-ball sides in the country got the chance to play in it.

"But it was a very nervous day both in the middle and changing room. In Ryan ten Doeschate, we couldn't have asked for a more experienced player to see us through that tough period.

"It's a testament to him as a player, a leader and a senior guy in the changing room that he helped us get over the line.

"My first year as a captain has obviously been an interesting one. From the challenges we had during lockdown to where we are now winning a trophy is the just the completely opposite end of the spectrum."

Somerset captain Tom Abell:

"It's obviously a disappointing experience coming second to Essex again and after last season, we were desperate not to repeat that feeling.

"When you finish runners-up, you always look at the 'what ifs' and hindsight and what you could've done better, but I thought we started the day with a really strong chance of winning and gave it everything.

"Sadly, it wasn't to be despite our best efforts.

"We had to fight hard throughout this match with the bat and the ball. Going into the game, both sides knew the importance of gaining a first-innings lead and sadly we weren't quite able to do that.

"If we'd been able to build a lead from there, we felt we had a great chance to take the 10 wickets we needed to win.

"Coming so close so many times, you certainly feel a first-class trophy is in touching distance, but playing the brand of cricket we have been in reasons seasons, we're confident we'll come out on top sooner rather than later."

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