AN Essex attack led by Sam Cook and Simon Harmer took 14 wickets on the third day of their LV= Insurance County Championship match at Lancashire and only weather can realistically stop Tom Westley’s team wrapping up their second victory of the season on Sunday.

After dismissing Lancashire for 103 in their first innings, with Cook taking four for 18, Westley enforced the follow-on at Emirates Old Trafford with their hosts 288 runs behind and the home side were then reduced to 213 for nine by stumps, still needing 75 to make Essex bat again.

Harmer bowled unchanged from the Brian Statham End after lunch and ended with five for 85 from 40 overs, and Essex were only prevented from completing victory on Saturday by James Anderson and Luke Wood, who blocked the last few overs.

Essex began the third morning as successfully as they had ended the second day.

Wood hit a couple of fours but was then caught behind by Adam Rossington when attempted to drive Cook, Tom Bailey was leg before to the same bowler for a single, and Hassan Ali lasted two runless balls before being well caught at second slip by Harmer off Shane Snater.

At that point Lancashire were 60 for eight but Phil Salt and Matt Parkinson then moved into a more attacking mode, adding 43 for the ninth wicket before Salt was lbw for 44 to a ball from Matt Critchley that hurried on off the pitch.

Next over Parkinson pulled Harmer straight to substitute fielder Aaron Beard at deep square leg and Westley did not hesitate about enforcing the follow-on, the first time this indignity had been suffered by Lancashire since September 2017.

Lancashire’s openers, Luke Wells and Keaton Jennings, negotiated four maidens before lunch but it did not portend a revival by the home side. Jamie Porter bowled Jennings with the 11th ball after the resumption and two further wickets had fallen by tea.

After resisting for just over an hour, Josh Bohannon was caught off bat and pad for 14 by Nick Browne to give Harmer only his eighth wicket of the season. Wells then pulled Cook straight to a tumbling Paul Walter at square leg and departed for 19.

Steven Croft and Dane Vilas then shared a gritty 74-run stand for the fifth wicket but Croft was dismissed by Harmer for 39 midway through the evening session when his top-edged sweep lobbed a catch to Sam Cook, who was positioned 45 degrees behind square on the leg side.

Salt then batted very positively for his 31 runs but was dismissed half an hour before the scheduled close of play when an attempted cut off Critchley only edged a catch to Rossington, meaning that Salt had been dismissed by the leg-spinner twice in a few hours.

Three overs later Vilas’ long duel with Harmer was ended when the Lancashire skipper was lbw on the back leg for 62.

Parkinson was next to depart, caught at short leg by Browne, also off Harmer, for six, and the late fall of wickets prompted the umpires to allow the extra half-hour to be claimed.

Essex marked the occasion by taking the new ball.

Lancashire’s rapid decline continued when Bailey’s top-edged pull was caught on the deep square leg boundary by Walter and Hassan was also caught in the deep off Harmer, but Wood and Anderson stood firm to ensure the home side’s fight would continue into a final day.