SIMON Harmer helped himself to five wickets as Essex bowled out Gloucestershire for a meagre 136 on day one of their County Championship match.

Harmer returned figures of five for 44 on a scorching hot day at Chelmsford before Sir Alastair Cook and Tom Westley carried Essex to 127 for one at the close, with Cook posting an unbeaten 61, including nine fours.

Only Graeme van Buuren and Zafar Gohar emerged with any credit from the lamentable Gloucestershire first innings, which concluded 40 minutes after lunch.

Then Cook and Westley demonstrated the value of disciplined graft with a century stand spanning 256 balls, with Westley completing his half-century shortly before the close.

By lunch the visitors, who are still seeking their first County Championship win of the summer, had lost their top-five run-makers in red-ball cricket this season as they stumbled to 104 for six at the break.

Although new ball bowler Sam Cook was away on England Lions duty, Jamie Porter got the home side off to a flying start by striking twice in his first four overs to remove the opening pair of Marcus Harris and Chris Dent for single figure scores.

The sight of Harmer striding in to start his bowling spell from his customary River End then served only to increase Gloucestershire’s concerns.

The match was only 40 minutes old when the South African off-spinner took the ball for the 10th over of the innings.

After two overs, his concerns regarding the shape of the ball were acknowledged by the umpires. Harmer himself jogged to the boundary, retrieved the bag of alternatives and, after handing it to the officials, was handed a replacement ball.

Finding it immediately to his liking, he took the first of his five wickets when Ryan Higgins slapped him straight to long-on.

Without addition Miles Hammond, who had just moved into double figures, offered no stroke to an Aaron Beard delivery that clipped the off bail to leave the visitors 37 for four.

James Bracey and Van Buuren doubled the score, but the threat of Harmer’s canny variations of flight and length were always looming large.

Having scored 12, Bracey was pushed on to the back foot and edged to wicket-keeper Adam Rossington and the same Essex combination teamed up to dismiss Ollie Price, who was stumped.

Seven balls after lunch, the visitors troubles continued when Van Buuren, who had been functionally effective in advancing to 34 from 37 balls, set off for a single and was stranded at the non-striker’s end,, where he found Tom Price a stationary onlooker.

Gohar drove effectively for an unbeaten 29, but Harmer rounded off the innings with two of the last three wickets, taking his tally to 340 first-class victims for Essex.

It was the 27th time he has returned five wickets or more in an innings for the county since joining them in 2017.

Although the visiting attack, missing David Payne and Benny Howell both with the Lions, were given a boost with the early dismissal of Nick Browne, Cook and Westley were standing firm at the close.


>Defeats for Hadleigh and Billericay