ESSEX cruised to a third consecutive LV= Insurance County Championship win but needed slightly longer than expected before they wrapped up victory by nine wickets over Gloucestershire.

Nick Browne’s unbeaten 43 helped chase down a modest target of 79 to keep the hosts in fourth spot in the Division One table.

Victory for Essex closed the gap to leaders Surrey but they had to wait until after lunch to wrap up another positive red-ball result.

With Gloucestershire trailing by 34 runs overnight and with only four wickets in hand, hopes would have been high for an early finish at Chelmsford but Zafar Gohar had other ideas.

Oliver Price stuck around to frustrate Essex at the end of day two but lost his leg stump to Jamie Porter with the ninth ball of the morning.

It brought brother Tom Price to the crease and he quickly took a liking to Simon Harmer, who already had 10 wickets for the match at this point, with two slog sweeps for six able to wipe out the deficit.

Price’s entertaining 23 ended during their next battle with another sweep this time only finding Matt Critchley at cow corner but it allowed Zafar to release the shackles.

The Pakistan international had initially been watchful against fellow spinner Harmer but back-to-back fours and another boundary off Critchley brought up the 200 for the visitors.

Zafar tucked into the leg-spin of Critchley some more and a huge maximum saw him reach 50 off 53 balls.

Two more sixes off Critchley raised hopes of a century for the Gloucestershire number eight but his latest skip down the wicket saw him bamboozled by Harmer’s flight and spin with Adam Rossington able to whip off the bails to bring a fine innings of 81 to an end.

South African spinner Harmer would eventually finish with eight for 112 but only after Shane Snater dropped a dolly at deep mid-wicket. He made amends three balls later when he stooped low to catch Josh Shaw and leave a victory target of 79.

First innings centurion Sir Alastair Cook only made nine before he was bowled by Ryan Higgins, but fellow opener Browne was in great touch.

Browne had chipped away at the total to leave Essex on 50 for one at lunch and wasted no time after to ensure victory had been achieved by 2pm.

A succession of cover drives brought the target within touching distance at the County Ground and a cut down to third man helped the hosts over the line.

Browne and captain Tom Westley, who finished on 21 not out, put on an unbroken second-wicket stand of 64 to make it three wins on the bounce for Essex ahead of next week’s trip to leaders Surrey.


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