ESSEX seamer Jamie Porter claimed four wickets on a rain-interrupted second day to pose the first serious questions about Surrey’s credentials of retaining their LV= Insurance County Championship title.

Porter took his season’s total to 18 in four Championship games after recording just 19 during the whole of the 2022 campaign.

His four for 51 from 14.5 overs enabled Essex to dismiss Surrey for 240 and gain a 74-run first-innings lead.

This was extended to 89 by Nick Browne and Sir Alastair Cook in five overs before stumps.

Only former England opener Dom Sibley showed any lengthy occupancy of the crease for the reigning champions, mixing a degree of purpose and elan as he passed 7,000 runs in his 10-year first-class career.

But Sibley’s toing and froing, backwards and forwards from the pavilion between showers, finally ended after 83 balls, 48 runs and three big sixes off Simon Harmer.

Sean Abbott chipped in with a lower-order 31, but his colleagues made starts without going on to make larger contributions.

There were hold-ups for four rain showers during the day. Indeed, one stop-start over from Sam Cook was interrupted twice and spanned three-quarters of an hour.

Surrey survived two dropped chances during the first spell of playable weather, Matt Critchley spilling Sibley at leg-slip and Dan Lawrence failing to grasp at third slip to reprieve Rory Burns.

Later Abbott was given a life when Harmer floored what would normally be a routine chance at second slip.

Burns added 16 runs to his total before edging Sam Cook to first slip to depart for 27.

Sibley celebrated reaching his personal milestone by greeting the introduction of Harmer with a six over square-leg. He followed that by launching the off-spinner for a second out of the ground over midwicket before lunch was heralded by thunder and lightning circling the ground.

When play belatedly resumed Ollie Pope and Sibley both lofted Harmer over long-leg for sixes.

Doug Bracewell started a Surrey mini-collapse when got extra lift off the pitch and induced a faint tickle from Sibley.

The New Zealander added a second wicket in his next over when he found some late movement to take the outside of Jamie Smith’s bat.

A third wicket fell inside a six-over spell for the addition of five runs when Porter’s first ball of a new spell tucked up Pope.

Will Jacks hit 26 of the 39 runs scored for the fifth wicket before he also received a ball that kept low from Shane Snater and was lbw.

Cameron Steel fell into Harmer’s honey trap, pulling a shorter delivery straight into Sam Cook’s hands on the square-leg boundary.

Ben Foakes had hung around for 68 balls, scoring 24 while wickets fell at the other end before he got an inside edge to Sam Cook and was bowled.

Porter wrapped up the innings accounting for Jordan Clark, another victim to one that kept low, then Abbott, caught spectacularly in the covers by Browne, and finally Gus Atkinson pinned on his crease.