Paul Walter and Matt Critchley staged a belligerent rearguard action after being asked to follow on by Northamptonshire on Day 3 at Chelmsford.

The fourth-wicket pair came together at 58-3 shortly before tea and were still there at stumps having put on 91 valuable runs as Essex fought to save the LV= Insurance County Championship match.

Essex, eventually dismissed in their first innings for 193, with Ben Sanderson finishing with 4-32, were asked to follow-on by Northamptonshire still 197 runs behind. By the close on day three they were 149-3, requiring another 48 to make the visitors bat again.

That Essex are still in the game was largely down to Shane Snater, who almost single-handedly ensured the calamitous batting of the previous evening – when they were reduced to 83-8 – did not become even worse. Snater dominated stands of 69 for the ninth wicket with Mark Steketee and 41 for the last with Sam Cook. More importantly for Essex, in their attempt to avoid back-to-back Championship defeats, his stoic resolution took a session out of the equation. 

Gareth Berg struck with his fourth ball of the day as he had Steketee playing all around a full-pitched delivery and losing his off-stump. Cook then pushed forward to the off-spin of Keogh on the dot of lunch and was snaffled at slip. 

Without a moment’s hesitation Essex were asked to bat again and were in trouble again after losing three wickets in 14 overs. Sir Alastair Cook went for 19, caught at first slip off Tom Taylor, Tom Westley was next to go, pinned in a muddle of indecisiveness on his crease by Luke Procter, before Nick Browne wafted at Keogh and became the latest victim to a slip catch. 

Browne’s wicket went down in the midst of a sequence of 38 dot balls as Essex bustled along at a rate of barely two an over. There was another spell of five successive maidens that epitomised the Essex approach as Walter and Critchley effectively shut up shop after tea.

Northamptonshire 390 (Procter 113, Berg 75)
Essex 193 (Sanderson 4/32, Kelly 2/50) & 149/3 (Keogh 1/21, Procter 1/23)

Full scorecard.