Khushi and Browne make Essex look to lead the first innings

Khushi and Browne make Essex look to lead the first innings

Essex 314 for 3 (Khushi 107, Browne 94*) trail Durham 358 by 44 runs

A century from Feroze Khushi and Nick Browne’s unbeaten 94 allowed Essex to take control of their Vitality County Championship match against Durham at the Seat Unique Riverside.

Replying to the home side’s 358, the First Division leaders finished on 314 for 3, leaving their team just 44 runs behind and perhaps laying the foundations for Essex’s third win in four matches this season.

Durham’s hitters will have something to say about that, of course, other than this Riverside pitch is still good for hitting and the weather forecast for Sunday is gloomy. But nothing should detract from the quality of Khushi’s chanceless century, the second of his career and the first since he reached three figures at Canterbury in 2022.

And even when Callum Parkinson dismissed the 24-year-old for 107, Browne shared an unbroken stand of 54 with Jordan Cox to leave his team in good position to take a first-innings lead.

The first wicket to fall in the morning session was that of night watcher Sam Cook, who was bowled by Paul Coughlin for 25 in the 19th innings. By then, however, the Essex stand-in captain had helped Dean Elgar to 64 for the first wicket, a partnership that took much of the shine off the new ball.

However, five minutes before lunch, Durham took the wicket they wanted most when Elgar’s loose drive outside off stump to a Matthew Potts ball led to a catch for Ollie Robinson. The first match dismissal for 46 left his team at 97 for 2 at lunch, but Potts was able to reflect that he had been unlucky not to get a decision against the South African in the first half hour of play, a period in which Ben Raine had also had two safe legs before appeals against Elgar were rejected.

In the afternoon session, Khushi and Browne carefully consolidated their team’s position, with Khushi being especially quick to take advantage of anything loose, driving and pushing Brydon Carse to the boundary in the space of three balls. He reached his fifty off 102 balls as he drove Parkinson towards the boundary and celebrated the achievement two deliveries later with a straight drive for four.

The hundred pairing was formed in less than two hours and perhaps the most notable feature of the afternoon session was the ease with which the pair dealt with Durham’s six-man attack in a fine batting pitch. Colin Ackermann bowled the last over before tea, by which time Essex were 220 for 2, with Khushi on 88 and Browne unbeaten on 46.

The afternoon session continued much like the afternoon session. Carse bowled too much in the first over after the restart and Khushi bowled him through mid-wicket for four to reach his ninety. A look at fine leg two later and then a punch to mid-wicket from Ackermann led to his 156-ball hundred. He had batted for 203 minutes and hit 16 fours.

Ten minutes later, Browne reached his fifty off 143 balls thanks to a stroke of good luck when an attempted deflection of an Ackermann ball only produced a lead between Robinson and Coughlin’s first slip. Liberated by that achievement, Browne took two consecutive fours from Ackermann, but three overs later, Khushi drove Parkinson straight to Graham Clark at short extra cover and was gone.

Browne and his new partner Cox soon had to face the challenge of the new ball, but they did so without problems.