Paul Walter underlined his burgeoning reputation as an allrounder of considerable promise with starring performances from both bat and ball on the final day against the West Indians.
He rescued Essex from outright collapse with his highest first-class score and then dismissed the first two batsmen when the West Indians batted again. They had increased that notional lead to 288 when time was called on their batting practice at with 20 overs remaining.
Walter had come in at 52 for 5 in the fifth over of the day – soon to be 56 for 6 – and was still there, 68 not out, when Essex declared just before three o’clock.
He faced 139 balls, hitting nine fours and a straight six off Devendra Bishoo that threatened the window of the radio commentary box and its occupants. He had fifty-run partnerships with Aron Nijjar and Matt Dixon to tame a West Indian attack in which Kemar Roach finished with 5 for 43.
With a ball in his hand, Walter has eased into the key third-seamer position in the Essex attack in the absence of the injured Matt Quinn and took wickets with his sixth and seventh balls.
Walter had steadied Essex after they lost two wickets in the first eight overs of the third day to leave them 56 for 6. The fifth wicket fell when an out swinger from Jason Holder found the edge of Callum Taylor’s bat and Kyle Hope dived across from third slip to take the catch.
Hope took his third catch of the innings to end Nick Browne’s near two-hour stay at the crease. The left-hander faced another 24 balls during the first 35 minutes of play without advancing his overnight score of 16 before Roach found his edge.
Walter was then joined in a 50-run stand for the seventh wicket by Nijar that took the Essex total past 100. Nijar raced along pleasingly at a run-a-ball before he was taken at the third attempt by a juggling Kieran Powell at second slip to give Miguel Cummins a second wicket.
Walter was particularly strong through mid-off where he drove both Holder and Roston Chase for boundaries. However, he lost his third partner when Aaron Beard chopped on to give Roach wicket his fifth wicket.
A deflection off Roach to third man took Walter past his previous highest score of 47. He reached his maiden fifty from 97 balls with a lofted drive that just cleared cover’s head.
Matt Dixon had provided solid support in an ninth-wicket stand of 53 before he was lbw to Bishoo and the declaration followed soon after.
The ubiquitous Walter made the breakthrough with the ball when he had Kraigg Brathwaite caught behind by a diving Adam Wheater in his opening over, and Kyle Hope bowled without scoring in his next. Powell was the third to go, caught behind to Taylor’s first ball, a whippy in swinger slanted across the batsman and took the edge.
Some wayward bowling after tea helped fourth-wicket pair Shai Hope and Chase enjoy some easy pickings. Aaron Beard was particularly severely dealt with, going for 35 in five overs, while Chase twice in succession flicked Dixon off his legs for fours as he went for six an over. Chase had the time to reach his second fifty of the match, from 69 balls, before the players shook hands.
Summarized scores: West Indies 338 for 8 dec (Chase 81, Brathwaite 61, Blackwood 59) and 135 for 4 dec (Chase 50*) drew with Essex 185 for 9 dec (Walter 68*, Roach 5-43)