Essex 310 (Cook 145, Westley 90, Zafar 5-84) and 79 for 1 (Browne 43*, Westley 21*) beat Gloucestershire 136 (Harmer 5-44) and 252 (Zafar 81, Harmer 8-112) by nine wickets
The victory earned the victors 22 points with the bottom-of-the-table and still winless Gloucestershire collecting just two points.
Harmer’s performance was again the talking point. It was the fifth time for the county since joining in 2017 that he has captured eight wickets in an innings – he also has two nine-wickets hauls in an innings – and his tally for the season has now swelled to 40 in seven matches.
Gloucestershire began the day on 140 for 6, still trailing by 34 runs, and with only four second-innings wickets intact after Harmer had captured five the previous evening.
Ollie Price, who had played the South African Test bowler with panache including a number of bountiful reverse sweeps to reach 42 from 33 balls overnight, resumed with Zafar but the partnership failed to last beyond the ninth ball of the day.
Six runs had been scored when Jamie Porter castled Price, who was on 43, with his third delivery of the morning.
Brother Tom Price continued the aggressive approach against Harmer to briefly prosper. He struck two sixes and two other boundaries in an over, the second of which erased his side’s overall deficit but Harmer always has the last word. With his next delivery, he persuaded Price, on 23, to attempt to go large once more, a terminal move for the batter as Matt Critchley took the catch at deep long-on.
Zafar though, flashed his bat to good effect. A maximum against Critchley’s leg-spin brought him to a 53-ball half-century and two sixes from the bowler’s next over posted a half-century stand with Matt Taylor whose contribution was eight.
Having been the architect of a 65-run stand in 10 overs and helped carry the score to 244, the dominant Zafar was finally deceived by Harmer in flight and was stumped before Harmer wrapped up the innings five balls later.
Essex had Cook to thank for their defining first-innings lead of 174 runs. The former England captain and opener, now 37 years young, shows no signs of ageing and scored 145 after occupying the crease for almost eight hours. The relentless quest for runs shows no indication of abating – his tally for the Championship season now stands at 658 at a shade over 50. Maybe not at the scoring rate the new England management require but still invaluable for his county and proving that he retains the class of a leading player in the red-ball game.