Read how a bizarre day of cricket unfolded with our live text commentary.
10.31amHello everyone and thanks for joining me today for this third day of four at Chelmsford as England continue their warm-up match against Essex.
10.35amAs it stands, England need just one more wicket to bowl out Essex. It's 150 behind for the hosts to avoid the follow-on, which they look unlikely to reach as they're nearly 100 off the total. However, it's not Alastair Cook's style to do that, so I would expect England to bat today.
10.39amYesterday was the battle between two of England's bowlers - one with the bat and the other with the ball. Tim Bresnan batted brilliantly for 105 to end the innings, while Steven Finn impressed on an unlikely slow pitch for him and got three wickets for 56 runs.
10.44amAn honourable mention should also go to Joe Root, who staked his claim to become England's primary part-time bowler with an excellent 20 overs with the ball during the innings. He stepped in following a slight injury to Graeme Swann and took four wickets for 57 - including a brilliant caught and bowled.
10.47amIn terms of the weather today, it's not as sunny and nowhere near as hot as yesterday, but the rain at least should stay away for most if not all of the day. There's a chance of some late on, but that's more likely to arrive after the close of play. Barring a disaster, by then England should be well on their way to victory.
10.51amPlay will get underway at 11am as England look to take the final Essex wicket. Currently they lead by 182 and they will then probably bat again to put the game out of reach of Essex. I'm a big fan of enforcing the follow-on, though, so I hope they do that instead. We'll see pretty soon, I suppose.
10.55amWhen Essex come back out Tom Craddock, who has faced eight balls and is yet to score, will be joined by new batsman Tymal Mills. The latter actually tweeted last night to say he did not expect to still be in beyond 11.01am!
10.58amHe probably does have a point, with all due respect to him. His average at first-class level is 5.16 and 20* is his top score. He gave a good account of himself with the ball, so a few in this England attack might be looking forward to peppering him a little.
10.59amHere come Mills and Craddock, with Finn bowling from Hayes Close end. We're just about ready to go.
ESS 235-9Mills is close to getting himself off the mark with a glance off his pads to the fine leg boundary, but they're given as leg-byes. He survives the remaining four balls - good effort.
ESS 241-9Root comes in at the other end for his 21st over, I suspect more to do with the chance of getting a five-for than resting Swann. There's a slog from Craddock and it lands safe in the off side and they run two. Then he catches it properly and it goes straight down the ground for four; good shot.
ESS 242-9Mills runs again, but it's a leg-bye once more. He's yet to score and at the other end Craddock almost gets into a mess from a shortish Finn delivery, but manages to block the ball down. He's showing some good shots, in fairness, but now Root will have a go at Mills.
ESS 249-9Here come Mills's first runs - a slap down the ground to Root for four. Then he goes to the leg side towards deep midwicket and gets off strike with a single. Craddock gets a thick edge on his next swing but it's just wide of Cook at backward point. Aside from that, they bat the over well and seven come from the over.
ESS 253-9Great shot from Mills, who pulls a medium-short delivery in front of square for four and greets it with a beaming smile at Finn. He then edges a forward push just short of Jonny Bairstow at point and picks out poor old Ian Bell at (quite deep) short leg - it cracked off the side of his knee. Mills is tearing up the England team here! Have the Aussies paid him off?
ESS 255-9A couple for Craddock with a swipe outside his off stump to start Root's next over and after that he defends solidly to settle for just those two off it. These two are refusing to lie down.
ESS 256-9There's an appeal for an inside edge on Craddock as the ball fell to Pietersen - it looks as though the first noise was indeed bat and he's got away with it there. Just a single from the over in the end, as Craddock decides against playing the rest of the over.
ESS 263-9Root probably won't get his five-for now as Swann replaces him into the attack. Mills goes straight after him with a slog for four over deep midwicket, before being done by a slow one and then sweeping for a single. Craddock tries to mow over the same area Mills hit his four, but Bresnan cuts it off and they run two.
ESS 266-9Finn carries on and continues to pepper it short and pitch it up, but at the moment neither batsman is being caught out. There's a really nicely timed shot from Mills for two puts Essex past the follow-on total.
ESS 278ESSEX ALL OUT FOR 278: Mills is having a great time out there! But then he's gone! He launches Swann for two big sixes, before being done trying to block the next ball. He should have carried on swinging, but it's a good morning for them and now England come back into bat 135 ahead.
11.36amSo there will be a quick turnaround before England come back out to attempt to put this beyond Essex. They'll probably bat out the rest of the day and give themselves tomorrow to bowl at Essex.
11.39amSo Mills, having just hit a rapid 31, will be given the ball to have a go at the England openers. Cook is in the pavilion ready and is just waiting for Root to join him.
11.41amIt will be Mills to open to Cook, let's get going then!
ENG 6-0Mills starts with pace and eagerness, but a little too much as he steps over the line on his second delivery for a no-ball. That's a great shot from Cook to pull a slightly shortly pitched ball to the boundary for four. He pinches a single which gets Root on strike for the final delivery and he blocks it - six from the over.
ENG 6-0Sajid Mahmood is tossed the ball at the other end and Cook gets a huge let-off! He pushes a semi-block and the ball goes up to Mahmood, but he doesn't expect it and puts the catch down. It's a maiden for the bowler, but it should have been so much more.
ENG 9-0Root gets himself off the mark with a single, and Cook sends him right back to the striker's end with one of his own. Then Mills puts up a full toss, but Root doesn't catch it quite right and has to settle for a quick one.
ENG 16-0Four runs for Root. It's a full toss again, this time from Mahmood, and Root doesn't waste this chance, punching the ball away for four. After a wide, Root gets a single and Cook clips to the leg side and runs one to keep the strike.
ENG 19-0Quick running between the wicket from Cook and Root - that's a good sign for this fledgling opening partnership. They end the over with a second quick single, this time for Root, and a pull from Cook. Three from it and it's a good, steady start for England.
ENG 28-0A bit of poor wicketkeeping allows four byes, before Essex's substitute fielder - 15-year-old (!) Aaron Beard - cannot reach a Root pull to the boundary. That's an expensive over with nine from it.
ENG 33-0Craddock - five for 69 in the first innings - is into the attack now. So an early bit of spin for the hosts, can it have a say and unsettle the currently comfortable England batsmen? Cook is watchful to him to begin with but eventually pinches a single before Root follows suit and Cook takes three off the final ball.
ENG 43-0Really good shot from Cook - a classic cut behind point from a too short Mahmood delivery. Good work on the boundary from Beard there, who makes a diving stop to save a couple from a Cook pull. A final single finishes a very expensive Mahmood over - he must be pulled out of the attack soon, I'd have thought.
ENG 45-0Just two runs for Cook from Craddock's next over. He's on 25 from 37 in what is a good start against his own county. Root has 13 from 20.
ENG 53-0Cook is receiving treatment for a slight cut on his hand. There's blood in his gloves, so he gets a fresh plaster and carries on. When the over starts it's a good shot from Root, who drives through the covers for three. Root then brings up England's 50 with a fine push off the back foot through the cover point region for four.
ENG 58-0Cook quickly reacts to a ball dropped slightly short from Craddock to punch through the leg side for four. He then takes an easy single to backward point. No further runs from Root and England's good start to the innings continues.
ENG 60-0Ravi Bopara comes into the attack to have a go at his county captain. Just two from the over and it's 60 from 12 so far - nice easy maths for me, that, five an over.
ENG 65-0Craddock continues with his spin, with Root finally getting a look at the start of an over. He finds the boundary off the second ball, then pinches a single to get off strike. Cook is done by a bit of turn, but the ball is safely down leg side.
ENG 69-0Cook takes a single and Root then swipes it behind square on the leg side - he wants two, so they scamper back for the second. One more single form the over and that means the rate drops slightly below five. Not to matter, though, England are well and truly cruising here.
ENG 76-0England's skipper decides he wants to take it to Craddock, and gets down on one knee to sweep into the crowd for a good six. Root miscues the final ball, but it bounces and goes up and away to safety.
ENG 76-0Good bowling from Bopara. He hasn't conceded many runs since he came into the attack, and that's a maiden over. Just Essex's second of the innings, I believe.
ENG 76-1It's a good ball from Craddock. Slightly quicker, and Root is caught out trying to step back and pull to the leg side. He misses and the ball hits his back leg right in front of leg stump. Easy decision to give him out. Finally a breakthrough for Essex and in comes Jonathan Trott.
ENG 76-1There's a clutch of fielders around Trott's bat and he's given a couple of testing balls but defends well. There's probably time for one more over before lunch.
ENG 80-1LUNCH: Cook punches away a shortish ball from Bopara and earns himself a single. Trott goes through his lengthy routine before he faces - and leaves it outside his off stump. He gets himself off the mark from the last ball with three to deep extra cover.
1.01pmSo England lead by 215 going into lunch on day three. They can't have asked for much more this morning when they got back into bat and are set for a decent score by the end of the day.
1.02pmI'll be taking a break during lunch, so please do return in about 35 minutes when I'll be back for the second session.
1.35pmHello again and thanks for coming back to SM. We're roughly five minutes away from the second session, which could see England completely in control by the end of it - if they aren't already.
1.40pmThe players are coming out and it looks as though Craddock will continue with his spin. Trott to face.
ENG 83-1It's defensive from Trott to begin with, but then he picks up three with a nice late shot - the only runs from the over, though, as Cook sees off the final two deliveries.
ENG 84-1Again Trott plays defensively for the first three balls, this time against Westley. He nicks a single off the fourth ball and Cook continues the slow start with two blocks.
ENG 85-1Nicely tucked away on one knee from Trott into the leg side for a single. Again it's off the fourth ball to give Cook another two from the over - he swings at it, hits fine leg but the ball falls safe. Five runs from three overs since lunch.
ENG 90-1Cook gets almost a whole over at Westley following a Trott single and it proves fruitful. He finds the boundary with a nice four to move him two away from his 50.
ENG 98-1Good batting from Trott from Craddock's next over. On works the gaps really well, never letting the field settle to hit four pairs from the over. Eight in total and he's starting to find his feet now.
ENG 102-1FIFTY FOR COOK: Cook tucks one off his pads to start the new over and brings up a very comfortable half-century off 79 balls. It simultaneously brings up England's 100. Another glance to fine leg gets him another two to end the over. England are in a very healthy position.
ENG 107-1They're starting to tick over the scoreboard nicely now. Two singles start the over, before Trott gets two and another one to put Cook back on strike for the last couple of deliveries. He's nearly caught out by Craddock, but despite missing with the sweep got himself well outside the line and was never at risk of the LB.
ENG 115-1Another decent over, from Trott in particular. He doesn't quite reach the boundary with a flick to leg so runs three instead. A single for Cook and a final four for Trott - who moves to 28 from 33 from it - ends the over. The lead is now 250.
ENG 123-1Cook sweeps Craddock to start the new over and gets a single as his shot is fielded in the deep. Trott sends him back with a clip to midwicket before Craddock tries a faster delivery, but there's not enough in the pitch to nearly trouble England's skipper. As such, he steps in to clip over mid-on for four, before almost being caught out by the next ball - he manages to glove it fine for two more, though.
ENG 127-1Mahmood comes back into the attack and a poor cut from Trott almost sees the batsman play on to his own stumps, but he survives. Better from Trott, who gets two with a push through extra cover and he goes off his pads for a single the other side.
ENG 130-1Cook cuts late to Westley, who has come back into the attack. It almost gets to the boundary but is stopped just in time, so just the three for Cook - the only runs from the over. England lead by 265.
ENG 132-1The progress has just slowed a touch as MAhmood continues. Cook gets an early single and Trott gets another later in the over with a push to the off side.
ENG 134-1Westley continues with his angled run-up and it's another over in which both batsman get a single apiece. They're ticking along, presumably to set themselves up for an onslaught soon? Here's hoping.
ENG 137-1Aaron Beard - the 15-year-old super fielder - is back on following an injury in the field to Westley. He took a blow from Trott and scurried off. Two for Trott and one for Cook from the over, and Owais Shah comes in to bowl.
ENG 138-1He has very little run-up, Shah, so he races through the over. He keeps a good line until Cook finally manages to clip a single off the fifth ball, which turns out to be the only run from the over.
ENG 138-1Good stop from Beard at point, diving across to stop from Trott. The news is that the substitutes who are on the field have been given permission to bowl. That means the game loses its first-class status - Bresnan's 105 and Craddock's five-for no longer count!
2.47pmIt's very odd this. Rankin is on the pitch in an England kit, but will be bowling for Essex. He and Topley are in to give England a bit more of a test, but in doing so the match loses first-class status.
ENG 139-1RAIN STOPS PLAY: Three balls into Reece Topley's over and the covers come on for rain. It's quite good timing, in fact, as everyone tries to get to grips with what is actually happening.
2.52pmThere's such a strong element of village cricket about this one now - mainly Boyd Rankin being out there in England whites. Bresnan suddenly has never scored a first-class ton and a really impressive five-for from Craddock no longer exists. Root bowled really well, too, but his average will not have been improved.
2.56pmThe rain doesn't look very heavy so that certainly shouldn't be the last bit of cricket we see today. I'll let you know when I hear any weather updates. At the moment only the main cover is on and a couple on the outfield.
3.01pmIt was Mills, who bowled brilliantly, and David Masters who have been injured and could no longer continue. With the likes of Shah - without being disrespectful - bowling England were not likely to get the practice they needed and so Rankin and Topley were called upon. From the point of view of the crowd and the match as a spectacle it is a shame, but it's better for the Ashes that the England players have a stronger test.
3.05pmI'm hearing that the game will restart at 3.10. It has stopped raining so it's best to get them out as soon as possible as there won't be much moisture on the outfield.
3.10pmI think that rumour was a little bit premature. The covers are still on and I've not heard an official announcement about the start of play just yet.
3.15pmIn fact, while we wait I'm going to take a quick break. I'll be straight back as soon as I hear news from Chelmsford, so sit tight.
3.29pmBREAKING NEWS: Play is due to restart at 3.35pm.
3.35pmHere we go then, Topley is ready to finish his over, which he is half way through. Let's play.
ENG 139-1No further runs from it then, as Boyd Rankin warms up to take the ball. The Irishman is still in his England kit.
ENG 145-1Trott and Cook exchange a single apiece before Trott gets back into the swing of things with a cracking four. Six overall from the over, with the last ball being a close LBW appeal, but Trott survives it. He takes a blow on the leg for his troubles, though.
ENG 146-1Topley continues at the other end, and he's started well with the ball - a better line to begin with than Rankin. Cook moves on to 71 with a nice easy single, which is the only run from a good Topley over.
ENG 152-1Trott, somewhat surprisingly, is in no mood to hang around. He clips another four following a Cook single, then sends his captain back with one of his own a couple of balls later - that shot a nice jumping flick off his hip.
ENG 154-1Rankin is definitely the player who England are targeting their scoring from. Just two come from the latest Topley over as he continues to keep things tight.
ENG 156-1As I say that, Rankin delivers a very nicely bowled over. Cook gets a quick single early in it, with Trott following suit the following ball, but England only manage those two from it. It has been slow scoring since the rain delay.
ENG 160-1FIFTY FOR TROTT: There's a bowling change as Bopara comes back in for Topley. Trott opens the over with two runs to bring up his 50, but then is forced to defend a few before spinning a controlled pull almost to the rope for another couple. A cut off the final ball is fielded at point, so four from it.
ENG 161-1It seemed odd that Topley was the one replaced and not Rankin, but either way the latter manages another good over. Just a couple of slightly loose deliveries, one of which is sent for a single by Cook.
ENG 163-1Cook takes an early opportunity to flick into a gap on the leg side for two runs, but he's defensive for the rest of the over. It's a good show of blocking from the skipper but equally some decent line bowling from Bopara.
ENG 166-1Trott bounces off his toes to flick the first ball of Rankin's next over away for a single. Cook swings and misses at the very next ball and is fortunate not to get an edge, before getting himself off strike with a swift two a couple of deliveries later.
ENG 173-1Good batting from Trott, who looks to score off the gentle pace of Bopara. After a watchful one, he clips a four and then a two from consecutive deliveries. He takes a single to get Cook on strike, who then sees out the final two balls for no runs.
ENG 183-1Excellent batting from Trott, who opens Rankin's next over over with two spendid fours. It's a good recovery from the bowler, however, who straightens his line but a misfield at the end of the over gifts two more to England's number three.
ENG 190-1Another great shot from Trott. He has time to straighten his shoulders and the face of his bat to guide it back past the stumps and down the ground for four. I believe the next over will be the last one before tea. Will we see either of these two retire at tea to give someone else a bat? Kevin Pietersen, largely.
ENG 195-1TEA: Rankin gets a little bit of bounce, before putting one up much more full - it's the second that gets dispatched towards mid-on, but not quite to the boundary. Five from the over, and that's tea.
4.36pmTopley and Rankin came in to provide a much sterner test for the English batsman, and in fact the latter was hit around at nearly five an over. Topley, though gave up just four runs from his three overs. As that's tea, I'll take a quick break but do join me again in around 15 minutes' time.
4.52pmHello and welcome back. The news over the tea break is that both Cook and Trott have retired, with Ian Bell and Jonny Bairstow coming in to have a bat. That means England have lost two wickets over tea and are now on 195-3.
4.54pmThe players are coming back out for this final session. It looks as though Craddock - who has already seen a five-for stripped from him today - to open after the interval.
4.56pmWe'll go on until about 7pm today, with the option there for a bit longer if needed. Let's play.
ENG 200-3I wonder if Trott would have agreed to that retirement had this match still counted towards his stats? Anyway, Bell is in and after a first delivery that almost caught him out he strikes the ball through midwicket for four to get off the mark. He then pushes to cover for a single to bring up England's 200.
ENG 200-3Topley is given the ball from the other end who, remember, was introduced as a substitute following the injuries to Mills and Masters. He continues his excellent line and length and completes another maiden - just four runs conceded from four overs for him.
ENG 201-3Good work then from Topley in the field, saving probably a couple of runs with a diving stop. Bairstow gets himself off the mark with a run - or more like a walk - off the final ball of Craddock's over.
ENG 202-3Bairstow picks up an early single from the over and it's Bell's turn to be pinned back in his crease - there's no point trying to force the issue with bowling so accurate.
ENG 206-3It's good from Craddock as well. Again Bairstow picks up a single before Bell shows intent by coming down the wicket and finally picking up three off the final ball.
ENG 209-3RAIN STOPS PLAY: An amazing three runs from Topley's next over, but it's bad news I'm afraid as off come the players and on go the covers. That's right: more rain.
5.20pmAt the delay England are 344 runs ahead. It's probably enough to bowl out Essex again, but with Bell and Bairstow having only just got out to the middle England haven't got as much out of this day as they'd have liked.
5.26pmBell is on nine and Bairstow five - not nearly enough of a knock to get them ready for an Ashes series, really. The covers are still about and a lot of the crowd have gone home. Many did after it became a bit of a shambles following the decision to declassify it from first-class, now more after the second rain delay.
5.30pmAs soon as I hear any word of the resumption of play I'll get the news straight across. My gut tells me it will only be a brief delay as the rain isn't hard at all.
5.35pmOf course, what does my gut know? They've just whisked out some more covers and that can't be a sign of the rain subsiding any time soon. Rain wasn't forecast until later on, but it's obviously changed its mind and has turned this into a very frustrating day of cricket indeed.
5.40pmSo, what has happened today then? Well it seems a lifetime ago now, but this morning Tymal Mills came out swinging alongside Tom Craddock and took Essex to a respectable 278. Mills was the last man to go but hit his best-ever score of 31. Little did he know that score was about to be ripped from the history books...
5.44pmBREAKING: Play is scheduled to restart at 5.50pm. The rain has subsided and the covers are coming off. Let's hope we'll get through to the end.
5.51pmAlthough, I can see that the main cover on the pitch has yet to be removed. Hopefully that doesn't mean heavier rain is on the way. Of course, I'll let you know when I hear any more - we're already past the expected restart date.
5.56pmWe'll definitely be losing overs now, and the longer it goes on the darker it's likely to get. Assuming it doesn't stop raining in the next half an hour or so I would expect that to be the last of the action.
5.57pmHowever, saying that, the main cover is off and now it looks as though play will get going again at 6pm. Fingers crossed...
5.58pmAnd here come the players - we'll get some more action. There haven't been further retirements in the delay, so Bell and Bairstow come out ready to face.
5.59pmIt will be Boyd Rankin to bowl to Bell. We have 17 overs left in the day.
ENG 214-3Bell clips a single to the leg side and Bairstow gets solid bat on ball with a back foot block. Nice shot from Bairstow, who gets his first four of the innings.
ENG 217-3RAIN STOPS PLAY: Topley carries on his spell from the other end. He's been very disciplined so far and that continues with both batsmen only able to pick up a three singles from the over. But then the heavens open again, and off trudge the players. Just call it off - this day has been frustrating enough.
6.08pmThe rain is a bit harder than it was last time. England lead by 352 and I think that could be it for the day - unless it stops immediately, of course. As ever, I'll let you know, assuming you've not left me like most of the crowd have the County Ground.
6.13pmThey can play up until 7.30pm and with 15 overs left to play there is still time for that. With only the pitch cover on at the moment the signs are that they will be able to come back out before too long.
6.18pmIt looks a fair bit darker than it did a few moments ago and worse news is that more covers have come on at either end of the pitch. That makes my prediction of the players coming back out quickly look a little silly. Oh well, I won't apologise for my optimism!
6.23pmSo there we have it. More covers have gone on, it's wet out there and there will be no further play today. England lead by 352 and have a choice tomorrow whether they want further batting practice or want to win what is now a nothing match.
6.24pmAnyhow, from me it's thanks for joining me throughout this day - particularly the frustrating afternoon of not much play. We're back tomorrow at 10.30am for the final day of this match. Goodbye for now.