VETERAN Ryan ten Doeschate helped Essex bat out a draw to hand his side the inaugural Bob Willis Trophy and their third first-class title in four years.

Essex, set 237 to win, needed only to draw the match to be presented with the trophy by Bob Willis’ widow Lauren Clark, due to scoring more first-innings runs.

Somerset managed to dismiss six Essex batsman but 40-year-old ten Doeschate (46) with Adam Wheater, stayed firm for 27 overs, before the latter took them home with Simon Harmer to confirmed Essex as the Bob Willis Trophy winners.

Ten Doeschate, who joined the county in 2003, had kept out 137 balls, and Wheater 80 balls, as Essex fell 58 runs short of their target after 80.3 overs.

Essex have now won four trophies in three years, having won the County Championship in 2017 and 2019 along with last year’s Vitality Blast.

Both those four-day titles came under the captaincy of ten Doeschate before he relinquished the role to Tom Westley at the beginning of this season.

For Somerset, it was the sixth time in 11 seasons, and third in a row, they were ranked as the second-placed side in county cricket – to continue their reputation as red ball bridesmaids.

Somerset began the day with a lead of 191, knowing they needed more runs but as many overs as possible to bowl Essex out.

They eventually settled on giving their opponents 237 runs to win in 80 overs, after declaring on 272 for seven.

They had added 45 runs in 49 balls during the half-hour morning burst thanks mostly to Craig Overton’s 44 not out – which included a huge six over midwicket.

Nick Browne and Sir Alastair Cook were initially dismissive of the challenge with regular boundaries against the new ball.

Browne uppercut the first delivery of the innings past the slip cordon before striking back-to-back boundaries off Overton, while Cook pushed a straight drive and a cover drive off Josh Davey.

But Essex’s bright start stalled as Browne and captain Tom Westley departed in consecutive overs.

Lewis Gregory, who took 6-72 in the first innings, found the former’s edge with his second delivery after his introduction to the attack, before the latter was lbw to Overton.

For the rest of the day, run-scoring became less of a priority with wicket prevention the main aim.

Cook was the dangerman as far as Somerset were concerned after his imperious 172 in the first innings, his tournament-leading 563 runs, and his legendary career record in first-class and Test cricket.

The former England captain demonstrated his trademark grit during a 42-run stand with Dan Lawrence, as he scored a calm 31.

But his time at the crease ended when he was adjudged to have been caught behind off Gregory – the decision met with a teapot stance and a wry grin as he disbelievingly trudged back to the pavilion.

Lawrence added a further 30 runs with Paul Walter, the latter only contributing six of them, before left-arm spinner Jack Leach pinned him leg-before.

It was the first wicket Leach had taken since dismissing New Zealand’s Tim Southee in the Test at Mount Maunganui last November.

Walter and ten Doeschate battened down the hatches again as they scored 33 runs together in just over 16 overs.

But an over after the umpires had taken out the light-metres and told Somerset they couldn’t bowl bouncers, Leach struck Walter in front to leave Essex on 131 for five.

But ten Doeschate used his considerable experience with Wheater to take the sting out of the match, despite the South African-born all-rounder skying a late catch off Leach (3-38) to George Bartlett at midwicket.

Impressively, Cook, Lawrence, Walter, ten Doeschate and Wheater had all spent longer than 90 minutes at the crease.