ESSEX'S hopes of defending the County Championship and Bob Willis Trophy took a massive hit as they drew with Nottinghamshire at the County Ground.

Notts fast bowler Brett Hutton, on just his second outing of the season, took five for 65, including his 200th first-class wicket to bowl Essex out for 210 – and give Notts an 83 run first-innings lead.

Ben Slater killed off any potential drama by reaching 19 before bad light, and subsequently rain, ended play at 2.20pm, with the match officially abandoned at 3pm.

The stalemate does Essex no help in their attempt to reach Division One– with favours likely needed from elsewhere to deny one of Warwickshire, Durham and Notts from progressing.

The top four in Group One are now separated by only nine points, although Essex have played a game more than their rivals.

Hopes for a positive result had all but been kiboshed by a washed-out second day, along with a pitch which had made scoring slow.

Notts needed 10 morning overs to wrap up the Essex first-innings, with both sides picking up a bonus point – the former for taking nine wickets and the latter for sliding past 200.

After the second new ball was taken an over into the day, Shane Snater and Simon Harmer’s eighth-wicket partnership reached exactly 50 before both fell in consecutive overs.

First, Snater was adjudged leg-before to Hutton, and then Harmer was pinned in front by Luke Fletcher – the burly seamer’s 38th wicket of an impressive campaign.

The innings concluded as Hutton made Sam Cook’s off stump go kerplunk to complete his five-wicket haul, the 10th of his career.

In reply, the visitors had no need nor intention to take any risks as they reached 44 for two before umpires Ian Blackwell and Neil Mallender ended proceedings.

Siddle provided a probing spell with the new ball and was rewarded with the edge to first slip of Ben Compton.

Ben Duckett was bowled around his legs by Snater, having eaten up 50 minutes, with Slater holding things together for an unbeaten 87-ball 19.

But the match ended in a draw, with Snater admitting it had been a difficult encounter for Essex.

“It has been a tough few days,” said Snater.

“It was a bit disappointing with the bat in the first innings.

“It would have been nice to get a few more but there was a good fight from the boys.

“It would have been nicer to bat longer today and get closer to their score but a bit of rain about didn’t help.

“There was still a bit in there today with the new ball but as the ball felt a bit softer it died off a bit.

“We can only hope we beat Derbyshire and then everything else goes our way.”

Essex are back in action on Wednesday evening when their attentions turn to the Vitality Blast T20 competition with a clash at Somerset.