In an ever more uncertain world, English cricket retains three great certainties. One is that Joe Root is a class above all other batsmen, the second is that Simon Harmer will take wickets, and the third that Middlesex’s batting will crumble at the drop of a helmet. Someone was always going to pay for Essex’s slow start to the season as county champions, not to mention holders of the Bob Willis Trophy, and Derbyshire were the victims. Harmer took a career-best nine for 80 with his off-spin in dismissing Derbyshire for only 146 and making them follow on. Harmer had taken nine wickets in a match before, against Middlesex none too surprisingly, but never so cheaply. On Friday evening, when Chelmsford’s light was too bad for pace, he had opened the Essex bowling and taken two wickets out of three to fall, and mopped up the remaining seven on day three, often caught in his leg-trap. The other wicket was taken by Dan Lawrence, a part-time off-spinner. It was Lawrence’s dazzling 152 off 133 balls on Friday that put Essex ahead of the game, or at least enabled them to catch up with the clock after Thursday’s washout. Harmer, as a former Kolpak, has given up hopes of qualifying for England, but he would walk into their squad for Australia if he were available. A competent No 8, and a second slip with bucket hands, he puts over-spin on his off-breaks to rival that of Nathan Lyon. But Harmer has not spent enough winters residing in England.