Lawrence makes a century as Essex enjoy a great day with the bat

Essex's Varun Chopra, in good form on day two against Hampshire Photo: PA SPORT

Essex's Varun Chopra, in good form on day two against Hampshire Photo: PA SPORT - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Essex (363-6) v Hampshire

Dan Lawrence made his first Specsavers County Championship century in nearly a year to underpin one of Essex’s best days with the bat this summer.

Coincidentally the 21-year-old’s seventh of eight first-class hundreds came in a famous victory against Hampshire at Southampton in the penultimate game of last season.

But Lawrence has struggled, like most of his team-mates, for runs in Essex’s post-title-winning campaign and had just one half-century to his name previously this summer.

He started circumspectly, and was outscored at one point in his first century partnership by Ryan ten Doeschate, who came in two wickets later, but picked up with the return of the confidence that brought him an England Lions call-up in the winter. He was 114 not out from 192 balls at stumps.

Essex finished the day on 363 for six, only the fourth time this season they have gone beyond 300 in an innings.

Indeed, Essex’s top-order had endured such a parlous season they had accumulated just 11 batting points before Hampshire’s arrival at Chelmsford. But that was advanced by four on a day when nearly everything and everyone clicked and five batsmen surpassed their season’s averages by considerable margins.

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Varun Chopra, prolific against the white ball, had averaged just 13.20 in the Championship, but his 61 from 142 balls was nearly twice his previous best. Tom Westley’s 40 from 96 balls was also more than double his average of 17.07 and Lawrence’s three-figure score well and truly eclipsed his mean of 21.61. Ten Doeschate, going past fifty for the fourth time in his last five innings, beat his 40.17, and finally in the evening sunshine Adam Wheater’s swashbuckling 52 bettered his 21.50.

In addition, Essex posted three century partnerships with Chopra and Westley putting on 101 for the second wicket, Lawrence and ten Doeschate compiling 122 for the fifth, and Lawrence and Wheater 105 for the sixth.

It was a day of toil for Hampshire. Kyle Abbott provoked a mini-collapse in mid-afternoon when he reduced Essex from 117 for one to 124 for four with three wickets at a personal cost of four runs in 16 balls. Abbott had three for 58 at the close.

The players spent the entire first day in the changing rooms because of damp areas on the outfield, but play started promptly with eight overs tagged on to the second day’s duration. Hampshire opted for a toss, lost it and Essex made them pay.

Browne, who had taken two well-struck boundaries in three balls off Abbott, exited in the fifth over for nine when Fidel Edwards swung a ball in to clip the top of middle stump.

That brought together Chopra and Westley for a partnership that embraced 33 overs. They started tentatively but picked up once they had past fifty in 17 overs.

Spinner Liam Dawson made a surprise appearance as early as the 11th over, and found some movement off the pitch almost immediately. Westley played down the wrong line but got an involuntary edge for four to third man, and then was fortunate to miss one that turned from middle to fly past off-stump.

Westley and Chopra hit 15 fours between them, Westley diving both Abbott and Holland handsomely through the covers and Chopra pulling Abbott.

But Abbott stopped the steady progress with three wickets for seven runs in 34 balls. Westley departed for 40 when one nipped back and knocked over off-stump.

Chopra followed when he was pinned plumb in front and Ravi Bopara lasted just four balls before edging to Jimmy Adams at slip. Essex’s mini-collapse had taken just 34 balls.

Ten Doeschate corrected the downturn with three successive fours off Gareth Berg and a straight six off Liam Dawson. Lawrence had eight fours in his 83-ball half-century, achieved on the stroke of tea, including a particularly well-timed boundary off his hip against Holland.

The captain was the third player to fifty when he drove Dawson through the covers to reach the milestone from 65 balls, courtesy of six fours and the day’s only six. But he fell, nibbling at an Ian Holland delivery outside off-stump to give Adams a second catch.

Wheater took Essex to their second batting point with a cover drive off Holland and then pulled the Australian-born seamer for another in the same over. He followed up by guiding Berg to third man, another straight back past the bowler and a further one from Abbott’s fourth ball with the new-ball.

The wicketkeeper’s fifty against his old team came with an edge through the slips and had taken 74 balls with 10 fours. In quick succession, the sixth-wicket stand passed one hundred in 23 overs and then Lawrence reached his century from 173 balls with 14 fours.

Wheater had maintained Essex’s momentum and eventually went when he was bowled by Dawson for an 82-ball 52.

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