Essex set to take control of County Championship opener
Essex looked poised to take firm control of their duel against their Division Two County Championship rivals Gloucestershire at sunny Chelmsford.
After they bowled out the visitors for 262, they reached the close on 39 for one and, with a strong batting line-up and a benign pitch, it will be something of a surprise if Essex do not go on to build up a substantial first innings lead.
After winning the toss, the visitors’ innings owed much to Gareth Roderick and Hamish Marshall, the pair scoring just over half of their side’s runs. Skipper Roderick combined watchful defence with some pleasant driving to finish unbeaten with 88 after Australian fast bowler Matt Dixon had marked his Essex Championship debut by whipping out Cameron Bancroft and Chris Dent in his first half dozen overs.
In all, Roderick faced 172 deliveries and struck 11 fours and a six, but it was Marshall who was the most fluent. His 51 came from 60 deliveries, nine of which he struck to the boundary and all his runs came during a fourth wicket partnership worth 73 runs.
Marshall’s fine effort was eventually brought to an end by a superb diving catch by Jesse Ryder at backward point to provide paceman Jamie Porter with one of his four wickets at a cost of 59.
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Graham Napier shared the bowling honours with Porter with the evergreen Essex all-rounder picking up three for 57, those successes coming in a devastating spell of six balls that cost just a single. As a result, Gloucestershire lost their last four wickets in the space of five overs for just 23 runs.
Among Napier’s victims was Jack Taylor who scored a resolute 39, an effort containing five fours. A feature of the home side’s display was their work in the field.
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Apart from Ryder’s fine effort, Alastair Cook, who caught Ian Cockbain, and Dan Lawrence also picked up fine catches, the latter reacting quickly after Tom Westley had knocked the ball up when Kieran Noema-Barnett edged a Ryder delivery.
When they replied, Essex soon lost Nick Browne, an lbw of Liam Norwell with just two runs on the board.
But Cook was confirming his authority with two fours in an over from Josh Shaw as he reached the close on 17.
Keeping him company was Tom Westley who also looked assured as he collected four boundaries in his 19 to leave the home county seemingly in pole position.