Bopara shines on truncated day

Northants v Essex, County Ground, Wantage Road, Northampton.
Northants v Essex, County Ground, Wantage Road, Northampton.
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Northamptonshire’s County Championship encounter with Essex is nicely poised after day one at the County Ground.

The visitors closed on 138-4 when play was called off by umpires Trevor Jesty and Tim Robinson, an all too familiar sight so far this year.

It was Ravi Bopara, who if he has any designs on regaining a place in England’s Test match middle order did his claims no harm at all, who stole the show on a truncated day.

With England selector James Whitaker in attendance, Bopara provided a study in how to build an innings, taking his time to settle before moving through the gears with little apparent effort.

And in doing so, in collaboration with James Foster, he dragged the visitors from a sticky 57-4 to relatively calmer waters before the forecast rain brought a premature end to proceedings.

It was a disappointing end to what had been an interesting day’s cricket, one that the home side will have been fairly happy with after losing the toss and being consigned to a stint in the field.

There will be the thought that it could’ve been better, and it could well have been had difficult chances offered by both Bopara and Foster been taken, but by and large they’re in a decent position.

The onus will now be on the attack to make early inroads tomorrow morning so that the advantage that had been earned isn’t squandered.

There was a more familiar, and threatening, look to the County’s attack first thing with Jack Brooks and Chaminda Vaas back in the fold and it was the latter who struck first when he had Tom Westley taken low down at second slip.

If that constituted an ideal start, what followed to the very next ball added to that as Owais Shah did nothing to pour cold water on the reputation that he has gathered as a poor runner between the wickets.

A solid defensive shot in front of cover point was followed by a positive call, a slight hesitation and a desperate scramble for the crease, one that came up short as Ben Howgego’s diving underarm flick found its intended target.

And when Mark Pettini, who had battled away for his 32, and Ben Foakes fell to David Willey, the hosts were completely on top.

But Bopara and Foster, who was spilled at third slip on 0, either side of lunch and a rain delay, weathered the storm and gradually began to assert themselves on proceedings.

The former had taken only nine runs from his first 66 balls faced but needed just 46 more to reach his half-century as he found his range.

David Murphy, in what turned out to be the penultimate over of the day, made a hash of a chance high to his right that would’ve seen the back of Bopara, and that put a dampener, pun intended, on a day that ended with the initiative still available to be grabbed.