Foster and Bopara steady Essex
Essex 248 for 8 v Leicestershire
Half-centuries from Ravi Bopara and James Foster pulled Essex out of trouble on the first day of the County Championship match against Leicestershire at Grace Road. Essex slumped to 115 for 5 after winning the toss before Bopara and Foster dug in to spark a recovery that took Essex to 248 for 8 by the close.
Bopara, ignored by England in the five one-day internationals against Sri Lanka, made a solid 50 off 119 balls while Foster, returning after serving a two-match suspension, was still there at stumps on 58.
The two of them shared a sixth-wicket partnership of 54 and Foster then joined forces with Maurice Chambers in an eighth-wicket stand of 69 that added to Leicestershire's frustrations. The home side claimed the second new ball with Essex on 199 for seven but Foster and Chambers cashed in on some wayward and untidy bowling to add another 44 runs in 11 overs before Chambers was bowled by Nadeem Malik for 30.
Foster remained defiant however and there was no further success for Leicestershire before bad light brought a premature end to proceedings shortly before the scheduled close of play. Leicestershire held the initiative until mid-afternoon with the Essex batsmen struggling to make much headway on a slow-paced pitch.
Tom Westley survived a difficult short-leg chance to James Taylor off left-arm seamer Harry Gurney before edging Wayne White into the safe hands of Will Jefferson at second slip with the score on 29. It was the 20th over before Essex reached 50 but they lost their second wicket at 68 with Billy Godleman brilliantly caught by wicketkeeper Tom New off Gurney.
But better things looked likely for Essex with Bopara joining Owais Shah in the middle until Gurney produced a superb late inswinging delivery to trap Shah lbw for 27. Matt Walker soon followed lbw to Andrew McDonald and the Australian all-rounder snapped up Ryan ten Doeschate in the same fashion in his next over.
At that stage Essex were reeling and looked unlikely to reach 200. But Bopara, in determined mood, and Foster batted sensibly and soundly to take the sting out of the Leicestershire attack.
Bopara reached his 50 off 119 balls with just four boundaries before a total misjudgement saw him bowled by left-arm spinner Claude Henderson offering no shot. David Masters was then excellently caught by New off Jigar Naik to put Leicestershire on top again before Foster and Chambers regained their grip. Foster reached 50 off 117 balls and at the close Essex had moved into a good position.