Gloucestershire recover after collapse
Gloucestershire 229 for 8 v Essex
Tail-enders Jon Lewis and Ed Young came to Gloucestershire's rescue on the opening day of their Division Two match against Essex at Bristol. Put into bat beneath cloud-laden skies, Gloucestershire slumped to 159 for 8 against a seam attack which dominated the first two sessions - David Masters returning impressive figures of 4 for 40 - to put the visitors in a strong position on a day when 17 overs were lost to bad light.
But offspinner Young, a newcomer to Gloucestershire's four-day side, and veteran seamer Lewis staged a spirited recovery, adding an unbroken 70 for the ninth wicket to salvage lost pride and a valuable batting bonus point. A 21-year-old Oxford University graduate, Young demonstrated maturity beyond his tender years to reach the close on 39 not out. Lewis contributed an equally useful unbeaten 29 as Gloucestershire recovered to 229 for 8.
Until the bowlers tired and conditions eased, only in-form New Zealander Kane Williamson looked truly comfortable while the new ball was swinging on a drying surface, Gloucestershire's overseas import posting a fluent 50 from 73 balls. A compact and well-organised batsman, his arrival in the middle was hastened by Ian Cockbain's departure without scoring in the third over of the day.
Fresh from raising a magnificent 149 against Leicestershire at Grace Road the previous week, Williamson displayed an innate understanding of what was possible to ruthlessly despatch anything short or wide, finding the boundary on eight occasions to make the Essex seamers reconsider their line and length.
But no sooner had he raised his first half-century in Bristol, the 20-year-old right-hander gave his wicket away, pushing tentatively at the next ball from England outcast Ravi Bopara and offering a straightforward catch behind.
The value of his innings soon became clear as the rest of Gloucestershire's top-order perished to cloud-enhanced swing. Chris Taylor breezed his way to 16 before Bopara pinned him in his crease and the Gidman brothers managed a meagre two runs between them as Essex made good their breakthrough. Captain Alex Gidman played across the line to a Reece Topley delivery which cut back at him, while younger sibling Will edged Chris Wright to Matt Walker at second slip.
But Richard Coughtrie continued to offer doughty resistance, in the process surpassing a couple of personal milestones - the first when bettering his previous highest Championship score of 26 and the second when passing his first-class best score of 43, made for Oxford University against Middlesex last year. His innings may have been unspectacular - but it was exactly what was required in the circumstances.
Coughtrie's first 15 runs occupied 90 balls, his second 15 just eight, and only when it appeared he had completed the hard work and a maiden half-century was his for the asking did his concentration lapse, when he chased a ball outside off stump and became the first of three batsmen to fall in quick succession after tea to Masters, all held in the slips.
Chris Dent, making his long-awaited comeback after recovering from a broken finger and selected ahead of Jonathan Batty, briefly threatened a recovery until temptation got the better of the England Under-19 player and he was out for 33, failing to move his feet and edging a loose off-drive to Owais Shah at first slip.
Masters removed Ian Saxelby in almost identical fashion without scoring two balls later, Walker this time demonstrating safe hands at second slip as the home side lurched to 159 for eight.