Napier leads Essex to emphatic win
Essex 364 (Godleman 130) beat Gloucestershire 180 and 146 (Napier 5-58) by an innings and 38 runs
Essex opened their Division Two campaign with victory over Gloucestershire by an innings and 38 runs at Chelmsford. The visitors had started the third day on 55 for 5 requiring a further 129 runs to make Essex bat again but they never looked likely to make a fight of it, losing their remaining wickets well before lunch to be bowled out for 146.
Graham Napier, who is celebrating his benefit year, did the major damage second time around, finishing with five for 58. It was only the sixth time in his career that the 32-year-old had claimed five wickets or more in an innings and helped his county to start their campaign with a 23-point haul.
The overnight pair of Ian Cockbain and Will Gidman provided some resistance when they resumed against Napier and David Masters, adding a brisk 41. But then Napier struck to remove Gidman for a top-scoring 39 by trapping him leg before on the back foot. That was the start of a spell in which Gloucestershire lost four wickets while adding just 10 runs.
Cockbain followed Gidman back to the pavilion in the next over from Masters when he was caught behind by James Foster, before Napier completed his five-wicket haul. He did so by having James Fuller caught by Maurice Chambers at mid-off, the batsman mistiming an attempted pull whilst still seeking to get off the mark.
Masters was then replaced by Greg Smith, who turned to his offspin to claim his first wicket for Essex following his move from Derbyshire. His victim was Paul Muchall as the batsman prodded to short leg where Billy Godleman took a fine catch.
There were a few brief flourishes from the last-wicket pair of Ed Young and Ian Saxelby before the introduction of teenager Tymal Mills was to bring the visitors resistance to a close. The left-arm fast bowler did so by having Young drive into the hands of Smith at cover for 23 to complete an encouraging start to the season for the 19-year-old, who ended with four wickets in the match.
It also signalled a fine start to the season for Essex who have made it clear that their top priority for the season is to win promotion back to Division One. Comprehensively beaten, Gloucestershire were left with only three points from the match.