Sublime Bopara downs Gloucs
Essex 225 for 2 (Bopara 120*) beat Gloucestershire 224 for 5 (Williamson 77) by eight wickets
Ravi Bopara confirmed his recovery from a leg injury with a brilliant 120 not out as Essex easily reached their target of 225 to beat Gloucestershire by eight wickets at Chelmsford and claim their first CB40 victory of the season.
Bopara's injury had ruled him out for three weeks but he was soon showing that his lay-off had not affected him. From the moment he walked out to open the innings, he took charge with a succession of superbly timed drives and with Tom Westley striking the ball equally well at the other end, it soon became clear that Gloucestershire's total of 224 for 5 was not nearly enough.
The pair had come together after Mark Pettini's departure in the first over, when he was caught at slip off Ian Saxelby without a run on the board, and went on to put together a partnership of 185.
That was broken when Westley's enterprising knock of 82 from 99 balls, nine of which he dispatched to the boundary, ended as he was stumped off Will Gidman.
But Bopara, who raised his 50 with a straight driven six against left-arm spinner Ed Young, went on to complete his century from 91 deliveries, with two sixes and eight fours, and he was to add another four boundaries as Essex secured victory with 19 balls to spare.
Like Essex, the visitors had also seen their openers separated in the first over when Graham Napier breached the defences of Will Gidman, a dismissal that was to put them firmly on the back foot. It was not until the 14th over that the 50 was raised, before which Hamish Marshall was beaten for pace and bowled by Tymal Mills.
So pedestrian was Gloucestershire's progress that they needed 27 overs to send the total into three figures. But then Kane Williamson and Ian Cockbain were to inject much-needed life into the innings with a fifth-wicket partnership of 85 in 11 overs. It ended when Williamson was caught behind by James Foster off David Masters for 77, which came from 73 deliveries and contained seven fours and a six.
Cockbain and Jack Taylor maintained the tempo over the remaining four overs, Cockbain finishing unbeaten on 52 from 44 balls with a six among his four boundaries. Taylor's unbeaten 22 came off a dozen deliveries and ensured a respectable if not demanding total.