Essex openers finally find form
Leicestershire 32 for 2 trail Essex 434 for 3 dec. (Mickleburgh 126, Westley 126) by 402 runs
Essex strengthened their grip against Leicestershire at Chelmsford on day two. After centuries from Tom Westley and Jaik Mickleburgh lifted Essex to an imposing 434 for 3 declared, the visitors were reduced to 32 for 2 at the close.
David Masters roared in to remove Greg Smith and Ned Eckersley as the visitors ended the day still 253 short of being asked to follow on.
When Essex resumed on 161 without loss, Westley and Mickleburgh continued to find the gaps with relative ease without pressing the accelerator - the 200 was raised in the 67th over. It represented the first double-century opening stand for the county since Alastair Cook and Will Jefferson performed the feat in 2004 when Leicestershire were again on the receiving end.
Shortly afterwards, Mickleburgh became the first batsman to move into three figures when he on-drove Michael Thornely to the long-on boundary to register his third century for the county. The milestone arrived from 195 balls and contained one six among Mickleburgh's 13 boundaries.
Westley was to celebrate his third ton for Essex with a quickly-taken single, an effort spanning 230 balls, 11 of which he despatched to the boundary. It was the first time two Essex openers had scored centuries in the same Championship innings since Cook and Jefferson put Leicestershire to the sword.
The new ball was taken at 232 but it was a run-out 16 runs later that brought the visitors their first success of the match, Mickleburgh failing to regain his ground as Thornely threw down the stumps from short-cover after the batsman had been sent back. Mickleburgh's innings of 126 was spread over 243 deliveries, including 14 fours and one six.
Lunch was taken at 259 for 1, the morning session having produced 98 runs, and soon afterwards Westley's fine effort was ended on 125 by medium-pacer Wayne White, who produced a delivery which kept low. Two deliveries later, rain arrived to cause an 80-minute hold-up and when play resumed Owais Shah and Mark Pettini saw Essex to 300 in the 98th over and a third batting point.
Another stoppage after fewer than eight overs brought about an early tea at 308 for 2. When play did restart, Shah soon fell lbw to left-arm spinner Claude Henderson for 36, spread over 59 balls.
The arrival of Ryan ten Doeschate brought about a welcome increase in the tempo. He quickly found the extra cover boundary and followed it with an off-driven six against Henderson to bring up the 350 in the 110th over. Another ten Doeschate six against the same bowler, this time an on-drive, inflicted further punishment on the toiling visiting attack.
Pettini also scored freely enough to complete his half-century, containing five fours, from 60 balls before ten Doeschate's third six against Henderson saw him to the milestone in 48 balls. The next landmark was the 100 partnership in 17 overs before the declaration arrived, with Pettini unbeaten on 72 from 89 balls. Ten Doeschate's contribution to a stand of 120 was 63 in as many balls.
Leicestershire were soon plunged into trouble when they replied. With only six runs on the board, Mickleburgh picked up a smart catch at short-leg to remove Smith and provide Masters with his first success against his former county. Two runs later, the fast bowler struck again as ten Doeschate held a catch above his head at short midwicket to remove Eckersley.