Mickleburgh and Napier take control
Essex 216 for 4 (Mickleburgh 121*) trail Leicestershire 365 (Eckersley 147, Napier 5-77) by 149 runs
Graham Napier's superb bowling and Jaik Mickleburgh's unbeaten century enabled Essex to enjoy the better of their second day against Leicestershire.
The hosts finished on 216 for 4 at Chelmsford, in reply to an all out total of 365 by Division Two's bottom side. The morning session saw Napier, with his brisk pace, produce a sensational spell after the visitors had moved beyond 350 with only four wickets down.
Napier got rid of the overnight pair of Ned Eckersley and Matt Boyce after they had put together a century partnership, and he went on to rip through the tail, claiming five wickets in the space of 15 deliveries at a personal cost of just three runs.
With offspinner Greg Smith chipping in with the wicket of Ollie Freckingham, the visitors lost their last six wickets for as many runs after they had resumed on 328 for 4 and moved to 359 before they were blown apart.
Napier embarked upon his destructive trail by having Boyce caught behind for 54 to end a stand of 147. He then ended the fine innings of Eckersley by deceiving him with a slower delivery - but not before the right-hander had moved to a career-best 147.
That effort contained 17 fours and two sixes and embraced 277 deliveries, and Napier followed-up those successes by having Josh Cobb caught, and bowling both Anthony Ireland and Alex Wyatt.
It gave him figures of 5 for 77 from 20.3 overs and followed his 7 for 90 when the counties met at Grace Road in their previous Championship match.
Napier's performance came on a day when fellow paceman David Masters missed the action after being caught up in a traffic jam following a pile-up on the M25. The former Leicestershire bowler did not arrive until after lunch - by which time the Essex reply was well under way.
Mickleburgh and Hamish Rutherford put the Essex innings on a firm foundation with a stand of 61, before the New Zealander was guilty of a careless stroke against Ireland to be caught by Wyatt at deep backward square leg.
Smith quickly followed when he edged to Joe Burns in the slips to provide offspinner Sykes, who was making his debut, with the first Championship wicket of his career.
Owais Shah perished when he pushed forward against Wyatt to be caught behind just before the 100 was raised and Ryan ten Doeschate lazily drove Freckingham to mid-off.
Amid the setbacks, Mickleburgh grew in confidence and punctuated the field with several well-timed strokes as he set sail for his first century of the summer.
He eventually got there by cover driving Shiv Thakor to the boundary, his 13th, and by the close he had added another three boundaries to move to 121.
Keeping him company was Ben Foakes, who will resume tomorrow on 25 and has so far helped the opener add 65 for the fifth wicket.