Leicestershire crumble in face of Ryder five-for
Essex 153 for 3 (Browne 44) lead Leicestershire 138 (Ryder 5-50, Napier 3-43) by 15 runs
Jesse Ryder claimed career-best first-class bowling figures to keep Essex in contention for promotion on the first day of their County Championship game against Leicestershire at Grace Road. The bottom-of-the-table hosts were dismissed for 138 in 36.4 overs, with New Zealand allrounder Ryder taking 5 for 50.
And by the time a heavy rain shower ended play half an hour early, Essex had reached 153 for 3 to lead by 15 runs, with Ravi Bopara and James Foster still together having shared a fourth-wicket stand of 58.
It was Ryder's third five-wicket haul of the season and only Dan Redfern, who made an unbeaten 54, showed any real resistance on a green looking pitch that offered plenty of encouragement to the Essex seam bowlers.
Graham Napier took 3 for 43 and David Masters 2 for 43 as Leicestershire lost eight wickets for 90 runs in the pre-lunch session after being put in to bat. It required some spirited hitting from tailenders Charlie Shreck and Atif Sheikh to take the total beyond the 100 mark. Shreck made 16 in a ninth wicket partnership of 34 - the biggest of the innings - while Sheikh contributed 12 to a last wicket stand of 14.
The only other batsman to reach double figures was opener Greg Smith, who made 26 before edging a catch to Foster off Masters. The seven other Leicestershire batsmen mustered just 21 runs between them.
Ryder ripped through Leicestershire's top and middle order with his accurate medium-pace swing bowling, taking five wickets in an unbroken 14-over spell before lunch. He trapped Angus Robson, Niall O'Brien and Jigar Naik lbw, bowled Josh Cobb with a delivery that nipped back and had Rob Taylor caught at first slip.
Then Napier chipped in with the last three wickets, despite being hit for a six by Redfern who reached 50 off 65 balls with six other boundaries. His effort was the only bright note in an otherwise disappointing batting performance by Leicestershire.
In contrast the Essex openers, riding their luck at times, put on 47 in 18 overs before Taylor had Tom Westley lbw with a fine inswinging delivery for 24. Westley should have been out without scoring but was dropped at slip by Smith off Shreck. Taylor struck again in the same over with another lbw decision going in his favour when he rapped Jaik Mickleburgh on the pads.
Shreck finally picked up the wicket he deserved when O'Brien took a good catch behind to remove Nick Browne for 44. But there was no further breakthrough for Leicestershire as Bopara and Foster took control. Foster was unbeaten on 36 with six fours and a six and Bopara's 33 came off 95 balls.
Essex head coach, Paul Grayson, said: "I was delighted to see some grass on the wicket because we desperately need a result. And our three seam bowlers all stepped up to the plate and delivered for us."