Duckett 189 gives Northants upper hand
Northamptonshire 376 for 5 (Duckett 189, Newton 75, Bopara 4-64) v Essex
Ben Duckett's 189 saw Northamptonshire dominate the opening day against Essex at Wanatge Road. Duckett's second century of the season moved Northants to 376 for 5 by the close.
Duckett followed up his 282 not out in the opening match against Sussex with a 255-ball stay here as Essex toiled having declined the toss and elected to bowl, although three wickets in eight balls from Ravi Bopara late in the day with the second new ball gave them some respectability.
Duckett brought up his eighth first-class hundred midway through the afternoon session, from 138 balls with 18 fours. Having gone to three figures he opened his shoulders against Tom Westley's offspin - swinging him over long-on for six before rocking back to cut the next ball for four. A second four followed over mid-on in the next over. He took tea 138 not out.
After the break he moved past 150 in 200 balls and against the second new ball, played the most imperious stroke of the day - smashing Aaron Beard on the up through extra-cover. A second double-hundred of the season beckoned before Bopara returned to the attack and bowled the perfect yorker to hit middle and leg stumps.
Duckett shared a completely untroubled opening stand of 167 with Rob Newton, who inexplicably slapped Bopara straight to point when on 75. The wicket was one of only two moments of joy for Essex until the last half hour of the day after captain Ryan ten Doeschate declined the toss and sent Northants into bat.
After tea, Rob Keogh feathered a late cut to James Foster, giving Dan Lawrence and his part-time leg-spin a maiden first-class wicket. Adam Rossington chipped a pull to midwicket in the same Bopara over that removed Duckett and two balls into Bopara's 18th of the day, he had Steven Crook caught at second slip for a third-ball duck.
Until then, Essex were been given the runaround with four-an-over progress for most of the day. Duckett and Newton enjoyed an excellent untroubled morning as Northants reached lunch on 127 for 0. Newton looked in good touch after a second-innings century against Gloucestershire earlier in the week and played an equal hand in the third century opening partnership of the season for Northants at Wantage Road, striking seven fours in his 80-ball fifty.
Josh Cobb, the stand-in captain with Alex Wakely ruled out with a groin strain, also moved towards a half-century late in the day with some classic straight driving, as well as clipping Matt Quinn through midwicket for consecutive boundaries.
Quinn was making his Championship debut and, together with Beard in just his second game of the season, didn't bowl consistently well enough to create problems in the first hour. That was Essex's best chance of putting Northants under pressure. After that, there was little in it for the bowlers.