Essex fail to build on Masters haul
Essex 126 for 6 v Somerset 215
Ravi Bopara missed a golden opportunity to press his claims for a place on the Ashes tour this winter when he failed to perform in front of national selector Geoff Miller at Colchester.
He made just a single as Essex replied to Somerset's 215 all out, falling lbw to Charles Willoughby. It signalled the continuation of a disappointing sequence for Bopara. Since scoring a century in each innings of the match against Yorkshire, he has scored just 41 runs in his last five trips to the middle in the County Championship.
On an absorbing opening day Essex reached the close on 126 for 6, to leave the contest intriguingly poised going into the second day. While Bopara's struggles continue, Miller must have been impressed with the efforts of James Hildreth who maintained his season's fine form.
He came into this match with an average well over 50 and made 84 to keep Somerset afloat after Marcus Trescothick had been caught at slip from the third ball of the match, without a run on the board, to provide David Masters with one of his five wickets.
Coming in with the total on 32 for 3, Hildreth batted with fluency to gather a dozen boundaries before he chipped Masters to short mid-wicket. Next highest score was Zander de Bruyn with 34, but not before he was called back to resume his innings.
When he had made 16 he was given out lbw by umpire Peter Willey, but following a consultation between Willey and his colleague John Steele he returned to continue with his innings which was eventually ended by Danish Kaneria, thanks to a fine diving catch by Mark Pettini at first slip.
Masters went on to finish with 5 for 43 from 21.1 overs, his best figures of the summer. Tony Palladino and Chris Wright weighed in with two wickets each. Somerset, who are nursing realistic hopes of being county champions, will have been disappointed with their efforts with the bat against opponents looking favourites to drop into the second division.
However they fought back strongly. Either side of Bopara's departure Ben Phillips struck to remove Jaik Mickleburgh and Matt Walker before paceman Alfonso Thomas raced in to make further inroads into the innings.
First he trapped Billy Godleman lbw for 32 before cutting short the promising innings of Pettini who had reached 34 when he was caught behind. Then in the final over of the day Willoughby had Foster caught in the gulley for 16 to end a partnership of 47 with Ryan ten Doeschate, who will resume on 36.
In all, 16 wickets fell on the day for 341 but pitches liaison officer Jack Birkenshaw announced himself "reasonably satisfied'' with the pitch. However, Birkenshaw revealed he will again be in attendance tomorrow to see if there is any marked deterioration.