Gilchrist and Martyn lead brilliant Australian recovery
An unbroken stand of 251 in 49 overs between skipper Adam Gilchrist and Damien Martyn carried Australia to 405-5 declared against a toiling Essex attack.
Gilchrist was the dominant partner after arriving at the crease with the tourists in a spot of bother at 154-5. Gilchrist is recognised as one of the game's hardest hitters and further enhanced that reputation with a series of savage pulls and drives, treating both spin and pace alike.
His reward was 21 fours and three sixes as he reached 150, having faced only 149 deliveries. Martyn was content to play the supporting role yet never looked in the slightest trouble as he hit 16 fours and a six in an unbeaten 114 spanning 182 deliveries.
In contrast to Gilchrist's powerful play, Martyn excelled in caressing the ball through the gaps as the Australians scored at about five an over to complete a superb recovery after an inauspicious start.
Essex had enjoyed a successful opening hour when they claimed three wickets in the first 14 overs. Mark Ilott, the county's left-arm seamer, struck twice with the total on 36.
He had Michael Slater caught down the legside by James Foster and then the wicket-keeper took another straightforward catch two deliveries later as Justin Langer pushed forward at a wide delivery outside his off stump.
Foster's safe hands also accounted for Matthew Hayden, this time to give 19-year-old paceman Justin Bishop the first of his two successes. Bishop followed up when he had Mark Waugh caught at cover by Graham Napier for 25.
Ricky Ponting, whose 63 arrived from as many deliveries, was the only batsman to show any real authority before lunch but he departed soon afterwards when he tried to cut a ball from off spinner Peter Such and was bowled.
Left with nine overs before the close, Essex lost Paul Grayson without scoring but Nasser Hussain, opening the innings, survived a pace onslaught and got off the mark with a pull for six from Jason Gillespie as the home side closed on 16-1.