Lawrence sparkles as Essex build huge lead

Essex 480 for 6 (Bopara 94, Westley 88, Lawrence 82, ten Doeschate 77*) lead Kent 207 by 273 runs

Essex's batsmen piled on the agony by batting all day to establish a 273-run lead over promotion rivals Kent.

Kent toiled in the field as Essex feasted on some indifferent and uninspired bowling to add 373 runs on the second day. Essex claimed maximum bonus points to reclaim their place at the top of Division Two.

Four Essex batsmen went past fifty, but three of them - Tom Westley, Ravi Bopara and Dan Lawrence - perished within sight of three figures. Captain Ryan ten Doeschate, meanwhile, remained unbeaten on 77.

The foundation for Essex's big score was laid by a third-wicket stand of 169 in 44 overs between Westley and Bopara. The pair completely dominated the Kent attack throughout the morning session and deep into the post-lunch one as well.

Westley scored heaviest in the early part of the partnership, being particularly severe on Mitch Claydon. He hit two fours in one over, steering the ball through midwicket and then another through gulley.

Westley also dealt with the questions that South African quick Kagiso Rabada had posed early on for Ravi Bopara, to whom he bowled 23 consecutive dot balls. Westley smashed four off the second ball he faced from the man who dismissed England captain Alastair Cook late on Sunday.

Bopara started circumspectly, and when he bounced down the wicket to hit Darren Stevens over the top it was a rare outbreak of aggression. But once he was settled, Bopara matched Westley's scoring rate.

Westley reached his fifty first, off 75 balls, when he pushed a single off Adam Ball to mid-off. Bopara's half-century took 102 balls and arrived just before lunch when he swept James Tredwell for two.

Both batsmen, though, survived sharp chances. Westley had added one more to his eighth Championship fifty in 13 innings when he hit low and hard to Sam Northeast at short mid-on, but the Kent captain couldn't cling on. Soon after, Bopara swished at Tredwell and the ball flew over and through a diving Ball at first slip.

Bopara accelerated after lunch and twice advanced down the wicket to hit first Stevens and then Tredwell over the top for fours. The assault ended when Westley became bogged down against Claydon and chased a delivery that was both short and wide to be caught behind. He departed, deeply frustrated, for 88 off 150 balls, with a dozen fours.

Bopara went within five overs, attempting to drive but playing loosely at Stevens and being caught low down by Sean Dickson at short extra cover for 94. It was Bopara highest Championship score of the season and took 157 balls and included 11 fours.

Jaik Mickleburgh and Lawrence put on 59 for the fifth wicket in 20 overs of sensible batting before Mickleburgh nibbled at one from Ball and gave Tredwell a catch at first slip.

Essex were still 43 runs short of maximum batting points at that point with eight overs remaining. Ten Doeschate hit his first two balls for four, and then cut Stevens for a third to show his intent. Lawrence also hit Stevens for successive fours, the first past square leg bringing up a 78-ball fifty, and later lofted Tredwell over long on for six.

The pair passed the 400-run threshold, and the fifth batting point, with nine balls to spare, having put on 45 in little more than seven overs. Ten Doeschate took two successive boundaries off Joe Denly to pass 50. He needed just 54 balls to get there, hitting nine fours along the way.

The sixth-wicket pair had just brought up the 100 partnership in 18 overs when Lawrence went for another big shot and found substitute fielder Matt Hunn at long-off.