Lancashire 319 and 114 for 1 (Davies 50*) lead Essex 159 (Bopara 46, Parry 3-28, Anderson 3-56) by 274 runs
It was, to channel the eternal wisdom of Chris Martin, something of a Coldplay day for Essex. "Nobody said it was easy, nobody ever said it would be this hard." Division One of the Championship, as Neil Wagner mused in the build-up to Essex's first match back in the top flight, is perhaps the closest any domestic competition gets to Test cricket. Chris Silverwood won't need "The Scientist" to tell him his side have not been quite up to scratch.
For Lancashire, whose credentials were questioned in some quarters after a poor finish to 2016, it was an encouraging performance. Stephen Parry took 3 for 28, his first wickets in the Championship since September 2014, and James Anderson picked up three of his own as Essex were bundled out for 159. Lancashire then opted to bat again on a 160-run lead, which they had extended to 274 for the loss of just one wicket by the close.
Perhaps deflated by a disappointing display with the bat - reckoned by most to be their stronger suit - Essex were then wasteful in the field. Alex Davies gave clear chances off Wagner on 10 (dropped by Tom Westley at second slip) and 25 (put down by Ryan ten Doeschate at leg gully), while seeing Dan Lawrence unable to hold a difficult opportunity at short leg, Simon Harmer the bowler. Davies accepted his good fortune to bring up a half-century with two boundaries in the final over of the day.
With the pressure off, Davies and Haseeb Hameed added 83 for the first wicket to seemingly close the door on an Essex fightback. Hameed again failed to convert his hard work to a fifty but he did survive a sustained spell of short bowling from Wagner relatively unscathed - unlike Davies, who was hit on the helmet - before tickling an edge behind off Aaron Beard.
Lancashire have not lost to Essex in the Championship since 1997 and that does not look like changing in this match. This was an instruction in the hard knocks of Division One life - one that Lancashire also handed out to Essex at Chelmsford on their last trip up, in 2010, after a win and a draw in their opening games. On that occasion, Anderson took nine wickets as they were bowled out for 176 and 173 to lose by eight wickets. (It is best not to mention what happened to Essex's batting here against the bowling of Glen Chapple and Kyle Hogg in 2013.)
Essex's position at lunch was perilous - five down with less than 100 on the board - but it got worse in the first over back, as Parry slid one on to hit Adam Wheater's pad and win an lbw decision that left them 99 for 6. "That's not a very good start," was one sagacious observation from the pavilion. It was not clear whether he was referring to the resumption in play or Wheater's efforts as successor to James Foster.
With ten Doeschate, Essex's captain, heading out to join Ravi Bopara in the middle, Essex were in need of a salvage operation and the members knew it. "If these two could put on a couple of hundred..." opined another, optimistically. "You and your couple of hundred," came the swift rejoinder.
Ten Doeschate swatted his third ball through the covers for four and, with Bopara beginning to show the benefits of time spent at the crease, they did manage to add 48 - the highest partnership of the innings. Bopara, whose last Championship hundred is a more distant memory than Parry's wickets, was a little unlucky to pick out midwicket with a well-timed clip off Anderson and the last four wickets promptly went down for 12 runs, with Essex still 11 shy of the follow-on target.
Having allowed Lancashire to get away from them on the first afternoon, Essex required some graft on the second morning. Varun Chopra and Westley resumed in appropriately watchful mood and saw off Anderson and Kyle Jarvis for 40 minutes, adding just 10 to the overnight score, before Lancashire broke through. It was not an edifying moment for Chopra, who had survived a confident caught-behind appeal against Anderson a few overs earlier, as he wafted at a wide Jarvis delivery to undo his hard work.
Westley was less culpable in falling to Anderson in the following over, as a lifting delivery straightened to take his outside edge, Davies completing a smart, tumbling catch to his right. Lawrence then demonstrated the easy-scoring manner that has marked him out as one of the country's most promising teenage batsmen, before a lapse of concentration minutes before lunch saw him push at a turning delivery from Parry and edge to slip.
Bopara at least seemed committed to the long haul: his first run, a neatly timed straight drive for four, came from his 14th ball and he had mooched to 5 off 47 before finding a comfortable rhythm. It was all too brief, however, and Essex's batsmen will need to produce something more mellifluous second time around.