Les Smith at Queen's Park
Essex 202 for 5 (Browne 86*, Taylor 2-49) trail Derbyshire 275 by 73 runs
Nick Browne produced a second career-best innings within a week to hold Essex together on an intriguing second day against Derbyshire at Chesterfield. Browne dug in for more than five hours for an unbeaten 86 before a storm prevented any play after tea.
Browne had a previous top first class score of 65 and he scored that last week at Chelmsford against Gloucestershire. He is a big man with powerful arms, and he is strong through the offside. Although his innings was a prolonged one, 60 of his runs came from boundaries.
The day started badly for his side. Ravi Bopara was caught behind down the leg side off the tenth ball of the day, bowled by Mark Footitt. Bopara was not happy about the decision and lingered at the crease before trudging to the pavilion.
This brought in Jesse Ryder, who scored a century against Gloucestershire a week ago. Ryder went to 32 briskly. He was dropped at slip by Alex Hughes but chopped an inside edge onto his stumps without adding to his score.
James Foster, so often the man to go to when things are dodgy in the Essex middle order, launched his innings with a boundary through midwicket off his first ball and made his way to 29 before he too dragged a ball from Tom Taylor onto his wicket shortly after lunch.
At lunch Essex were still 159 runs behind Derbyshire, and in a game which has seen wickets fall frequently, apart from Monday afternoon's stand between Wayne Madsen and Wes Durston, they were in no position to feel secure. Madsen was at the ground but unable to field because the medics judged he was still concussed after the blow to his head delivered by Graham Napier on Monday evening.
In the afternoon session Browne pressed on, never looking troubled by the Derbyshire attack but scoring at a sedate pace. Derbyshire used six bowlers, including Madsen who has ten first class wickets to his name from 107 matches, which provides an indication of how easy the pitch had become, as was predicted on the first morning by the locals who know the Queen's Park square well.
After James Foster was dismissed, Ryan ten Doeschate arrived to offer the solidity he has done so often but was trapped on the back foot by a ball from Alex Hughes that appeared to keep a little low, and Hughes had his eighth first-class wicket.
Greg Smith, approaching veteran status now, joined Browne and together they added 37 which, in the context of a relatively low scoring match, could turn out to be invaluable, especially if they can extend their partnership on the third morning.
Browne has done his time earning his stripes in the Essex second team. Last week at Chelmsford he showed that he has what it takes, and today he was the rock upon which a solid Essex response to Derbyshire was built.