Essex lifted by Bopara knock

Essex 138 for 4 (Bopara 65*) v Northamptonshire

Ravi Bopara's unbeaten half-century allowed Essex to recover from a shaky start on a rain-affected first day of their County Championship Division Two clash at Northamptonshire.

Essex were reduced to 57 for 4 just before lunch but England international Bopara's 65 not out off 129 balls, including 12 fours, helped the visitors to move on to 138 for 4 before rain brought about an early close at Wantage Road.

Northants paceman David Willey took 2 for 23 as the hosts' attack dominated early on with former Sri Lanka seamer Chaminda Vaas also claiming a wicket.

Essex won the toss and chose to bat but they lost Tom Westley for 12 in the fourth over when he edged Vaas to James Middlebrook, who took a simple catch at second slip. Former England batsman Owais Shah then faced just one ball before he was run out by a direct hit at the stumps by Ben Howgego from point after he tried to run a quick single off Vaas.

The visitors' morning then took another turn for the worse when Mark Pettini was judged to have edged Willey to Northants wicketkeeper David Murphy after making 32. Willey struck again in the penultimate over of the morning when his delivery crashed into Ben Foakes' off stump to dismiss the youngster for a seven-ball duck.

Essex struggled to 62 for 4 at lunch, during which the heavens opened meaning the start of the afternoon session was delayed by an hour and a half and 16 overs were lost.

In the second over after play restarted, Essex captain James Foster was given a scare before he opened his account when he edged Jack Brooks but Kyle Coetzer put down a difficult chance at third slip

Bopara, who had originally taken 67 balls just to reach double figures, went on to complete a half-century off 112 deliveries with a straight four off Lee Daggett. But he was also given a second chance after being dropped on 60 by Murphy off the same bowler before rain forced the players off again.

Umpires Trevor Jesty and Tim Robinson came onto the field half an hour later for an inspection but the skies began to darken again and a heavy downpour meant play was officially called off at 5.20pm.

Bopara will be looking to complete his second century of the week when play resumes tomorrow, with Foster striving to add to his unbeaten 25 off 71 deliveries.

Northants 2nd innings Partnerships

1st26JD MiddlebrookBHN Howgego
2nd90JD MiddlebrookKJ Coetzer
3rd65JD MiddlebrookAG Wakely
4th19RA WhiteAG Wakely