Bopara continues impressive return

Essex 400 for 6 dec (Bopara 174, Foster 135) drew with Northamptonshire 200 for 3 (Middlebrook 100)

Ravi Bopara gave the England selectors another huge nudge with his second century of the week as Essex drew their rain-affected County Championship match at Northamptonshire.

Essex declared on 400 for 6 to claim maximum batting points, with Bopara scoring a magnificent 174 off 290 balls and his captain and wicketkeeper James Foster making 135 off 230 deliveries. Northamptonshire then closed on 200 for 3 as James Middlebrook clobbered a century against his old club with 100 off 141 balls.

Essex began the day on 195 for 4 with Bopara resuming on 87 and Foster on 60, and the former was to complete the 22nd century of his first-class career in the 14th over of the day. It was also his second of the Championship season and came off 199 balls as he hammered a four through the covers off Lee Daggett.

He and Foster had already surpassed the previous record fifth-wicket stand for Essex against Northamptonshire of 147, made between Mark Pettini and Matt Walker in this fixture last season. Foster went on to complete the 18th first-class ton of his career off 203 deliveries as the visitors moved on serenely to 282 for 4 at lunch.

Bopara reached 150 off 268 balls in the fifth over of the afternoon - an over in which he smashed 21 off Middlebrook. Foster, however, holed out when he launched David Willey to substitute fielder Rob Keogh at long on to finally break a magnificent partnership of 294.

Bopara's impressive innings then finally came to an end when he was caught by Coetzer at deep square leg to give Daggett his first wicket. The Essex declaration came as soon as they reached 400, leaving Ryan ten Doeschate and Graham Napier unbeaten on 26 and 14 respectively.

Northamptonshire lost Ben Howgego in the 11th over of their innings when his off stump was taken out by Napier after making a just a single off the 27 balls he faced. The hosts resumed after tea on 43 for 1 and Middlebrook completed his half-century off 74 deliveries with a huge six smashed down the ground off Tom Westley.

Coetzer made a bright 39 before he was dismissed by Napier's yorker before Middlebrook completed his second hundred in consecutive home games off 138 balls. But he was then bowled by Tom Craddock without adding to his total before an Alex Wakely (43 not out) single that moved Northamptonshire to 200 brought about the close.

Northants 2nd innings Partnerships

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