On the same pitch where 743 runs were scored in one of the greatest run-fests in domestic cricket history, three days later Essex staunchly committed themselves to a day of unremitting toil on a soporific summer's day
Essex 263 for 5 (Bopara 84*, Browne 84) v Warwickshire Scorecard
How things change. On the same pitch where 743 runs were scored in one of the greatest run-fests in domestic cricket history, three days later Essex staunchly committed themselves to a day of unremitting toil on a soporific summer's day.
Spectators doubtless expected something less gung-ho as a remarkable Royal London Cup semi-final - which had an agonising outcome for Essex as Nottinghamshire took the prize in the final over - gave way to the gentler rhythms of a four-day Championship match. But at times this felt like slamming it from sixth gear to first in one movement. With a spirited change up to third near the close.
From the boundary edge, a straw-coloured pitch gave the impression that its runs bounty would remain unlimited, but it did not turn out that way. It was 100 overs in and the sun was beating down upon it. Only in the final stages of one of the hottest days the English summer can deliver did Essex break free of Warwickshire's shackles.
They will feel that at 263 for 5 they have edged a hard-fought day. Nick Browne has begun to put right a lean season with three successive half-centuries. He perspired over 84 from 244 balls, a worthy affair which, nevertheless, was not about to entice a cricket poet to churn out a few stanzas on the beauty of leather on willow.
Ravi Bopara might be worth a rhyming couplet, though, early on the second day. He hasn't had a Championship century for three years, but he was 84 not out by the close. Both registered their highest scores of the season, Browne grinding on for five-and-a-quarter hours, Bopara comparatively spritely. Their stand of 127 in 42 overs was the substance of Essex's innings.
The weather was so idyllic that by start of play, the banks of the River Can adjacent to the ground were packed with sunbathers committed to nothing more strenuous than idling away a few hours. Browne's mistiming was so pronounced that it might have brought a protest from the Noise Abatement Society. It took him 47 balls to reach double figures; Essex needed 46 overs to raise the hundred.
His invaluable knock ended when he was bowled by a decent ball from Rikki Clarke. Clarke probably felt he deserved it: it was his 45th delivery of the day to Browne who had managed a couple of twos through the leg-side and nothing more besides. The worth of Browne's innings was amplified when ten Doeschate fell soon after, Clarke bringing the ball back for an lbw.
The surface will surely rag for the spinners long before the end, but it remains to be seen whether it will become so slow and low that it negates their effectiveness. Certainly Jeetan Patel roused Warwickshire hearts shortly before lunch when he had Alastair Cook lbw and then drew Tom Westley into an edge to slips. He might also have had Browne on 16, only for Rankin to drop a skier, pedalling back valiantly, at mid-off.
When Patel took a breather, Varun Chopra was bowled by Boyd Rankin, leaving a ball that came back sharply, much to his obvous bewilderment. As Browne's ball-count grew, his confidence began to return: Patel pummelled through mid-on and his fellow spinner, Sunny Singh, driven and swept in successive balls. Luxury indeed for a batsman who stuck at his job. Title challengers need days like this.