Dan Lawrence ends century drought as Essex find batting form
Only Kyle Abbott had much of an impact with the ball as Essex made brisk progress after the opening-day washout
Essex 363 for 6 (Lawrence 114*, Chopra 61, ten Doeschate 55, Wheater 52, Abbott 3-58) v Hampshire
Dan Lawrence made his first County Championship century in nearly a year to underpin one of Essex's best days with the bat this summer.
The previous of his first-class hundreds also came against Hampshire in the penultimate game of last season but Lawrence has struggled, like most of his team-mates, for runs in Essex's post-title-winning campaign and had just one half-century to his name previously this summer.
He started circumspectly, and was outscored at one point in his first century partnership by Ryan ten Doeschate, who came in two wickets later, but picked up with the return of the confidence that brought him an England Lions call-up in the winter. He was 114 not out from 192 balls at the close.
Essex finished the day on 363 for 6, only the fourth time this season they have gone beyond 300 in an innings. The top-order had endured such a parlous season they had accumulated just 11 batting points before Hampshire's arrival at Chelmsford. But that was advanced by four on a day when nearly everything and everyone clicked and five batsmen surpassed their season's averages by considerable margins.
In addition, Essex posted three century partnerships with Varun Chopra and Tom Westley putting on 101 for the second wicket, Lawrence and ten Doeschate compiling 122 for the fifth, and Lawrence and Adam Wheater 105 for the sixth.
It was a day of toil for Hampshire, barring when Kyle Abbott caused a mini-collapse in mid-afternoon as he reduced Essex from 117 for 1 to 124 for 4 with three wickets at a personal cost of four runs in 16 balls.
The players spent the entire first day in the changing rooms because of damp areas on the outfield, but play started promptly with eight overs tagged on to the second day's duration. Hampshire opted for a toss, lost it and Essex made them pay.
Nick Browne exited in the fifth over when Fidel Edwards swung a ball in to clip the top of middle stump. That brought together Chopra and Westley for a partnership that embraced 33 overs.
Spinner Liam Dawson made a surprise appearance as early as the 11th over, and found some turn off the pitch almost immediately. Westley played down the wrong line and got an involuntary edge for four to third man, then was fortunate to miss one that turned from middle to fly past off stump.
Abbott stopped the steady progress. Westley departed for 40 when one nipped back and knocked over off-stump. Chopra followed when he was pinned plumb in front and Ravi Bopara lasted just four balls before edging to Jimmy Adams at slip.
ten Doeschate corrected the downturn with three successive fours off Gareth Berg and a straight six off Dawson. Lawrence had eight fours in his 83-ball half-century, achieved on the stroke of tea, including a particularly well-timed boundary off his hip against Holland.
The captain was the third player to fifty when he drove Dawson through the covers to reach the milestone from 65 balls, courtesy of six fours and the day's only six. But he fell, nibbling at an Ian Holland delivery outside off stump to give Adams a second catch.
Wheater's fifty against his old team came with an edge through the slips and had taken 74 balls with 10 fours. In quick succession, the sixth-wicket stand passed 100 in 23 overs and then Lawrence reached his century from 173 balls with 14 fours.
Wheater had maintained Essex's momentum but eventually departed when he was bowled by Dawson for 52.