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Essex 291 for 4 (Browne 116, Westley 72) vs Derbyshire
Something about playing against Derbyshire brings out the best in Nick Browne and the Essex opener punished his favourite opponents again on the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship match.
The 25-year-old's only previous century in the Championship this season came when he hit 255 against Derbyshire at Chelmsford and he added a second to give Essex control at 291 for 4 on a docile 3aaa County Ground pitch.
Although he began to be more aggressive against the young Derbyshire spinners in the final session, it was a largely risk-free, patient innings from Browne and he earned the right to carry on at the start of day two on 116 not out.
He passed 1,000 first-class runs for the season on 57 and his hundred came off 266 balls with six fours and a six. It was his fourth century in six innings against Derbyshire, at an average of 227.
The home side blew one golden chance to dismiss Browne when he was on 60 but, off the fifth ball after tea from Milnes, Neil Broom spilled a regulation catch at second slip.
" I do seem to do quite well against Derbyshire - I don't know what the reason for that might be," Browne said. "Maybe you just feel a little bit more confident against certain bowlers or maybe it's the time of the year where I've missed out a couple of times and they just happen to be there when I'm hungry for runs.
"I definitely know that's what happened in the first game against them this season. I had a lean patch going into that game and I needed to score a big score and managed to score one. Perhaps it's the same now. It's just one of those things."
Chances of any sort were rare for Derbyshire but they did a good job of containing and trying to frustrate Essex on a surface that gave them very little help. If they had taken that chance straight after tea, they would have been able to consider it a decent day.
They took a wicket in the 10th over when Jaik Mickleburgh clipped Tom Milnes off his legs straight to Alex Hughes at midwicket to make it 14 for 1 but second-wicket pair Browne and Tom Westley let them know they were set for a long day in the field with a stand of 128.
There were very few loose balls to allow the pair to score easily and it took both a long time to bring up their half-centuries. Westley's came first, off 113 balls with three fours, and Browne finally completed his in the 51st over, off 141 balls with four fours.
Westley finally went, caught by wicketkeeper Alex Mellor off the second ball of leg-spinner Matt Critchley's spell, for 72 at 142 for 2.
Ravi Bopara showed his intent by lashing his second ball straight down the ground for the game's first six and he moved smoothly to 44 before driving loosely at slow left-armer Callum Parkinson, on his home debut, and was well taken by Mellor at 217 for 3.
The third over with the second new ball brought a second wicket for Milnes, who finished with a very respectable 2 for 48 in 19 overs, as Kishen Velani stepped across his stumps and was lbw trying to glance the ball to fine leg but Browne was unmoved.
He completed a seemingly inevitable century by turning Milnes to midwicket for three and was still there at the close with Ryan ten Doeschate.
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