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Eckersley makes hay as Essex toil

Ned Eckersley took full advantage of a friendly pitch to collect his second century of the season as Leicestershire made 328 for four on the opening day of their LV= County Championship Division Two match against Essex at Chelmsford.

The right-hander combined disciplined defence with controlled aggression as he reached the close on 133 not out, including 15 fours and two sixes off 236 deliveries, resisting the attempts of six bowlers to remove him.

Essex must have feared the worst when the visitors chose to bat upon winning the toss and it soon became apparent they were destined for a hard day's labour.

Openers Greg Smith and Niall O'Brien scored so freely they had 91 on the board before Tymal Mills made the breakthrough.

The left-arm paceman did so by forcing O'Brien to play on to his stumps after making 51 from 54 balls with the help of eight boundaries.

Smith followed soon afterwards for 46 when he despatched a long hop from leg-spinner Tom Craddock into the hands of David Masters at deep mid-on, before Mills breached the defences of Joe Burns for eight to reduce the visitors to 115 for three.

But Eckersley and Shiv Thakor put Leicestershire back in the ascendancy with a partnership of 97 in 28 overs.

Although Craddock was twice pulled for six when Eckersley did open his shoulders, the spinner always looked more likely to end the stand.

He beat both batsmen with deliveries that lifted and turned and claimed deserved reward with a similar ball that Thakor could only glide into the waiting hands of Owais Shah at slip after he had made 36.

But his dismissal only paved the way for skipper Matt Boyce to join forces with Eckersley as they stayed together throughout the final session.

They have so far added 116 and the docile nature of the pitch suggests the Essex bowlers face quite a bit more work.

Eckersley underlined why he has proved the mainstay of the Leicestershire batting this season.

He went into the game with 623 runs for an average of just over 51 and showed he has the temperament and determination to make progress in stamina-sapping conditions.

He drives and pulls with confidence as well as being able to coax the ball into the gaps, qualities that have put Leicestershire on course for their season's first total of over 400.

Boyce, after a cautious start, will resume on 37 and no doubt mightily relieved that he had the good fortune to win the toss.

In all, it added up to a successful day for a Leicestershire side stranded at the foot of the table and still searching for their first championship success of the campaign.

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