Cook key after Essex collapse
Essex were left relying on England captain Alastair Cook as they stumbled to 72 for five in reply to Hampshire’s modest 197 on a wicket-laden opening day at Chelmsford.
Cook ended the day unbeaten on 25, seemingly the key man if Essex are to regain the initiative from their LV= County Championship Division Two opponents, for whom Sean Ervine made a fighting half-century.
David Masters proved Hampshire’s main destroyer with 4-29 from 16 overs, three of his wickets coming in a four-over spell just before lunch.
Yet Essex then suffered problems of their own with the bat, losing three wickets in 11 deliveries before the close as Ervine struck twice in his first over.
Hampshire’s hopes of a solid start ended in the fourth over of the day when Michael Carberry chased a wide delivery from Reece Topley and was caught behind.
Yet it was when Masters returned for a second spell that the visitors were left questioning their decision to bat on winning the toss.
Underlining the value of line and length, and finding enough swing to pose problems, the seam bowler collected three wickets before Hampshire had reached 50.
Jimmy Adams, a double-centurion against Worcestershire last week, struggled to 11 before edging through to James Foster.
Either side of that wicket, Masters trapped Liam Dawson lbw and had George Bailey caught in the slips via an edge onto pad.
A recovery was led by James Vince and Ervine after some of the early fire had disappeared from the pitch. A few loose deliveries from Masters’ colleagues also helped their cause as the fifth-wicket pair put on 82 in 23 overs.
Their stand was broken when a full-length delivery from Ravi Bopara had Vince lbw for 43.
Ervine was eventually eighth out for 60, an attempted stroke off his hips providing Topley with an easy return catch via a leading edge.
After Hampshire had fallen three runs short of securing a bonus point, Essex openers Cook and Tom Westley made a slow but confident start before they were separated in the cruellest manner.
With the total on 26 in the 14th over, Cook struck a firm straight-drive against James Tomlinson, which deflected off the bowler’s hand and on to the stumps with Westley out of his ground backing up.
Rob Quiney was undone by Tomlinson seven runs later before Bopara also fell leg before to Danny Briggs’ first delivery.
Worse was to follow for Essex when medium-pacer Ervine marked his opening over with the wickets of nightwatchman Masters and Mark Pettini.
Ben Foakes, with a few aggressive blows, and Cook brought some relief as the home side avoided any more trouble before the close.