Napier rescues Essex again

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Graham Napier continued his great start to the season as Essex recovered from an early-afternoon slump to post 212 on the opening day of their LV= County Championship Division Two match against Kent at Chelmsford.

The all-rounder contributed 58, the fifth time in his last eight innings that he has made a score of 50 or more.

He arrived to do battle with his side in serious trouble at 109 for six, but mixed a certain amount of caution with controlled aggression to collect five fours and a six in an effort spanning 79 deliveries.

Napier was finally undone by medium-paced seamer Darren Stevens when he clipped the ball to midwicket where Brendan Nash took a smart catch low down.

His dismissal came shortly after that of James Foster, the pair having repaired the Essex innings with a partnership of 88 in 23 overs.

Both batsmen made progress with confident drives and cuts, the stand being broken when Foster's attempted square-drive against paceman Charlie Shreck ended up in the hands of Matt Coles in the slip cordon when the wicketkeeper was just three short of a half-century.

The only other stand of note featured openers Tom Westley and Jaik Mickleburgh after Kent had gambled on putting their opponents into bat.

In overcast conditions, which favoured swing and seam, they batted with patience and tenacity to launch the innings on a firm foundation.

Their alliance yielded 67 in 29 overs but it was not until the 11th set of six that four leg-byes sent the total into double-figures.

Mark Davies broke the stand when he bowled Westley for 30 just before lunch, immediately after which four more wickets fell for eight runs in the space of 32 deliveries.

Among them was Ravi Bopara, who was still seeking to get off the mark when fast bowler Davies had him caught by Stevens in the gully.

Davies also ended the resistance of Mickleburgh as Coles held a comfortable catch at second slip, before Shreck removed Ben Foakes and Ryan ten Doeschate in the same over to leave Essex 77 for five.

Mark Pettini hung around long enough to send the total into three figures before Napier and Foster stopped the rot.

Stevens wrapped up the innings on his way to figures of 4-36 from 23 overs while Davies and Shreck finished with 3-31 and 3-61 respectively.

Left with 12 overs before the close, Kent lost Rob Key, who was caught behind off David Masters, in reaching 20 for one.

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