McKenzie makes Essex pay

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Opening batsman Neil McKenzie batted throughout to inspire Hampshire on the opening day of their LV= County Championship Division Two clash against Essex at Chelmsford.

The 36-year-old South African was unbeaten on 134 during an innings that spoke volumes for his determination and concentration and ensured his side claimed the upper hand as they finished on 303 for six after winning the toss.

McKenzie has so far defied the attempts of seven bowlers to remove him during an effort that has spanned 270 deliveries and brought 13 fours.

Neil McKenzie

Opener Neil McKenzie marked his return to four-day action with Hampshire by punishing Essex with an unbeaten 134 off 270 deliveries

The 11th, a superb drive through extra-cover off Ryan ten Doeschate, brought up his century after nearly five hours and highlighted why Hampshire made great efforts to sign him for championship duty.

He was only originally set to play Friends Life t20 matches this season, only to be recently persuaded to make himself available for four-day action.

His main accomplice was Sean Ervine. Together, after the fourth wicket had gone down at 106, they put on 110 in 28 overs.

Ervine struck seven fours in his 55, which was brought to an end when he played on to David Masters, who was easily the pick of the Essex bowlers.

But the stand should have been broken after it had yielded just 10 runs as Harbhajan Singh, diving forward from second slip, failed to accept a catch offered against Masters.

It proved a day the India spinner will want to forget. In addition to spilling that chance, he went wicketless throughout 28 overs while conceding 73 runs.

Following Ervine's departure, Michael Bates contributed 27 in a sixth-wicket stand of 72 before he gloved a Graham Napier delivery to diminutive wicketkeeper Adam Wheater while attempting to take evasive action.

But no-one was able to remove McKenzie, although an opportunity was spurned just before the close when Wheater leapt high but failed to grab the chance off Napier.

Masters, Napier and ten Doeschate have so far claimed two wickets each, the latter picking up his successes in the space of six deliveries just before lunch.

Bilal Shafayat was trapped lbw to end an entertaining 31 while Simon Katich was caught behind by a ball that left him. It was a double strike that left Hampshire 70 for three at the interval and Essex reflecting on a satisfactory morning's work.

But the day ended with Hampshire - and particularly the rock-like McKenzie - in charge.

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