Bopara sets the standard

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Ravi Bopara

Ravi Bopara, captaining Essex in the absence of injured James Foster, struck an unbeaten 55 against struggling Leicestershire

Stand-in captain Ravi Bopara led from the front as Essex fought back spiritedly to leave their LV= County Championship Division Two battle against Leicestershire nicely poised.

After his side had gone in again 58 runs adrift of the visitors' modest total of 202, Bopara responded with an unbeaten half-century as Essex reached the close on 168 for four - a lead of 110.

He will go into the third day at Southend-on-Sea on 55, having shared the batting honours with opener Billy Godleman - who was dismissed for 77.

Leicestershire had resumed the day on 100 for three and no doubt would have been quietly satisfied at eventually establishing a useful first-innings lead.

That it wasn't more substantial was due to 21-year-old leg-spinner Tom Craddock.

None of the batsmen looked comfortable against him as he brought the innings to a close by capturing the last four wickets at a personal cost of 14 runs.

Tom New, Jigar Naik, Nathan Buck and Claude Henderson fell under his spell as he returned 4-59 from 20.4 overs.

It was an impressive performance by Craddock and it pointed the way to a fighting recovery by Essex.

Although they lost both Tom Westley and Owais Shah before the arrears were cleared, the latter being stumped stepping out to drive left-arm spinner Henderson, Godleman and Bopara were to seize control with a century stand punctuated with a series of aggressive strokes amid periods of watchful defence.

The pick of them arrived when Godleman launched Henderson over midwicket for six, but just when he was moving to within sight of his second century in successive matches against the visitors, he drove an easy catch to mid-on to provide seamer Nadeem Malik with success.

Godleman's effort also included seven fours and his dismissal signalled the end of a partnership which yielded 104 in 27 overs.

Malik also bowled Jaik Mickleburgh with the final delivery of the day to end with figures of 3-18 from 12 overs.

But no-one was able to unlock the defences of Bopara as he completed only his second championship half-century in eight innings.

He has so far collected five boundaries in an innings spanning 106 deliveries and much is likely to depend on him if Essex are to leave their rivals with a target well in excess of 200.

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