Essex on top as wickets tumble
Seventeen wickets fell for 262 runs on the opening day of the LV= County Championship Division Two game at Chelmsford, where Essex gained the upper hand against leaders Northamptonshire.
The visitors were reduced to 79 for seven in reply to an Essex total of 183.
Left-arm fast bowler Chaminda Vaas claimed 6-46 from 17 overs as Essex struggled to make early progress with the bat, while David Masters took 4-23 from 18 overs in Northamptonshire's reply.
Swing was the major weapon for both bowling attacks, although they were helped by a combination of poor strokes and bad judgment.
Jaik Mickleburgh and Tim Phillips were both bowled offering no stroke against 37-year-old Vaas who, in a 19-ball spell either side of lunch, snared four wickets at a cost of only seven runs.
Opener Tom Westley contributed exactly a third of the home side's runs while putting together his third successive half-century.
The 22-year-old right-hander laced his innings with 10 boundaries, most of them with fluent drives either side of the wicket, before he was caught behind off the bowling of Vaas.
Only three other batsmen managed to reach double figures. Owais Shah made 26 before becoming another Vaas victim, while skipper James Foster and Masters gave the total an air of respectability with scores of 30 and 31.
They shared an eighth-wicket stand of 60 in 13 overs which was broken when Masters edged Lee Daggett to Rob White in the slips.
Foster was last out to provide David Lucas with his second success, but Essex quickly hit back when the visitors launched their response.
In a magnificent opening spell of seven overs, six of which were maidens, Masters removed Stephen Peters and White, both with the help of smart catches by Mickleburgh at forward short leg.
He later returned to get rid of Alex Wakely and Niall O'Brien, and with Matt Walker and Reece Topley also getting among the wickets, Northamptonshire reached the close in dire straits.
They found themselves still 104 runs adrift at the end of day one and desperately needing Vaas to show his qualities as an all-rounder to get within touching distance of Essex's total.
He will resume with 12 to his name in partnership with Lucas, the pair having so far added a valuable 19 for the eighth wicket.