Westley shines in rain-hit stalemate

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Tom Westley continued his impressive start to the season as Essex's LV= County Championship Division Two match against Gloucestershire at Chelmsford ended in an inevitable draw.

In a contest ruined by the weather - 156 overs were lost because of rain and bad light - Essex finished on 353 for six in reply to a visiting total of 409 for five declared.

Yet Westley will look back on the game with immense satisfaction. The 24-year-old opener scored 163, an effort that followed innings of 58 and 133 against Cambridge MCCU a week ago and confirmed his rich promise.

He batted for six-and-a-quarter hours and struck 23 fours in his 284-ball stay. It was a superb knock as he showed great determination and concentration while punishing the loose delivery when it came along.

Westley shared in a century stand with Ravi Bopara as well as half-century partnerships with Mark Pettini and James Foster before Will Gidman ended his marathon occupation of the crease.

Essex had resumed with 177 for three on a final day that was always set to offer nothing more than a battle for bonus points.

Caution was the watchword early on and only eight runs arrived from the opening 10 overs sent down by James Fuller and Will Gidman.

However, the tempo increased appreciably when seamers Liam Norwell and David Payne were introduced into the attack as Westley and Pettini drove and pulled boundaries in confident style.

Their fourth-wicket partnership had produced 95 in 29 overs before Gloucestershire claimed their solitary success of the morning session. That arrived when Pettini, whose share was 35, was trapped leg before to provide Norwell with reward.

Another fifty alliance followed as Foster settled in and Essex looked so comfortable that it came as something of a surprise when Westley pushed at a delivery from Will Gidman and nicked a simple catch into the gloves of Cameron Herring.

As the clouds gathered Foster and Greg Smith scored at a run a ball before the former was magnificently caught by Fuller inside the fine-leg boundary from a slog-sweep against Benny Howell, immediately after completing his half-century.

Foster's departure came as drizzle started to fall but there was time enough for Smith to secure a fourth batting point before the players sought the shelter of the pavilion and an early tea.

The intensity of the rain only intensified thereafter and at 4.30 pm the game was abandoned with Essex collecting eight points and Gloucestershire nine.

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