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Napier rejuvenates Essex

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Lancashire seamer Luke Procter took four wickets in 28 balls, including that of Alastair Cook, but a fighting 102 not out by Graham Napier helped Essex recover to reach 226 all out on a hard-fought first day of the LV= County Championship match at Emirates Old Trafford.

England captain Cook was caught behind for a 92-ball 34 four balls after lunch in the middle of a spell that saw the visitors decline from 57 for one to 77 for five either side of the interval.

Essex, however, mounted a fightback - helped in large part by Napier. His century was his fourth score above 50 in five Championship innings and took him to an aggregate of 340 runs in the 2013 season - 105 more than he scored in the whole of the 2012 campaign.

Lancashire, who duly closed on seven for one in reply, had only themselves to blame for not dismissing the in-form all-rounder earlier in the day. Napier was dropped by first slip Paul Horton off Procter when on nine and then by Procter off his own bowling when he had advanced to 32.

Taking advantage of those let-offs, he progressed to his hundred, often batting somewhat against type and hitting just 10 boundaries and a couple of sixes in his 178-ball, 215-minute innings.

Both sides went into this game with one Division Two victory to their credit this season, and that parity was reflected in a tough morning session in which Essex reached 72 for two having won the toss.

After the break Procter came into his own, dismissing Cook and then adding the wickets of Mark Pettini, lbw for a duck, and Jaik Mickleburgh, caught by third slip Ashwell Prince for 10 when driving loosely.

Mickleburgh's departure meant Essex had lost four wickets in 10 overs, but James Foster was joined by Napier and these two repaired some of the damage in a 54-run stand for the sixth wicket.

Wayne White ended that partnership when he caught the edge of Foster's bat with one that moved off the seam and Stephen Parry, playing his first championship match since 2009, then removed both Tim Phillips, lbw for 10, and the ex-Lancashire player Sajid Mahmood, who carted a short ball straight to Karl Brown at deep midwicket.

Brown then ran out David Masters with a direct hit from point but the day ended with Napier hitting Chapple for a six and a four in the same over before the Lancashire captain dropped a skier off his own bowling when Napier was on 93.

The Essex batsman reached his century next ball with a massive six over square-leg before Reece Topley was lbw to Chapple to finish the visitors off on 226.

Procter ended with 4-66 with the ball, but lost opening partner Horton soon into the Lancashire response. Horton was caught behind by Foster for three to Topley's last ball of the day.

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