Essex seize the initiative
Essex's bowlers and fielders fought back in fine style on the second day of their LV= County Championship match against Lancashire to establish a dominant position by close of play.
Having gained a 49-run first-innings lead by dismissing Lancashire for 177, Essex's batsmen had extended that advantage to 169 by reaching 120 for two in their second innings.
Batting with an imperturbable calm which none of the Lancashire batsmen could match, Alastair Cook was 57 not out. The wickets to fall were those of Tom Westley, bowled by Wayne White for 17, and Rob Quiney, bowled by Glen Chapple for 30.
It was a poor day for Lancashire's batsmen, who found the new ball on a rather lively pitch no easier to cope with in the first session than had the Essex top order 24 hours earlier.
Indeed, Chapple's batsmen fared rather worse, subsiding to 22 for four inside 12 overs after the start.
Karl Brown was the first to depart when he was squared up by Reece Topley and edged a catch to Cook at first slip.
Brown was soon joined in the pavilion by Luke Procter, whose clip off his legs was excellently caught by short-leg Jaik Mickleburgh off David Masters.
Both Brown and Procter made nought and Lancashire's travails in the first hour were completed when Ashwell Prince was lbw to Masters for 14, the South African playing across the line of a straight ball.
Simon Katich and Steven Croft oversaw a brief period of reconstruction and had taken the score to 60 when Sajid Mahmood claimed his first wicket on his return to Old Trafford when he had Katich lbw to a full-length delivery for 23.
Lancashire's miserable first session was rounded off when Steven Croft, having made 31, was beaten for pace and bounce by Graham Napier just before lunch and edged a catch to James Foster.
White followed his colleagues back to the pavilion four overs after the resumption when he attempted to pull out of a hook off Napier but only skied the ball to cover, where Mark Pettini took a straightforward catch to leave Lancashire on 115 for seven.
Through much of this period Gareth Cross had been batting with the restraint and common sense he had shown in Lancashire's previous match at Colwyn Bay and his partnership with Kyle Hogg yielded another 44 runs.
However, the introduction of slow left-armer Tim Phillips precipitated the end of the innings as the last three wickets fell to the spinner.
Cross, on 45, was lbw attempting to sweep, Hogg failed to keep his off-drive down and Chapple was caught at slip to end an innings in which precious few home batsmen had enhanced their reputations.
Essex, by contrast, had bowled and fielded well. Phillips finished with 3-20 while Napier, Masters and Topley collected two wickets apiece.