Battling Bopara steadies Essex
Ravi Bopara's unbeaten half-century allowed Essex to recover from a shaky start on a rain-affected first day of their LV= County Championship Division Two clash at Northamptonshire.
Essex were reduced to 57 for four just before lunch but England batsman Bopara's 65 not out off 129 balls, including 12 fours, helped the visitors to move on to 138 without further loss before rain brought about an early close at Wantage Road.
Northants paceman David Willey returned 2-23 as the hosts' attack dominated early on, with former Sri Lanka seamer Chaminda Vaas also claiming a wicket.
Essex chose to bat but they lost Tom Westley for 12 in the fourth over when he edged Vaas to James Middlebrook, who took a simple catch at second slip.
Ex-England batsman Owais Shah then faced just one ball before he was run out by a direct hit from Ben Howgego at point after he tried to take a quick single off Vaas.
The visitors' morning then took another turn for the worse when Mark Pettini was judged to have edged Willey to Northants wicketkeeper David Murphy after making 32.
Willey struck again in the penultimate over of the morning when his delivery crashed into Ben Foakes' off stump to dismiss the youngster for a seven-ball duck.
Essex struggled to 62 for four at lunch, during which the heavens opened meaning the start of the afternoon session was delayed by an hour and a half and 16 overs were lost.
In the second over after play restarted, Essex captain James Foster was given a scare before he opened his account when he edged Jack Brooks, only for Kyle Coetzer to put down a difficult chance at third slip
Bopara, who took 67 balls just to reach double figures, went on to complete a half-century off 112 deliveries with a straight four off Lee Daggett.
But he was also given a second chance after being dropped on 60 by Murphy off the same bowler before rain forced the players off again.
Umpires Trevor Jesty and Tim Robinson came onto the field half an hour later for an inspection but the skies began to darken again and a heavy downpour meant play was officially called off at 5:20pm.
Bopara will be looking to complete his second century of the week when play resumes tomorrow, with Foster striving to add to his unbeaten 25 off 71 deliveries.