Bopara shines once again
Ravi Bopara completed his second century of the week as Essex drew their rain-affected LV= County Championship Division Two match at Northamptonshire.
Essex declared on 400 for six to claim maximum batting points, with Bopara scoring a magnificent 174 alongside his captain and wicketkeeper James Foster, who made 135.
That was Bopara's second ton in six days after he struck one in the Clydesdale Bank 40 against Gloucestershire on Monday.
Northants then closed on 200 for three as James Middlebrook clobbered a century against his old club with 100 in a game ruined by rain over the first three days.
Essex began the day on 195 for four with Bopara resuming on 87 and Foster 60. The former was to complete the 22nd century of his first-class career in the 14th over of the day.
It was also his second of the championship season and came off 199 balls as he hammered a four through the covers off Lee Daggett.
He and Foster had already surpassed the previous record fifth-wicket stand for Essex against Northamptonshire of 147, made between Mark Pettini and Matt Walker in this fixture last season.
Foster went on to complete the 18th first-class ton of his career off 203 deliveries as the visitors moved on serenely to 282 for four at lunch.
Bopara reached 150 in the fifth over of the afternoon – a set of six in which he smashed 21 off Middlebrook.
Foster, however, holed out when he launched David Willey to substitute fielder Rob Keogh at long-on to finally break a magnificent partnership of 294.
Bopara's sensational innings then finally came to an end when he was caught by Kyle Coetzer at deep square-leg, giving Daggett his first wicket.
Essex's declaration came when they reached 400, leaving Ryan ten Doeschate and Graham Napier on 26 and 14 respectively.
Northamptonshire lost Ben Howgego in the 11th over when his off stump was taken out by Napier after he made a just a single off the 27 balls he faced.
The hosts resumed after tea on 43 for one and Middlebrook completed his half-century off 74 deliveries with a huge six down the ground off Tom Westley.
Coetzer made a bright 39 before he was dismissed by Napier's yorker, after which Middlebrook completed his second hundred in consecutive home games off 138 balls.
But he was then bowled by Tom Craddock without adding to his total before Alex Wakely, with 43 not out, saw Northamptonshire to 200 for three at the close.