Bopara shines at Headingley
Ravi Bopara enhanced his prospects of featuring in England’s first Test against West Indies with a glorious century, but Yorkshire were still firmly in control against Essex at Headingley Carnegie.
Bopara, playing for the first time this season, compiled a masterful unbeaten 117 to spare his side’s blushes and steer them to a total of 199 in response to Yorkshire’s 246.
The White Rose, though, extended their lead from 47 to 191 as they reached 144 for two at stumps, England Lions opener Joe Root hitting 67.
Bopara was on 26 and James Foster nine when Essex started the day on 72 for five - still 164 in arrears.
Both took boundaries off Ajmal Shahzad, who was sharp but erratic, but Ryan Sidebottom ended the stand on 107 by having Foster caught at second slip.
Yet Bopara was looking well set and upon Shahzad's return to the attack, produced a glorious cover-driven four to reach his half-century off 117 balls, with eight boundaries.
Phil Jaques then dropped a difficult chance to dismiss the stylish batsman at third slip, and Bopara made full use of his reprieve.
After Shahzad castled David Masters, Tim Phillips - batting with a runner because of back spasms - hung around for 43 deliveries to make seven before being caught at point off Sidebottom.
Maurice Chambers was lbw driving at the left-arm seamer, but once again Yorkshire found themselves unable to polish off an innings and Bopara successfully nursed Tymal Mills through a stand of 48, to which the last man contributed just two.
Although batting with care, Bopara wasted few scoring opportunities and, after gliding a leg-side ball from Shahzad for four, moved to three figures - from 201 balls - with an on-drive.
The stand only ended because Bopara, in attempting to retain the strike, drove Anthony McGrath too hard to Patterson at mid-on and set off for a single, Mills proving unable to beat the fielder’s throw to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.
Root and Joe Sayers made a slow start for Yorkshire, but, once 50 had been reached in 18 overs, began to go for their shots as the former, in particular, impressed with the quality of his driving.
A cheeky reverse sweep took him to his fifty, and a glorious cover-drive off Chambers made it a century stand, of which Root had contributed 66.
He was caught down the leg side by Foster off Greg Smith with the score on 106, after which progress slowed. Jaques fell for 18, lbw sweeping at Tom Westley, but skipper Andrew Gale signalled his intentions by on-driving his second ball for six.
That was the skipper's only scoring shot as he took Yorkshire to the close alongside Sayers, who had made 45.