Bopara suffers twice as depleted Essex toil

Kent 360-6 v Essex
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The Independent Online

Essex endured a taxing day of leather-chasing here, but for Ravi Bopara there were agonies of a more personal nature to contend with as he sat, or rather lay flat, in the St Lawrence dressing rooms.

While Kent recovered from a sticky start through Martin van Jaarsveld and Geraint Jones to post an impressive 360 for 6, Bopara, who left the field after only six overs, whiled away the hours watching the first Test from Trent Bridge on television and undergoing treatment on a back injury.

If seeing Van Jaarsveld get a first hundred of the season and Jones chip-in with 99 was hard enough, Bopara's spirits will not have been buoyed by Eoin Morgan's high-class hundred for England against Pakistan. Having left the field clutching his side after a rolling stop, Bopara settled in for a day of massage to his strained back while his successor in the Test set-up set about pummelling the tourists.

Bopara confirmed he will bat later in the match, but Kent's course toward 400 was made even more comfortable by another injury, one that restricted Maurice Chambers to only eight overs of right-arm seam.

It was Chambers who achieved the first success of the day for Essex by accounting for home captain Robert Key inside eight overs. Key sidled off cursing his luck after Jaik Mickleburgh pocketed a reflex catch under the helmet at forward short leg.

Essex gave a debut to new overseas signing, Bryce McGain, the Australian leg-spinner and 38-year-old one-cap wonder, who effectively avoided greater embarrassment by taking the next four wickets to fall. His floating wrist-spin enticed Sam Northeast to hole out to long off shortly before lunch then, three overs after the resumption, Joe Denly pushed defensively to feather a catch to James Foster.

The hosts regrouped through Jones and Van Jaarsveld in a fourth-wicket stand of 176, the latter reaching his first century of the campaign in a shade under three hours from 148 balls and with 13 fours and a six.

The South African hit one more boundary before he too underestimated McGain's seemingly innocuous spin by miscuing an attempted on- drive into the hands of David Masters at deep mid-off.

Jones, having survived a huge appeal for a catch at the wicket off McGain when on 88, ultimately fell one short of his century when he chipped tamely to mid-on to give McGain somewhat flattering figures of 4 for 135 off his 30 overs.

With two of their pace attack missing, Essex delayed taking the second new ball until the 90th over, yet it did the trick in the hands of Masters who had Darren Stevens, driving adventurously on the up, caught at second slip.