Derbyshire 312 Essex 271-4: Flower proves hot in chiller

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The Independent Online

Appropriately enough on the longest day of the year, Derbyshire's bowlers would have needed overtime to complete the minimum requirement of overs, which was not good news for spectators trying to convince themselves it was not actually April. In the event, bad light spared that necessity, even though the floodlights were switched on. Earlier, in bright sunshine, an appeal to drivers to cover windscreens fell on deaf ears, probably because their blankets were needed to protect against hypothermia.

Derbyshire's batsmen, with two or three exceptions, had not tended to linger long at the crease on the first day and, in the chill wind, their Essex counterparts might understandably have followed suit. Instead, they chose the opposite, defiantly hanging around as the scores ground slowly towards parity.

It was less than enthralling to watch, but if the result today is a substantial first-innings lead, Essex will not reproach themselves. Half-centuries for Varun Chopra and Ravinder Bopara preceded something more adventurous from the former Zimbabwe captain, Andy Flower, who is poised to complete a fifth hundred of the season.

Chopra's 65 marked his 19th birthday, helping Essex reach 123 before he edged Graeme Welch to second slip. Like Graham Gooch and Nasser Hussein before him, Chopra's roots are at Ilford Cricket Club. He made a century on his Championship debut (after being dropped on nought) last month and carries high expectations.