Hussain is perfect foil for Gooch

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Leicestershire 253 and 76-1

Essex 404

In scoring his first hundred for Essex since 6 May last year, Nasser Hussain assured them of what is likely to prove a decisive lead of 151 against Leicestershire after Graham Gooch had laid the foundation for an even bigger advantage with an inimitable 139.

Hussain's career has more than once burst into flame only to die away most disappointingly. His timing has not been right either as the two seasons in which he produced his best form, 1989 and 1993, immediately preceded tours to the West Indies.

On the first tour he broke a bone in his wrist; on the second he never found form and has a job on his hands now if he is to get back into the England side. If his ability against all types of bowling has never been in doubt, his mental approach has been rather less convincing.

After a century in each of Essex's first two county matches last year, he had a poor season. The decision to make him Paul Prichard's deputy might just be the sign of acceptance he craves and the responsibility he needs to bring the consistency which might take him back into the Test side.

Gooch was again in majestic form, pulling Alan Mullally for three fours in the day's second over and soon afterwards square-cutting him for another to reach his 114th first-class hundred. It would be lovely to think that he will keep his interest going for at least another couple of seasons for his batting is still the most compelling of spectacles.

It is not easy to follow Gooch in this form and sensibly Hussain was happy to take his time. Then, he began in his own delightful way, driving effortlessly on both sides of the wicket, laying back and cutting, playing the ball away nicely off his legs - always with timing and a certain panache.

If this is an early reflection of a new-found self-belief, maybe he will go on to earn himself a place on a rather less exacting tour for batsmen than the West Indies. He reached his 100 with a pull just before tea after 229 minutes' batting, and then skied a catch to short midwicket with another in the first over afterwards.

None of the other Essex batsmen made a significant contribution on a day when the Leicestershire bowlers, depleted by the loss of Adrian Pierson who ricked his neck in the field and could only bowl one over, stuck to their task pretty well.

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