ENGLAND batsman Ravi Bopara proved Essex’s sole bastion of resistance, grinding out the top score of 49 as the visitors toiled to 225 for six at the end of the second day against Surrey at the Oval.
Bopara was in cautious mood in the County Championship division two clash after coming to the crease with Essex on 126-3, intent on little more than stabilising the innings by retaining his wicket before eventually getting out one short of his half century.
After Surrey won the toss and elected to field, England captain Alastair Cook made 39 for Essex before Matt Dunn trapped him caught behind.
Rain forced an early lunch to add to the first day’s total washout, with Essex 73 for one from 22.2 overs, with Jaik Mickleburgh 30 not out.
Surrey were able to capitalise on the rain break to put Essex out of their rhythm, Mickleburgh unable to settle after play resumed at 2.15pm.
The Essex opener’s uneasy toil came to an end when he edged Jade Dernbach to Surrey skipper Graeme Smith at first slip, for 38 from 114 balls.
Jade Dernbach celebrates the wicket of Greg Smith
The most notable, and concerning, moment of the first morning’s play was an injury to Zafar Ansari who went to hospital with concussion after sliding headfirst into the boundary fence.
The 22-year-old hared onto Alastair Cook's back-foot off-drive after failing to collect at the first attempt, and in his desperation to atone he slid straight over the boundary rope and into the fence.
Ansari will find out this morning if he can play a part in the rest of the game.
Zafar Ansari heads off for treatment
Jason Roy had to fill in for Surrey in the absence of Ansari’s spin, but it was Dunn who shouldered the greater responsibility.
The 21-year-old’s two wickets in three balls handed the hosts hope of turning a meandering affair into a credible contest.
England under-19 captain Dunn trapped Tom Westley for 31, just when the Essex number three would have been contemplating anchoring his side's static innings.
Westley walked after 67 balls and 94 minutes, with five fours for his troubles, after holing out to fielder Roy.
South African Greg Smith could only last two balls, nicking to Gary Wilson at second slip as Dunn picked up Surrey’s pace.
Ben Foakes came to the wicket to join Bopara and was also unable to accelerate the scoring, leaving Essex 159 for four at tea, from 52 overs.
Foakes hacked Stuart Meaker away for a one-bounce four after the break in a bid to kick-start proceedings, but Surrey’s South Africa-born paceman quickly had the last laugh.
England Under-19 cap Meaker skittled Foakes for 22 after a 54-ball stint that included three fours.
Bopara fired a four off Dernbach to edge Essex past 200, then knocked another boundary off the next ball and the same bowler.
Just when his 50 came squarely into view, Roy popped up to trap him caught behind, one shy of the milestone.
Bopara’s hard-fought 49 came from 147 balls, with just three fours, his innings lasting a shade over three hours.
Bad light eventually forced the teams from the field after 77.5 overs, with James Foster 19 not out from 48 balls and Graham Napier having mustered four from 20 balls.