Ravi Bopara and Tom Westley both hit hundreds as Essex responded superbly on day two of their County Championship Division Two clash against Kent.
England international Bopara joined Westley at the crease in Canterbury during the morning session with their side 24-1 in response to the hosts’ 387 all out, and the pair remained together throughout the day.
Bopara reached 112 not out after recording his 24th first-class ton, but his first since May 2013, while 25-year-old Westley ended his 14-month wait for a three-figure score with an unbeaten 114.
Bat’s the way to do it – Ravi Bopara on his way to a century. Picture: GAVIN ELLIS/TGS PHOTO
Kent had no answer to the partnership – Australian Doug Bollinger even resorted to a short run-up and what was basically left-arm spin for one delivery – as the duo remained together for more than 72 overs and left Essex 253-1 at stumps.
Bopara was put down when on 18 by Sam Billings, though the chance was a tough one high above the wicketkeeper’s head.
Other than that, the only time the pair looked nervous was when they were in the 90s. With such a long wait since their last hundreds they were understandably tense – especially Westley, who had been dismissed for 95 against Surrey at the end of May.
They both reached 90 in the 58th over, with Westley having faced 171 balls and Bopara 160.
Westley reached the elusive three figures in the 64th over, from the 196th ball he faced. Bopara was then on 94, yet he would have to face another 29 deliveries before reaching his landmark.
Quick glance – Tom Westley checks where the ball has gone as he sets off for a run. Picture: GAVIN ELLIS/TGS PHOTO
Essex had made early inroads in the morning. Four runs had been added to the overnight total when Mitchell Claydon edged the fifth delivery of the day from David Masters behind, where James Foster took the catch.
Foster was not so secure with his hands when he dropped Adam Riley, who went on to make 18 before holing out to Nick Browne at short leg off Monty Panesar.
Ben Harmison, fit enough to return after retiring hurt with a bruised knuckle on day one, was the last wicket to fall for 18, run out well short of his crease as Tymal Mills threw to Foster from mid-on.
Pleasing reading – the scoreboard tells its own story. Picture: GAVIN ELLIS/TGS PHOTO
Kent made a great start when Browne played at a wide delivery and edged to Riley at second slip off Claydon.
But that brought Bopara out to join Westley in the middle, and the pair left their side within 134 runs of Kent with nine wickets still intact.