JESSE Ryder helped himself to a belligerent century while Ravi Bopara finished unbeaten on 98 as Essex completely dominated the second day of their County Championship Division Two clash with Gloucestershire at Chelmsford.
Ryder struck a magnificent 133, his first for the county, as he returned to form after his previous six championship games had brought him just 152 runs with a top score of 45. Essex were 425 for three at the close – a lead of 201 runs.
His no-nonsense approach saw him collect 15 fours in addition to four sixes, two of them tremendous straight drives at the expense of left-arm spinner Tom Smith.
All his runs arrived during a third-wicket stand of 197 in 55 overs with Bopara. Ryder thrived on a pitch which had lost some of its life compared with the opening day.
He moved to his half-century from 90 deliveries and needed just 60 more before reaching three figures.
That milestone completed, Ryder opened his shoulders to collect further sixes off both Matt Taylor and Will Gidman while adding another 33 from 14 balls. The New Zealander was finally undone when he was caught behind by Adam Rouse off Matt Taylor attempting to steer a short delivery in the direction of third man.
Bopara was subdued by comparison. He spent 37 balls over his first five runs before finding his touch to reach his half-century from 136 deliveries, it containing just three boundaries.
By the close, he was in sight of his second century of the season in an innings that has so far consumed 244 balls and brought him nine boundaries.
Both batsmen were helped by bowling that left much to be desired. Admittedly conditions did not help their cause but they could not be blamed for a distinct lack of control.
Only paceman David Payne, who occasionally got the ball to lift disconcertingly, maintained a line and length that was remotely threatening.
But the rest of his colleagues were guilty of bowling too short or wide, allowing Essex to take a firm grip on the match.
Bopara and Ryder had joined forces after Tom Westley and Nick Browne had departed in successive overs after putting together a stand of 139, easily the best opening partnership that Essex have enjoyed this summer.
After Essex had resumed on 75, Westley completed his half-century from the first ball of the day with his 11th boundary and added another two before falling to Hamish Marshall for 71 from 104 balls.
Left-hander Browne followed in the next over for 65 when facing Payne, both batsmen paying the penalty for chasing deliveries wide of off stump to be caught by Rouse.
Following Ryder’s departure, James Foster promoted himself up the order and helped ensure that Essex secured maximum batting points. Essex’s captain will resume tomorrow on 51 as he and Bopara seek to build upon a stand that has so far produced 89 in 21 overs.
In completing his fifth championship half-century of the summer, Foster has so far gathered seven fours in a match that has seen him take six catches in Gloucestershire’s first innings.
Reflecting on his first hundred for Essex, Ryder said: “It’s been a bit of a frustrating time for me but it was nice to get back to playing four-day cricket.
“To be able to stand still and see and hit the ball well. It's paid off for me today.”
Gloucestershire wicket-keeper Rouse said: “It was a long day but to watch Ravi Bopara and Jesse Ryder was a great experience.
“They played their game and when they are doing that, you have to make sure you keep doing the right things.”