PAUL Walter hit his fourth LV= Insurance Championship half-century of the season as Essex eked out a painstaking 74-run lead on a sun-baked Chelmsford day when 15 wickets fell.

The tall left-hander was the only batsmen to get to grips with a worn pitch on which Gloucestershire were bowled out for a paltry 76 in 28 overs before lunch.

Gloucestershire were undone in double-quick time as seamer Jamie Porter marked his 100th first-class appearance with 4-32, supported in a blistering opening spell by Sam Cook (3-27).

Division Two leaders Essex started in similar downbeat mode until Walter stepped in. By the close of the first day he had reached 71 not out from 189 balls.

Gloucestershire, put in, were soon in trouble. Porter had Miles Hammond and Ben Charlesworth pinned lbw in successive overs.

Cook then removed James Beacey and Tom Lace with consecutive balls, Bracey edging an outswinger and Lace misjudging one and losing his off-stump.

A third wicket in nine balls fell without addition when Chris Dent edged to second slip. He was soon followed by Graeme van Buuren, who left one from Cook that jagged back and removed his off-stump.

Ryan Higgins adopted an aggressive approach, but lost seventh-wicket partner Ollie Price, who slashed wildly to fourth slip for Porter’s fourth scalp.

Simon Harmer took just three overs to wrap up the Gloucestershire innings taking the final three wickets for just two runs. Zafar Khan swept to square leg, Higgins was snaffled at short leg to end a 60-ball 25, and David Payne was bowled pushing forward.

The procession of wickets continued at the start of Essex’s reply: it took 30 overs to post their first 50, by which time they were four wickets down.

Nick Browne wafted at Payne in the third over while Sir Alastair Cook went seven overs later when trapped in front by Higgins for 15. Tom Westley departed lbw for a 38-ball two and Michael Pepper tickled a lifter from Payne.

Walter and Josh Rymell steadied the ship for 16 overs before tea, but four balls after the break Zafar turned one sharply and found the edge of Rymell’s bat.

Walter had taken 20 balls to get off the mark, but quietly eased Essex into the lead He was joined by Adam Wheater (30 not out) in an unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 75 that threatened to take the game away from the visitors.