JAMES Bracey collected his seventh County Championship 50 of the season as Gloucestershire battled to save their clash with Essex.

Bracey, who earned an England Test debut earlier in the summer, took his first-class run tally for the summer to 685 with a rear-guard performance.

Fifteen wickets fell on the opening day at the County Ground but only nine fell on the second as the pitch flattened out.

Five of those were Essex’s tail, as Paul Walter fell for a career-best 96 and the home side clocked up a 200-run first-innings lead – which thanks to Bracey’s 50 and Ben Charlesworth’s 49 had been knocked down to 69 by the close.

Resuming on 150 for five, having earlier bowled Gloucestershire out for 76, Adam Wheater was dismissed by the Price brothers – bowled Tom caught second slip Ollie – off the ninth ball of the day to end a 79-run stand with Walter.

Walter and Simon Harmer then attacked the old ball – their fifty-partnership coming in just 56 balls – but were warier against the new one.

That caution saw Walter stutter in the 90s and eventually fell four short of what would have been a maiden first-class ton when he edged to third slip, a mode of dismissal Harmer replicated in the following over – their stand worth 71.

Shane Snater swung hard to clear the long-on boundary but too hard soon after to loop to first slip, before a 32-run 10th wicket stand between Sam Cook and Jamie Porter took the hosts to a 200 run lead – before the latter skied to mid-off having already clubbed the first six of his career.

Miles Hammond was dropped in the first over of Gloucestershire’s second innings when the ball bobbled out of Tom Westley’s hand at third slip.

Snater made the breakthrough in the 13th over when a full delivery moved back slightly to pin Hammond leg before.

But Charlesworth steadied the ship again with Bracey and passed the first-innings total inside 32 overs only one wicket down.

The duo put on 58 with few genuine worries in 92 sun-kissed minutes, although Harmer was finding good turn and bounce. And that spin pinned Charlesworth lbw for 49.

Bracey scored predominantly behind the bat as he reached his half-century in 118 balls, with seven fours.

He fell four balls later though when Cook angled across him and found an edge to Harmer at second slip, with Tom Price turning Harmer to short leg.

And with what turned out to be the final ball of the day Josh Rymell produced a superb throw to run Ollie Price out with a direct hit from deep square leg.