MATT Montgomery demonstrated his readiness to fill Ben Duckett’s place in the Nottinghamshire line-up this summer with an unbeaten 130 to help his side edge into a first-innings lead in their LV= Insurance County Championship match against Essex.

The 23-year-old South African-born batter has been earmarked to cover for Duckett’s involvement in the Ashes series since his successful introduction to the senior Nottinghamshire side last summer and though he survived a couple of scares early in his innings, ultimately he looked up to the job.

There were half-centuries also for Ben Slater and Joe Clarke and on a tough day for the Essex bowlers, Sam Cook was the pick with three for 51.

At the close of day two at Trent Bridge, Nottinghamshire were 326 for five in reply to Essex’s 298 all out, giving them a lead of 28 as they chase a third win since returning to Division One.

Nottinghamshire were in control much of the day, having emerged from a challenging opening session with only one wicket lost when Cook induced an edge to dismiss Haseeb Hameed for 13 via a routine catch to first slip.

Essex had cause to regret not making the most of such help as they had from the pitch while the ball was still new, letting both Montgomery and Slater off the hook before lunch.

Montgomery was put down by wicketkeeper Adam Rossington on four off Shane Snater, having had some fortune before he had scored a run when Rossington failed to reach a chance created by the same bowler.

Slater’s escape came after Jamie Porter had returned for his second spell of the morning.

The Nottinghamshire batter, back in his familiar opener’s slot with England’s Duckett rested ahead of the international summer, had just completed his first half-century of the season when he edged to first slip.

It should have been a regulation take for Sir Alastair Cook, but the ball bounced out of his hands and fell to the ground.

In the event, the Slater let-off proved none too costly as he fell soon after for 57.

Sam Cook’s post-lunch spell looked destined to be truncated in its second over when the 25-year-old seamer’s left ankle appeared to give way under him.

Yet he was able to continue with no damage done and his next over saw him produce a fine delivery that left-hander Slater had to defend, but which bounced and seamed away enough to find the edge.

By tea, Nottinghamshire had added another 106 runs as Essex regretted still further not taking the chances offered in the morning, especially those by Montgomery, who had advanced to 73, looking more like the player who ended last season by turning his maiden century into a mightily impressive 178 as Nottinghamshire crushed Durham to confirm themselves as Division Two champions.

It was that innings that put the 23-year-old at the front of the rank to be cover for Duckett.

As it happens, an injury to wicketkeeper Tom Moores opened up a place for him earlier than expected, although he had failed to get beyond 34 in five innings before this one.

His first 50 came off 116 balls with nine fours, after which he looked increasingly assured as he and Clarke began to dominate, the latter reaching his own half-century in 89 balls with a towering six down the ground off Simon Harmer’s off-spin.

Clarke fell just before tea, caught at long off off leg spinner Matt Critchley, as the partnership came to an end on 97.

It was more personal frustration for Clarke, who has gone past fifty eight times and failed to convert since he last made a Championship hundred.

The second new ball gave the Essex bowlers some renewed encouragement and Cook claimed his third success when Lyndon James edged into Rossington’s gloves.

By then, however, Montgomery had completed his hundred with his 15th boundary, and his partnership with skipper Steven Mullaney (27) added another 48 before the latter was lbw to Doug Bracewell to the penultimate ball of the day’s scheduled overs.