Ravi Bopara inspired Essex to an emphatic seven-wicket win over Lancashire in their first full Royal London One-Day Cup match.
Heavy rain prevented either side from playing their opening game of the competition on Saturday, but there was no concern of abandonment again after mischievous looking clouds departed Chelmsford midway through the first innings.
Lancashire were made to suffer in that time, though, having been asked to bat first. Taking advantage of the overhead conditions, Bopara offered a reminder of his canny ability with the ball, taking 4/31, his best 50-over bowling figures in four years, before a majestic unbeaten knock of 101 secured all the points.
In truth, he and all the bowlers benefitted from a pitch that looked as vibrantly green in places as Lancashire’s new lime-coloured luminous kit. There was little in favour for batsmen in the early stages, as Essex’s battery of medium-pacers maintained tight lines to restrict the visitors to 161/9 off their 50 overs.
That they managed to post a total of such stature was thanks to the 44-run seventh-wicket partnership between Alex Davies and Jordan Clark. The pair moved Lancashire on from the perilous position of 66/6 to 110 before the latter miscued his shot and saw it land safely in the hands of sub-fielder Arron Nijjar.
Buoyed by progress through to the T20 Blast quarter-finals on Friday night following a nervy spell watching rivals Glamorgan’s scorecard, Essex looked lively from the start. Reece Topley showed early intent, cartwheeling Ashwell Prince’s off stump three balls into the game, bringing one back into the batsman.
David Masters – turning up late due to a traffic jam on his journey in – needed only a five-minute warm-up before he produced a devilish 10-over spell that rewarded the batsmen with a measly 20 runs.
Lancashire were unable to push on after the sluggish start and, when Kyle Brown departed trapped before off Graham Napier for 21, it triggered a collapse of five wickets for the addition of a mere 22 runs.
Masters then snuck the ball through Alviro Petersen’s attempted lofted shot with a slower ball, prior to Bopara claiming his first wicket, inducing an edge off in-form Steven Croft behind to James Foster.
Paul Horton fell in Bopara’s next over mistiming a drive, caught by Jesse Ryder, prior to the New Zealander dismissing Australian James Faulkner for two. It was quite differing conditions for the World Cup winner, who was featuring in his first 50-over game since the March final.
Davies displayed steel lacking up to that point from the Lancashire innings, improvising well to steer a Topley short ball over the slips for four. Joined by Clark, who demonstrated control before unleashing a couple of rasping shots, they pair shifted the score along comfortably.
After Clark left, Topley had Davies chipping one to Ryan ten Doeschate, followed six overs alter by Kyle Jarvis bowled by Bopara.
The hosts required just 33 overs to reach the diminutive total, Bopara making easy work of the chase, hitting 13 fours and three sixes in his innings. Kyle Jarvis provided some mean of defence, at one point restricting the batsmen to five runs off his first five overs, but it was always going to prove tough, picking up just the two wickets of Tom Westley and Mark Pettini.
The latter went to a sensational one-handed catch over the shoulder by Prince on the run from mid off, yet even after Nick Browne departed to Clark, the game was beyond Lancashire, Bopara striking a four to win and bring up his century.