Warwickshire took control of their relegation dogfight with Essex on a rain-shortened first day in the LV= County Championship Division One.
Warwickshire took control of their relegation dogfight with Essex on a rain-shortened first day in the LV= County Championship Division One match at Edgbaston.
Essex crumbled to 90 for seven in 27.3 overs as the home side exploited a seaming pitch after winning the toss for the first time in seven Championship matches on their own ground this season.
Ravi Bopara, unbeaten with 42 after hitting six fours, was the only batsman to make significant progress during a grim start for Essex in this make-or-break clash of the bottom two.
Warwickshire won the first meeting earlier this month at Southend – in between two fearful maulings by Nottinghamshire – and already they are making up further ground on an Essex side clearly lacking in confidence.
An opening stand of 36 proved to be a false dawn for the visitors. From the time Billy Godleman was out for 22, nibbling a catch to the wicketkeeper in the ninth over, Essex lost seven wickets for the addition of 54 runs, mostly scored by Bopara.
Chris Woakes claimed the first three in the space of 12 balls for an overall return of three for 28. Jaik Mickleburgh (14) and Matthew Walker were both leg before wicket, the latter offering no shot in an error of judgment which typified Essex's uncertainty.
Although Neil Carter unusually toiled without reward, Warwickshire's first bowling changes paid off almost straight away. Rikki Clarke speared a good delivery through Mark Pettini's defence and James Foster deflected Darren Maddy's 11th ball to second slip.
Bopara had some luck, but he was easily the most organised batsman as he made his highest Championship score since his two centuries in the match with Yorkshire at Chelmsford five weeks ago.
With the total stuck on 90 as lunch approached, he lost two more partners from the first nine deliveries bowled by Boyd Rankin.
Richard Johnson, preferred to Tim Ambrose behind the stumps, held a chance from Ryan ten Doeschate and David Masters became the third lbw casualty of the session.
Steady rain set in during the interval and play was abandoned after the players had taken an early tea.
Even with two-thirds of the day lost, Warwickshire are still well placed to grab a relegation lifeline. A victory here would give them a chance of escaping with their last two matches against Kent and Hampshire, two other teams in the danger zone.
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