County Championship Division Two, Chelmsford
Essex 254 & 143-6 beat Hampshire 197 & 199 by four wickets
Essex 21pts, Hants 3pts
Graham Napier was the Essex hero as they beat Hampshire by four wickets with a day to spare despite losing England captain Alastair Cook cheaply.
The home side dismissed Hampshire for 199, with David Masters taking 5-41, to leave a target of only 143 for victory.
But Cook was bowled for four by David Balcombe as Essex were reduced to 31-6.
Napier, however, hit three sixes and 10 fours in his 78 as he and Mark Pettini (35) saw Essex home on 143-6 with an unbroken partnership of 112.
Hampshire would have been disappointed to be bowled out for under 200 for the second time in the match after starting the day on 77-2, but their last seven wickets went down for only 55 runs despite good batting by James Vince (67) and Liam Dawson (52).
Masters again showed his value to Essex as he took his career total to 533 first-class victims at an average of under 26, but they had no time to enjoy their efforts in the field as their reply began disastrously.
After Cook and Westley departed, the latter run out for the second time in the match, Ravi Bopara was caught in the slips for a third-ball duck and James Tomlinson found himself on a hat-trick after having Rob Quiney caught behind and trapping Ben Foakes lbw with successive balls.
Skipper James Foster prevented the treble, only to be run out for five by George Bailey, but with their side reeling, Napier and Pettini batted with maturity to secure Essex’s first win of the summer.
BBC Essex’s Glenn Speller:
“It was a tense end to what proved to be a thrilling low-scoring match.
“David Masters took the bowling plaudits for Essex with nine wickets in the match, with good second innings support by Ravi Bopara, but yet again there are concerns about their top-order batting.
“That weakness was further highlighted in the second innings as they subsided to 31-6 , leaving Napier, who now averages more than 100 in Championship cricket, to guide them home with the help of Mark Pettini.
“Essex can be satisfied with a win, but their batting looks brittle and wickets tend to clatter once the opposition have broken through.”