A MAGNIFICENTcentury from Sam Northeast was the highlight of the day as Essex and Kent battled it out for supremacy in their crucial LV= County Championship Division Two battle.

After Northeast had rescued his side with 117 to give them some respectability in a total of 198 all out, Darren Stevens picked up three wickets as Essex found run-gathering far from an easy task on a day when 14 wickets fell for a total of 295 runs.

The visitors were soon left regretting choosing to bat first on a pitch tinged with green and certainly helped the seam bowlers in the morning session.

This was confirmed by Kent losing half their side for only 37 runs before the 18th over was completed.

David Masters was chiefly responsible for their demise as he found enough movement and occasional lift to pose persistent problems.

His opening seven-over spell saw him remove Rob Key, Ben Harmison and Brendan Nash for 11 runs.

Thurrock Gazette:

Jamie Porter celebrates taking the wicket of Darren Stevens on his debut for Essex
Stevens fell lbw to medium-fast Jamie Porter who was making his debut for the county following a number of good performances in the second XI.

The other early victim was Daniel Bell-Drummond, who edged Jesse Ryder to Tom Westley in the slips, but Northeast and Sam Billings shared a sixth wicket stand of 83 in 25 overs.

Northeast reached a deserved century with a mid-wicket six off left-arm spinner Monty Panesar and also laced his innings with 15 fours before he was last out, caught on the long-on boundary by Panesar when attacking Ryder.

Masters and Napier proved the most productive of the home attack each claiming three for 44 with Napier picking up two wickets in three balls.

With both counties still nursing hopes, albeit slim, of claiming a promotion place, Essex will have been well satisfied in dismissing Kent for under 200 and denying them a bonus point.

Thurrock Gazette:

 Ravi Bopara – scored 21 before being caught by Kent’s James  Tredwell  
But their reply did not get off to the best starts, Tom Westley departing without a run on the board when he was caught low down by a diving Harrmison in the slips to provide Mitch Claydon with an early success.

Then Stevens removed Jaik Mickleburgh lbw for 15 and then tempted Ravi Bopara into a loose shot to a widish delivery that finished up in the hands of Tredwell in the slips before finding the edge to have Nick Browne caught behind for 28.

That left Essex on 67 for four but they managed to steer clear of further trouble as they moved to 97 for four by the close to leave themselves 101 runs behind going into the second day.

Essex head coach Paul Grayson said: “It’s probably honours even at the end of the day.

“It was an interesting morning with the ball moving around in the conditions.

“We would like to have bowled them out for a few less but Sam Northeast played brilliantly and Sam Billings counter-attacked us a little bit.

“We need to bat well tomorrow morning and see where that takes us.”