Ross Taylor collected his first Specsavers County Championship century for Nottinghamshire as champions Essex toiled in the humid conditions at batsman-friendly Chelmsford.
The New Zealander, who has joined for the first half of the summer, and is playing his penultimate red-ball game for the county, guided Notts into a dominant position with a 208-ball 146 on day one of the match between the sides currently in third and fourth positions.
The 25th first-class century of the 34-year-old Taylor’s career – incredibly only the eighth away from the Test arena – took four and three-quarter hours and included 23 fours.
It had looked a good toss for stand-in captain Chris Nash to win at the start of the day, and an even better one by the end of it when they had 311 for six on the board. Essex’s bowlers, who had steered them to three victories in their opening six fixtures, had a particularly unproductive day, bar the occasional ball that turned from Simon Harmer and a nagging spell early on from Matt Coles.
Taylor dominated a fourth-wicket partnership of 122 in 36 overs with Billy Root, who contributed just 32 of the stand from the 112 balls he faced.
Taylor was quicksilver in comparison. He went off like a train, going to lunch with 32 from just 33 balls. He slowed down appreciably for a time afterwards and needed another 40 balls to add the 18 required to reach his fifth Championship fifty of the season. But it took him just 51 more balls to make it to his second half-century. He had already hit 18 fours by that stage.
Taylor, who had also registered three ducks in an otherwise inconsistent summer, had earlier shared a third-wicket partnership of 53 in a dozen overs with his skipper.
Nash almost went to the third ball of the day when he got a faint snick to Jamie Porter. Varun Chopra went late to his left at first slip, getting fingertips to the ball but unable to stop it racing away to the boundary.
It was not an auspicious start for the home side, and Nash reached his half-century straight after lunch to the 83rd ball faced when he clipped Wagner through midwicket for three. But he departed to his next ball, the first of Matt Quinn’s second spell, walking across his stumps, missing the ball and falling lbw for 51.
Quinn had earlier marked his long-delayed return to the Essex attack by taking his first wicket since the end of May 2017. The New Zealand seamer had not bowled in the Championship for 374 days after back problems that required a succession of operations.
Opening from the River End, Quinn found movement away from the batsmen off the seam. But it was a straight one to Jake Libby, to which the opener shouldered arms and was bowled, that gave Essex the breakthrough in the 10th over.
Samit Patel, having made 20, followed 10 overs later when he was plumb lbw to Matt Coles, who slipped into a nagging line and length from the start. Coles, making his Championship debut for Essex after moving from Kent, was the pick of the bowlers on an easy-paced wicket that favoured the batsmen.
Nash’s exit early in the afternoon brought in Root, and with some judicious batting the fourth-wicket pair had Essex toiling in the field and paying for every wayward ball. Root even had the audacity to come down the pitch and lift Simon Harmer straight for six. Later he pulled Coles for the boundary that took Notts to their first batting point.
Taylor reached three-figures when he swiped fellow Kiwi Wagner through midwicket for his 18th boundary from the 124th ball he had faced. The boundary also brought up the hundred stand in 29 overs with Root, younger brother of the England captain.
Root’s role as sleeping partner to Taylor’s rapier was ended when Chopra took a routine slip catch to a forward prod to give Harmer his first wicket of the match. The offspinner then got one to turn to account for Riki Wessels, who went back and was pinned lbw.
Taylor finally departed three overs from stumps when he attempted to cut Porter, but only succeeded in touching the ball through to wicketkeeper Adam Wheater.