LV County Championship - Division Two
Northamptonshire 280 (L Klusener 72 no, R A White 60) & 237 (L Klusener 92, A G Wakely 53, D D Masters 4-69) v Essex 503-5 dec (J E R Gallian 171, R S Bopara 150, M L Pettini 80 no) & 15-1
Essex (22pts) beat Northamptonshire (3pts) by 9 wkts
Lance Klusener struck a defiant 92 but it was not enough to prevent Essex from collecting the points at Chelmsford.
Resuming on a perilous 42-4 Northamptonshire needed a further 223 just to make Essex bat again, and they made life as difficult as possible for the hosts.
Klusener and opener Alex Wakely moved their partnership to 81 before the latter fell to the bowling of Ravi Bopara, who also had a hand in the next wicket to fall.
Niall O'Brien hung around with Klusener but having made 12 he hit Chris Wright to Bopara at cover to be the sixth man to fall.
Steven Crook joined the South African for a 48-run stand to further frustrate Essex before Crook was adjudged lbw to Ryan ten Doeschate (3-23), who promptly added David Wigley to his haul along with Shaun Bailey.
Klusener ensured that Essex would have to bat again but he fell eight short of a century, David Masters (4-69) returning to claim his fourth victim of the innings with Gallian snaring the catch at slip.
Needing just 15, Bailey had Jason Gallian caught behind in the second over but Varun Chopra saw Essex home shortly afterwards by pulling Wigley for six.
A burst of three wickets for 11 runs from David Masters has left Northamptonshire in dire straights in the opening game at Chelmsford.
Masters, making his championship debut for Essex following his move from Leicestershire, ripped out the top order to leave the visitors 223 runs short of making Essex bat again.
He bowled both Stephen Peters and Rob White before trapping Riki Wessels lbw to leave Northants on 42-4, Ravi Bopara sending back David Sales lbw before bad light ended play for the day.
Earlier, Essex helped themselves to some average bowling and fielding to advance from 323-2 to 503-5 declared - Jason Gallian and Bopara adding 294 before the latter was caught behind for 150, which included 19 fours and a six.
Gallian's vigil ended shortly after when he edged Shaun Bailey to slip, but the visiting bowlers continued to struggle.
Mark Pettini took a while to find his stride but dominated a tiring attack late on, making an unbeaten 80 from 101 balls before he declared, having added 101 in 17 overs with James Foster (25no).
Unbeaten centuries from Jason Gallian and Ravi Bopara helped Essex move into control by the end of day two at Chelmsford.
The duo shared an unbroken stand of 266 to leave the home side on 323-2 at the close, giving them a lead over Northamptonshire of 43 runs.
Varun Chopra (one) and Tim Westley (14) were the only wickets to fall throughout the day, both being dismissed by seamer David Wigley.
However from then on the visitors bowlers struggled to make an impact, Essex dominating to put themselves in pole position for not just maximum batting points but also a sizeable first-innings advantage.
Gallian quickly showed his value to his new county with a century on debut, reaching the end of play on 146 not out from 298 balls.
The former Nottinghamshire opener did enjoy a major let-off when he only had 13 to his name, the normally reliable David Sales spilling a chance at slip.
Bopara was alongside him with 137 to his name, though he too had a stroke of luck when Shaun Bailey failed to cling on to a tough return chance late in the day.
By then the all-rounder had already registered his seventh first-class ton to give an early nudge to the England selectors after he was left out of the Test squad for the tour of New Zealand.
Andre Nel made an immediate impact on the opening day of the County Championship season, despite arriving in the country only hours before the start of play in Chelmsford.
The South African pace bowler flew into Heathrow at 7.20am and made it to Chelmsford with just an hour to spare - and without his kit.
However, he quickly overcame those difficulties as he took three wickets as Northants were bowled out for 280 in their first innings.
Nel finished with figures of 3-64 while Ravi Bopara (3-39) also took three wickets and there were two for James Middlebrook.
A dropped catch at second slip from Varun Chopra denied Nel the wicket of compatriot Lance Klusener when he was on 29 and he went on to top score for the visitors with an unbeaten 72.
Essex were left with three overs to negotiate before the close of play and they did so with no alarms, reaching 4-0 at stumps.