McKenzie puts Hampshire in control at Chelmsford

Hampshire's Neil McKenzie is unbeaten on 134 after day one against Essex

Hampshire's Neil McKenzie is unbeaten on 134 after day one against Essex

Hambledon's George Harding batting against St Cross. Picture Ian Hargreaves (170744-1)

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Neil McKenzie batted throughout the day to inspire Hampshire on the opening day of their County Championship division two clash against Essex at Chelmsford.

The 36-year-old South African was unbeaten on 134, giving Hants the upper hand as they finished day one on 303 for six after winning the toss.

McKenzie defied the attempts of seven bowlers to remove him during an effort that spanned 270 deliveries and brought him 13 boundaries.

The 11th one, a superb drive through extra-cover off Ryan ten Doeschate, brought up his century after nearly five hours and highlighted why Hampshire made great efforts to sign him for Championship duty.

He was only originally set to play Friends Life t20 matches this season, but was recently persuaded to make himself available for four-day duty.

His main accomplice was Sean Ervine.

Together, after the fourth wicket had gone down at 106, they put on 110 in 28 overs.

Ervine struck seven fours in his innings of 55, which was brought to an end when he played on against David Masters, who was easily the pick of the Essex bowlers.

But the stand should have been broken after it had yielded just 10 runs when Harbhajan Singh, diving forward from second slip, failed to accept a catch offered against Masters.

Following Ervine’s departure, Michael Bates contributed 27 in a sixth-wicket stand of 72, before he gloved a Graham Napier delivery to diminutive wicketkeeper Adam Wheater while attempting to take evasive action.

But no-one was able to remove McKenzie from the scene – although an opportunity was spurned just before the close when Wheater leapt high but failed to grab the chance off Napier.

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