Sam Northeast celebrated his highest Specsavers County Championship score for Hampshire as the home side declared their first innings of the season on 525-8.

The former Kent batsman made a masterful 169, his second Hampshire century, in the first innings of his second season with the county.

Northeast had anchored Hampshire’s first innings on the first day and continued with Liam Dawson – who himself made 64.

The pair put on 165 for the sixth wicket, a Hampshire record against Essex, on a slow and flat wicket.

Northeast fell just before lunch and Dawson was caught behind by sub wicket-keeper Will Buttleman – who replaced Adam Wheater when the former Hampshire keeper underwent surgery on a damaged thumb - after the interval.

Hampshire continued to eke out relatively simple runs throughout the afternoon session but also lost regular wickets.

Tom Alsop reached 24 before top edging a paddle sweep to first slip Sir Alastair Cook – who also dropped Gareth Berg on 20.

Berg and Keith Barker, 33 and 31 not out, then kept the score ticking with a 46-run stand, before the former picked out Ravi Bopara at deep square leg.

Essex were given 6.2 overs to negotiate before bad light brought about tea and, despite the knighted Cook looking in complete control, lost Nick Browne.

Opener Browne was beaten for pace as he was castled by Fidel Edwards.

Northeast said: “It was good start to the season for me and puts us in a good position but it was a little bit of a shame that we couldn’t get on tonight and make headways into the Essex line-up.

“It was something we failed to do on numerous occasions last year, failing to put up big scores, so hopefully it gives the batting line-up confidence going forward.

“I didn’t feel in form at the start of pre-season where I don’t think I made double figures in the warm up matches.

“But this was a nice pitch and if you get in on there you can definitely make runs and if the bowlers miss their lengths a little bit it can be free scoring.

“We are going to have to start well tomorrow and we will be wanting to get into a position where we will be in a winning position going into day four.”

Hampshire first innings
JJ Weatherley c Westley b Quinn 13 (40)
JM Vince (c) lbw b Bopara 40 (68)
AK Markram c Lawrence b Quinn 63 (96)
SA Northeast lbw b Bopara 169 (255)
RR Rossouw c Harmer b Porter 76 (66)
LA Dawson c sub b Quinn 64 (134)
TP Alsop † c AN Cook b Harmer 24 (44)
GK Berg c Bopara b Harmer 33 (49)
KHD Barker not out 31 (34)
Extras 12 (b 8, lb 2, nb 2)
TOTAL 525/8d (130.5 Overs, RR: 4.01)
Did not bat: KJ Abbott, FH Edwards
Fall of wickets: 1-40 (JJ Weatherley, 12.1 ov), 2-71 (JM Vince, 24.2 ov), 3-146 (AK Markram, 42.1 ov), 4-263 (RR Rossouw, 63.4 ov), 5-428 (SA Northeast, 106.4 ov), 6-445 (LA Dawson, 114.1 ov), 7-479 (TP Alsop, 121.1 ov), 8-525 (GK Berg, 130.5 ov).
BOWLING: JA Porter 25-4-112-1, SJ Cook 27-5-105-0, MR Quinn 29-3-104-3, RS Bopara 16-0-54-2, SR Harmer 31.5-3-134-2, DW Lawrence 2-0-6-0