Kyle Abbott ripped through the Essex tail as Hampshire secured innings victory an opening round of the Specsavers County Championship victory at the Ageas Bowl.

He finished with figures of five for 77 after Ravi Bopara had given Essex hope of pulling off an incredible draw with a century.

Once Bopara fell, Essex tumbled to an innings-and-87-run defeat.

Hampshire's third successive opening-day-of-the-season win was achieved with full bonus points.

Hampshire began the day needing five of the remaining six Essex wickets, with Adam Wheater unable to bat due to a thumb injury.

But under thick grey skies and with the floodlights on, Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate negotiated the opening nine overs of the day – until Fidel Edwards was introduced to the attack.

Edwards tickled the outside of ten Doeschate’s bat with his second ball, a brilliant out-swinger.

Simon Harmer bounced back from a golden duck in the first innings by frustrating Hampshire.

He was given a moment of worry when struck on the helmet by a vicious Edwards bouncer, but went on to make 62.

Bopara followed his first-innings 37 by playing his natural game in reaching his 26th first-class century, from 168 balls (12 fours) before lunch.

Then Hampshire took the second new ball. 

Bopara’s vigil ended on 107 when he edged behind to Lewis McManus in the 84th over.

Harmer, who had reached a brave and half-century in 118 deliveries, added 111 with Bopara before Edwards pinned him lbw.

Edwards ended the match with figures of 8-100, having taken 3-49 in the second innings.

Abbott then found the thick outside edge of Jamie Porter’s bat – with Liam Dawson diving brilliantly low to his right at second slip.

Abbott completed the resounding victory when he castled Sam Cook.

He said: “I don’t think we could have scripted that any better - scoring 500 then bowling them out twice was the perfect start.

“It’s easy to say now and it’s only the first game but it’s the calmest I’ve known the team. It feels totally different. In the past there’s been a lot of energy but I think it’s been nervous energy because we’ve been scrapping.”

Abbott, who made his Hampshire debut in 2014, puts the change down to the arrival of new head coach Adi Birrell, who was South Africa’s assistant coach when he played for the Proteas.

“Adi thinks very calmly and clearly with the way he talks in the changing room, but at the same time he demands respect and that’s what the guys needed. He’s challenged us in the last couple of weeks to react and play how he wants us to play.

“Adi’s brought a great sense of calm to the changing room and some clear plans that he keeps drilling into us. He has a lot of belief in us and we proved that the simple plans work.

“The guys are playing with a lot more confidence knowing Adi’s backing us. After this we can only start backing ourselves even more.”

Essex lost their last four wickets for just five runs after Hampshire took the second new ball, with Abbott taking three of them - including that of Bopara.

“Ravi batted brilliantly, continued Abbott. “We both agreed it was a very good pitch - if you bowled a bad ball it was easy to put away but if you bowled in the right areas it was quite tough for the batsmen to get it away.

“The ball got wet in the dew so the seam was very soft. We knew it was a new-ball wicket. We just needed one chance and a loose shot from Ravi opened the door.”