Glamorgan v Essex, Cardiff, 1st day May 2, 2012

Petersen succeeds where Cook and Bopara fail

Glamorgan 1 for 0 trail Essex 259 for 9 dec (Petersen 145) by 258 runs

There were several sub-plots to the first day's play in Cardiff. The first was the seasonal return of Alastair Cook for Essex. The second, the performance of England's No. 6-in-waiting Ravi Bopara. And the third, Alviro Petersen lining up against his former county.

The first two tales got no further than the opening lines. But Petersen played an innings which demanded more attention. It was an innings that should have gained him renewed respect in these parts - respect that was lost during the will-he-won't-he affair over the winter when Petersen reneged on his agreement with Glamorgan and returned instead to international cricket, then took up a short-term overseas role with Essex.

Petersen is an invaluable asset to Essex, who have a dearth of opening batsman. They were able to call on Cook to open here but his participation in Essex's first-class season will be over after next week's match against Kent. That Petersen is able to play the opening set of county matches finds a solution - albeit temporarily - to their troubles at the top of the order.

But so far he has been not much more than a name to put on the team sheet, his contributions in the opening three games light. Here, the bit was between his teeth and he made a chanceless hundred that was fervently, but not offensively, celebrated by a packed Essex balcony. As for the spectators, most of whom had applauded him on to the field, there was no repeat of the booing that greeted Tom Maynard's return last season.

Petersen is not a memorably attractive player but his driving was a delight. A good stride down the pitch and a firm punch with a check drive bringing boundaries to the short straight fences and through extra cover on occasions too. But little did he come out to the ball on the front foot outside off stump. And only when well set did he cut - lashing a ball over point shortly before Bopara was lbw for a third-ball duck. He knew to be careful and left well.

"We've had stop start games so it's nice to get a full day in and I'm happy with my batting," Petersen said. "It was a dampish wicket which did a lot, especially with the new ball and it was difficult for batters to score. We would have bowled first too."

Petersen may have endorsed Mark Wallace's decision to insert Essex but there was nothing throughout most of the morning to suggest Wallace was correct. It took Dean Cosker's 500th first-class wicket, finding a thin edge from Billy Godleman, and Bopara playing across the line for the scoreboard to resemble something the hosts would have been pleased with at lunch.

The wicket was quite slow - a given in Cardiff and all the more so after heavy rain in days before this match - and it took the application demonstrated by Petersen and Godleman, who has a hundred to his name already this season, to make runs. The scenario was well set for Cook but he paid the penalty for pushing forward at one outside of off stump.

Petersen played straight for the most part of his innings, unless he was given the chance to pull, which he did to two successive balls to take him into the 90s. A drive through the covers brought him to 99 and a quick single - another feature of his earnest innings - brought up his third century in county cricket, his first of the season, from 147 balls.

He had defended Cosker - a dangerously experienced operator - playing with very light hands and worked him around, not risking sweeping. But the coup de grace of the knock was a big six into the Cathedral Road stand.

He partnership with Mark Pettini, who was educated in these parts, consumed most of the afternoon session during which Wallace might have been ruing the fact he took the soft option of bowling first. But Pettini gave Waters his second wicket of three and his new-ball partner Graham Wagg - about whose work during the winter Matthew Mott, Glamorgan's head of elite development, was complimentary - ended Petersen's 185 minute vigil.

Wagg took advantage of the second new ball after tea to rattle away the lower order - a collapse of 5 for 13. Essex declared nine down but could make no inroads in the three overs they had time to send down.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo