Warwickshire fail to take full advantage
Warwickshire 322 for 6 (Troughton 74*) v Surrey
A glance at the scorecard might suggest that Warwickshire enjoyed a pretty good opening day against Surrey. Up to a point that was true, too: they have claimed three batting bonus points and have the power to add more on day two.
But Warwickshire will also know that, from the platform they had established, they failed to take full advantage. They will know that, having won first use of a fine batting track, they might have squandered a chance to bat Surrey out of this game and that, despite all their admirable cricket so far this season, they could have made further progress towards their first championship title since 2004.
At one stage here they were well placed on 130 without loss. Then they lost four wickets in the afternoon session before a fifth-wicket stand of 98 put them back on track only for Surrey to capture two more wickets before the close. It left Warwickshire with their noses in front, but it could have been far more.
To increase Warwickshire's frustration, they will know that several of their batsmen played more than a small part in their dismissals. Varun Chopra, who has the class to press for a position in the Test side in due course, compiled a typically elegant 60 before, partly through a lack of foot movement, played on as he reached to drive. For a man who had just been left out of the Lions squad, it was a frustrating dismissal. William Porterfield, who has scored only two championship centuries in his career and none in division one, then helped a legside longhop into the hands of the keeper. Ian Westwood and Darren Maddy both played fell playing across straight deliveries, before Richard Johnson's admirable innings ended when he drove uppishly and Rikki Clarke was well held at point after thick-edging an attempted drive. Had Jim Troughton been held at short-leg on 23, a sharp chance to Rory Burns off the deserving Stuart Meaker, Warwickshire would have been 197 for five.
Perhaps Chris Jordan deserves some credit. The 23-year-old fast bowling all-rounder, out of contract at the Oval and wanted at Hove, made the breakthrough in an expensive post-lunch spell of six overs for 45 runs. He forced Chopra on the back foot with a barrage of short balls and, while many of them were pulled to the boundary with disdainful ease and 14 more runs were donated from no-balls, perhaps his pace was responsible for Chopra's reluctance to come forward to the full ball that dismissed him.
But Meaker was, by some distance, the best of Surrey's bowlers. Both openers were fortunate to survive leg before appeal in his first spell - he had Westwood on his hands and knees after digging out an inswinging yorker at one stage - and his pace and swing rendered him a tough proposition throughout the day.
The Surrey attack was profligate, though. Their contribution of 43 extras - 22 of them no-balls - tells its own story. The bowlers were largely responsible for the large tally of no-balls, too, while Jordan's surfeit of long-hops cannot have done his hopes of a new contract offer at the Oval much good.
Having survived the opening spell, Chopra and Westwood batted well. While Chopra was the more pleasing, leaning into some delightful drives, cutting neatly and pulling with grace, Westwood also chipped the spin of Gareth Batty over mid on for a couple of boundaries and looked increasingly comfortable.
He enjoyed one major let-off. On 10, Westwood clipped Murali Kartik's first delivery straight to Burns at short-leg only to see the fielder, over eager to celebrate the catch, drop the ball in his excitement. The umpires conferred but agreed that Burns had not had the ball under his control.
Warwickshire were grateful for the contribution of Troughton and Johnson. The latter, recalled from his loan spell at Derbyshire due to a thigh injury to Tim Ambrose, looked a well organised player in moving to the brink of his maiden championship 50 with a pulled six and six pleasing fours. Troughton, meanwhile, who registered only his second championship century since the start of 2010 in the previous game, appeared notably more solid than he had at the start of the season.
There were some notable absentees. Chris Tremlett missed the game - and may not play again this season - after undergoing a scan to ascertain whether he required surgery on his right knee. Having managed just one game since his return from back surgery, such a reverse would represent a crushing blow.
Chris Adams was also absent. Surrey's director of cricket has, somewhat controversially, opted to take a quick holiday. While some will criticise his timing - there are, after all, many months out of season in which to take a holiday - it is worth remembering that Adams, like many of his team, has been through a great deal in recent weeks and that the bulk of his coaching work is done pre-season. Still, the timing seems slightly unusual. Ian Salisbury, who is first team coach, and Alec Stewart deputised.
Warwickshire, meanwhile, rested Chris Wright and brought in Boyd Rankin for his first game of the season following a 'stress reaction' in his foot.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo