Essex spoil Grayson's warm down
Derbyshire 139 for 5(Chanderpaul 66*, Masters 3-38) lead Essex 94 (Cook 35, Footitt 5-29, Groenewald 5-44) by 45 runs
Paul Grayson would have been engaging in a warm-down after running the London marathon around the time his Essex side were bowled out in their first Championship innings of the season. His time of 4hrs and 4mins, raising money for the Lord's Taverners, was entirely commendable; the efforts of Essex's players in his absence were not.
Charity, of course, begins at home and Essex gave generously after winning the toss and choosing to bat. Essex were all out by 2.20pm, their innings lasting less than three hours. Tim Groenewald claimed the first hat-trick of his career, as well as the wicket of the England captain and Essex's top-scorer, Alastair Cook, in a five-for while Mark Footitt was superb in taking the other five.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul, as solid as anyone, then passed fifty for the 186th time in first-class cricket to ensure Derbyshire, wearing black armbands in memory of Tom Poynton's father, did not squander their gains.
Few Chelmsford members have forgotten how Essex seemingly passed up the opportunity of promotion in the final round of last season by fielding a weakened team at Hampshire - not to mention heavy defeats against Northamptonshire and Lancashire that left Grayson feeling the kind of heat usually reserved for football managers. Cricket is a more grown-up game but Grayson may question the wisdom of leaving his players to supervise themselves when he returns to the County Ground on Monday.
Long-distance running experts will usually advise that it is important not to go off too fast, ensuring something is left in the tank for later in the race. The Championship is certainly a test of endurance but Essex seemed to have taken the rubric of starting slowly rather to heart. By the time they were dismissed for 94, around 40 minutes after lunch, they had barely managed to get their shoelaces tied.
The focus to begin with was, inevitably, on Cook after James Foster, Essex's captain, had won first use of the pitch. Rather than dodging and weaving against an interlocutor with a microphone and Ashes-related inquiries aforethought, Cook would be tested in his favoured discipline of judgement against line and length.
With the sun out and the ball gliding across an outfield of green baize, England's troubles over the last few months were slowly being packed up in an old kit bag. Cook was beaten by his first ball but soon settled, working early runs off his legs with customary felicity as well as striking boundaries crisply down the ground and through cover.
While there was some early movement around, Essex's openers negotiated the first ten overs before Jaik Mickleburgh was unstitched by Footitt, who made the ball swing back before darting across to lop off stump.
Footitt had lost his footing in his first over, landing heavily as he slipped in his delivery stride. In all other respects, he was beautifully balanced, shaping the ball at considerable pace. His resemblance to Mitchell Johnson may be limited to dark hair and a fast left-arm action but that was enough for some to invoke the demons of Australia, as Cook and his team-mates proved that anything England could do, Essex could do better (or perhaps that should be worse).
It was Groenewald who eviscerated the top order, triggering a collapse of nine for 50 by having Cook caught down the leg side. Cook swished his bat in frustration, having got out when set, but if there was a touch of fortune about that dismissal, Groenewald and Footitt made most of their own luck in a probing display.
Derbyshire's promotion campaign in 2012 was built on winning four of their first seven matches and, despite relegation and a change of coach since then, their seam-bowling strength remains intact. Graeme Welch, having succeeded Karl Krikken over the winter, was able to leave out Tony Palladino - their leading wicket-taker two years ago - for his first Championship match and still see his attack give Essex a thorough spring cleaning.
With Cook's departure, it should not have been too onerous a task for Ravi Bopara to buckle down alongside Tom Westley. Instead, he was out driving loosely at Groenewald, who then had Greg Smith playing on. Ben Foakes, adjudged lbw, completed the hat-trick, Derbyshire's first since Palladino produced one at Grace Road during that successful 2012. Foster was Groenewald's fifth victim, bowled attempting a sweep that perhaps betrayed his thoughts on the mess his team had ended up in; despite a 20-run last-wicket stand, this was the Essex's worst display batting in the first innings of a match since being dismissed for 86 by Surrey in 1987.
There was little to perturb the ECB's pitch liaison officer, David Capel, who ascribed the wickets to good bowling and poor batting. Something for Grayson to think about on his next run.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick