Surrey take lead as wickets tumble
Surrey edged the advantage on a wicket-filled first day against high-flying Durham at The Oval. Durham lost eight wickets before lunch as the top order was blown away with Matthew Nicholson claiming three scalps including Scott Styris for 1. However, the visitors fought hard to stay in the contest led by Phil Mustard's counter-attacking 82-ball 70 that included confident reverse sweeps against the spinners. India's Harbhajan Singh claimed three wickets as he started his stint with Surrey, but they found the early going tough with the bat. Steve Harmison struck in his first over and at 53 for 3 Durham were back in the match. Stewart Walters, in his first Championship game of the summer, steadied the reply with a composed half-century as Surrey moved into the lead but was trapped lbw to the final ball of the day for a career-best 70.
Darren Maddy was quick to switch from Twenty20 mode back into Championship action as his century gave Warwickshire the advantage on the opening day against Hampshire at The Rose Bowl. When bad light brought an early finish, Maddy had faced 263 balls in his second Championship ton of the season. Jonathan Trott, fresh from his time with England's one-day squad, contributed 50 to a second-wicket stand of 119 and Jim Troughton (44) helped add 86 before he was removed by Chris Tremlett. Overall it was a tough day for the home attack as Shane Warne, who sent down 22 wicketless overs, used seven bowlers.
The opening day of the Roses clash between Lancashire and Yorkshire at Old Trafford didn't get started with the ground still saturated from the recent heavy rain. There was particular concern about areas at backward point and the run ups. The umpires made two inspections, but abandoned the day in mid-afternoon. The two captains, Mark Chilton and Darren Gough, had been keen to play but agreed conditions weren't safe. Yorkshire currently lead the Championship with Lancashire fifth.
Worcestershire had been hoping to work the impossible and play at New Road less than two weeks after the floods, but the opening day against Kent was unsurprisingly abandoned. There were still damp areas on the outfield, although the club are hopeful that there will be some play over the next three days.
James Foster gave everyone a reminder of his batting talent with his first century of the season to steer Essex into a strong position against second-placed Nottinghamshire at Chelmsford. The early honours had been shared as Ravi Bopara's 59 was weighted against regular wickets for Nottinghamshire. Graham Swann's offspin was responsible for three, including Bopara, but Foster turned the day Essex's way. He took 148 balls over his century while Andy Bichel offered fine support as the seventh-wicket added 180. Bichel ended nine short of a century after striking 12 fours and a six off 99 balls.
Nineteen-year-old Ben Wright hit his maiden first-class century, but the rest of Glamorgan's batsmen failed to follow suit as Paul Nixon's reign as four-day captain of Leicestershire started promisingly at Grace Road. Wright came in at No. 4 after both openers had gone cheaply and the scoreboard read 2 for 2, but he responded with a 215-ball innings that included 13 boundaries and a six. He added 72 with Mark Wallace, but the home side maintained their advantage when David Masters removed Wright for 113. Masters and Garnett Kruger shared seven wickets and bad light meant 2.2 overs for the Leicestershire openers.
The opening day at Southgate was keenly contested between Middlesex and Derbyshire, but the visitors will be disappointed with their final total of 340 after being 201 for 2. The Australian duo of Michael Dighton (68) and Simon Katich (80) built the strong position with a third-wicket stand of 166. However, Jamie Dalrymple broke through, on his way to three crucial middle-order wickets, as Derbyshire fell away to 247 for 7. Useful lower-order cameos from Ant Botha, Graham Wagg and Tom Lungley lifted the total over 300 before Murali Kartik picked up a brace.
Steve Kirby took five wickets as Gloucestershire kept control against Northamptonshire at Northampton. The home side's batsmen wasted a number of starts with three passing half-centuries but no one making more than Usman Afzaal's 66. Afzaal and Stephen Peters added 122 for the second wicket and Afzaal was Kirby's first victim. David Sales and Riki Wessels formed the other main stand - 99 for the fifth wicket - but Kirby ripped through the middle order as five wickets fell for 14. However, the innings was handed a late boost as the final-wicket pair of David Lucas and Jason Brown clubbed 56 and Northamptonshire's day ended strongly with two early wickets.