Durham start defence with tight victory
Durham began the defence of their title with a tight five-run victory over Yorkshire in bowler-friendly conditions at Chester-le-Street after overcoming a brilliant late display by Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad. The tenth-wicket pair added 66 to haul Yorkshire from nowhere to within striking distance. Bresnan took 22 off Neil Killeen's ninth over (after his first eight had cost 19) while Shahzad's 33 took 22 balls. But Killeen hit back to remove Shahzad to a catch at long-off and 11 off the final over was too much as Bresnan fell to the penultimate delivery. Neil McKenzie, in his first match for Durham, probably experienced one of the biggest temperature changes felt by a cricketer after arriving from heat of Kanpur to the single-figure chill of the North East. It didn't affect him as he held the innings together with 77 off 123 balls, the only batsman to build an innings after getting set. Yorkshire lost quick wickets and left the lower order with a little too much to do despite Bresnan's best efforts. Killeen did the early damage then Steve Harmison struck with his first ball, bowling Gerard Brophy off the inside edge.
The rain which helped Lancashire escape with a draw in the Championship at The Oval followed them north to Old Trafford as no play was possible against Derbyshire.
There was an early call-off at Grace Road as Leicestershire and Northamptonshire had to settle for a point each.
Rain also meant no play was possible at Edgbaston between Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire.
South West Division
Hamish Marshall, cleared earlier this month to continue his county career, confirmed his value to Gloucestershire with a 54-ball 57 to put his team on course for a seven-wicket victory with nearly 15 overs to spare against Worcestershire at Bristol. He added 97 for the first wicket with Kadeer Ali (63) before Craig Spearman, pushed down into the middle order from his usual opening slot, cracked 64 off 62 balls to hasten the end. Worcestershire had done well to post 221 for 8 but Ben Smith (75) and Daryll Mitchell (63) added 129 for the fifth wicket.
An unbeaten 132-run stand between Ian Blackwell and John Francis guided Somerset to a six-wicket success over Hampshire at Taunton as the County Ground didn't quite live up to its reputation of a run-scoring paradise. Their partnership rebuilt the innings after Somerset slipped to 91 for 4 chasing 222. Blackwell hit 11 fours and a six in his 67-ball innings to complete the chase with 14 balls to spare. Nic Pothas (55) and Dimitri Mascarenhas (53) rescued Hampshire from 96 for 5 after they'd been put in to bat. Ben Phillips took two top-order wickets and three in total as the Somerset attack covered for the absence of Andrew Caddick, who has been to see a specialist after feeling pain in his back during the university match last week.
South East Division
Andrew Strauss bounced back from a poor Championship match against Leicestershire to hammer a one-day best 163 as Middlesex beat their south London rivals, Surrey, by 58 runs under the Duckworth/Lewis method at The Oval, writes Andrew McGlashan. Taking advantage of a short boundary towards the gas holders, Strauss reached his century from 90 balls and needed just another 27 to register 150. He pulled four sixes over the leg side including three in an over off Usman Afzaal, dominating the two stands while he was at the crease. Strauss added 142 with Ed Joyce (42) and 98 with Owais Shah (55) before being bowled by Chris Jordan as he attempted to exploit the short boundary again.
The Surrey attack included 40-year-old Chris Lewis - signed last month for the Twenty20 - who was helping an illness-hit Surrey. Although diving around in the field, Lewis looked rusty with the ball and was clobbered for 51 in his six overs, 45 of them by Strauss. His 163 was the highest score by a Middlesex batsman in the competition (under any sponsorship), overtaking the 158 made by Graham Barlow against Lancashire in 1984, and it beat his previous best in one-day cricket of 152 for England against Bangladesh in 2005.
Surrey started well in their huge chase with James Benning (47) and Scott Newman (65) adding 89 as they kept up with the rate. Danny Evans, a 20-year-old seamer making his one-day debut, changed the game by bowling Benning through the gate and having Mark Ramprakash caught at deep-backward square second ball to finish with the fine figures of 3 for 36. Another man on debut, Gareth Berg, also had a moment to remember when he claimed Mark Butcher and Chris Schofield with consecutive deliveries. He later claimed Lewis for a bustling 33 and ended with four wickets as the game finished in very dingy conditions.
There were runs galore at Canterbury as Essex made it a good start to the season with a 31-run win against Kent to follow their Championship win over Northamptonshire. Ravi Bopara confirmed his impressive form with 99 off 87 balls before being caught behind off Yasir Arafat. Mark Pettini (119), the Essex captain, brought up a century off 126 balls - en route to his second and highest one-day ton - as Essex motored to 317 for 5. Kent, though, didn't go down without a fight with Martin van Jaarsveld's 124 off 93 balls keeping them in the hunt until the closing stages. But as the rate required climbed to more than two-a-ball, van Jaarsveld was bowled by Bopara, and the tail subsided in a blaze of shots.