Honours even despite Masters six
David Masters returned a career-best 6 for 24 from 14 overs against his old county but Essex may still end with a first-innings deficit despite having Leicestershire at 4 for 4 and then bowling them out for 159. Essex ended the first day at Chelmsford on 138 for 8, still trailing by 21. Masters took full advantage of a green track and swinging conditions to strike twice in his second over, HD Ackerman caught at wide mid-on, Tom New edging to third slip, while Tony Palladino trapped Matthew Boyce lbw for 1 and Boeta Dippenaar was caught behind. When Claude Henderson edged to Jason Gallian at slip, Masters had 250 first-class wickets. Paul Nixon made the innings' sole half-century before Palladino yorked him but even when he and Jacques du Toit were adding 86 to push them into three figures, Leicestershire must have been rueing batting first. They may have changed their minds when, in turn, Essex lurched to 89 for 7, but James Middlebrook was beginning an unlikely fightback. Nadeem Malik has five wickets so far, Dillon du Preez three.
A groin injury to Monde Zondeki rounded off a dispiriting day for Warwickshire, although their captain Darren Maddy provided some brightness with 4 for 25 against Middlesex at Edgbaston. Maddy was forced to take on more of a bowling load when Zondeki broke down with a groin injury in his third over. He immediately limped from the field for scans and the timing could barely have been worse for Warwickshire, who had just learned that their other overseas signing for the summer, Sanath Jayasuriya, would now be unavailable for their Twenty20 campaign. By the close of play, though, Warwickshire had fought back well after Middlesex had reached 110 for 1. The bottom-of-the-table visitors closed the day at 285 for 9 following a promising start from Ed Smith, who made 85, and Ed Joyce (60). Owais Shah also made a handy contribution of 36 before he gifted Maddy a wicket with his first ball, a long hop that was pulled to midwicket. Maddy also picked up the important wicket of Smith, who was caught at point. Shaun Udal added a quick 40 late in the afternoon but for Middlesex, it was a day that could have been a whole lot more productive.
David Sales made his first century since ceding the Northamptonshire captaincy as his strong start to the season continued. He piled on 173 at Swansea while Niall O'Brien, the opener who got the nod ahead of Alex Wakely, made his fifth first-class hundred as Northamptonshire forged a weighty 453 for 6. Robert White also made 83. Robert Croft was Glamorgan's most successful bowler with three wickets, while Jason Gillespie's hamstring passed the fitness test, which was just as well as he finally severed the 126-run opening partnership of O'Brien and Stephen Peters (39). Amid the flaying, Lance Klusener's absence was hardly noted.
Ryan McLaren and Robbie Joseph made it largely a bowlers' day at Tunbridge Wells, dismissing Somerset for 208 before Kent inched to 85 for 3. McLaren took 5 for 31, his tenth five-wicket haul at first-class level, while Joseph contributed 4 for 67. Peter Trego topscored for the visitors with a frustrating 49 then gained some kind of revenge, trapping Robert Key for 48 just before the close, having also dismissed James Tredwell lbw for 9.
For a report of Surrey's first day against Yorkshire, where Mark Butcher and Matthew Nicholson stole the headlines from the hundredth-hundred seeking Mark Ramprakash, click here
For John Ward's thoughts on proceedings at Trent Bridge click here.