Hashim Amla warms to his challenge
Nottinghamshire 396 for 8 v Kent
Hashim Amla showed himself to be quite at home in English conditions, even in April, when he scored two centuries in three matches for Essex last year, and clearly needed no time to acclimatise as he made his competitive Nottinghamshire debut.
Compared with the balmy sunshine that greeted the return of the County Championship last week, the backdrop to the South African's welcome to Trent Bridge was much more familiar, the sky a uniform grey -at least until the evening - and the temperatures much closer to the seasonal norm, if not a degree or two lower.
None of it bothered Amla, who didn't feel the urge to run, even in the interests of staving off hypothermia, until he had 36 runs on the board, having dealt exclusively in boundaries. Nottinghamshire had left some grass on a slow pitch - prompting Rob Key to put them in when he won the toss - but the 27-year-old right-hander had few uneasy moments.
It could hardly have felt less like Nagpur in February, where he scored a double hundred for South Africa in the first Test against India, but by the time the impressive Geraint Jones saw him off with a sharp stumping, with close of play in sight, he had made 129 and Nottinghamshire had their first four batting points of the summer in the bank. The fifth will not be long coming.
Amla had good support, especially from Neil Edwards, another new face here, and Chris Read, who needed no introduction, but it was his blend of elegance, strength and timing that ultimately was the fulcrum of a Nottinghamshire score that suggests they will again be contenders for the title.
The regret for Nottinghamshire is that his engagement is only a brief one, encompassing just four Championship matches. All but two runs of Amla's opening 50 came in fours as Kent's attack toiled. Robbie Joseph, recovering from shoulder surgery, and new signing Dewald Nel were both missing, the latter having picked up a back injury. It was left to Phil Edwards and 19-year-old Matt Coles to fill in as back-up seamers, while Amjad Khan and Azhar Mahmood, whom Key had backed to exploit the conditions, did not hit the right spots often enough.
Amla's stand with Edwards put on 103 in 28 overs for the third wicket, ending when Edwards, trying to work through leg off James Tredwell, was leg-before to the newly-elevated England offspinner. With something to prove after a frustrating couple of seasons at Somerset, Edwards was another who looked comfortable in his new surroundings.
The 27-year-old Cornishman, a tall left-hander, described the Trent Bridge track as "a good cricket wicket" compared with batsman-friendly Taunton but looked confident from the outset and with 15 boundaries was shaping for his fourth first-class hundred when Tredwell made his breakthrough.
Amla completed his century off 152 balls with 17 fours, by which time Read, the mainstay of Nottinghamshire's batting with 1203 Championship runs in 2009, had picked up where he left off, smacking two sixes over midwicket in the same Coles over.
The captain and wicketkeeper reached 50 off 79 balls, picking up seven fours in addition to the two maximums, and was visibly annoyed not to get beyond 62. Looking for a quick single to mid-on in the first over with the new ball, he was more than halfway down the pitch when Amla decided he was not interested and Key's throw ran him out with something to spare. That stand, for the sixth wicket, put on 125 runs in 32 overs.
Kent enjoyed passing periods of encouragement. Khan removed Shafayat, dropped at third slip on nought in Mahmood's first over, thanks to a diving catch in front of first slip by Jones, and from the next legitimate ball had Mark Wagh caught at first slip.
There was the threat, later, of a middle-order collapse when Samit Patel and Ali Brown both began positively only to be out quickly. Patel tickled Mahmood for a leg-side catch to Jones (in front of England's chief selector, Geoff Miller, unfortunately), then Brown hooked Khan for his second six only to shuffle into the next ball to be leg before.
Darren Stevens, the seventh Kent bowler used, did for Amla with a legside delivery to a seven-two field, which was a novelty. The top-edged hook with which Andre Adams squandered his wicket to the last ball of the day sadly was not.