Billy the kid and the return of Fred
Cricinfo takes a look back at the week of county action and some of the performances that caught the eye.
After a winter which has left his position as England's No. 2 wicketkeeper-batsman increasingly uncertain, Prior desperately needed a strong start to the season. With the match in the balance at Headingley, he produced an innings that showed what originally caught the eye. He arrived with Sussex 115 for 5, still 157 behind Yorkshire, and proceeded to edge them ahead by 29 runs. Yorkshire lost three batsmen erasing the deficit and went down by five wickets.
Bowling performance - Steffan Jones, 6 for 25 v Glamorgan
The phrase `journeyman county cricketer' could have been coined for Jones, who has represented three teams - Northants, Somerset and now Derbyshire. If he continues his current wicket-taking form it could be a case of third lucky. He ripped through the Glamorgan top order as they chased 213, but were left floundering on 69 for 7, with Jones taking the first five. He returned to break a stubborn tenth-wicket stand of 21 to finish with a career-best 6 for 25.
Team of the week - Lancashire
An impressive start to the season continued as Lancashire completed a six-wicket Championship win against Kent and overwhelmed Northants by eight wickets in the C&G Trophy. This season there is an ideal blend of youth and experience at Old Trafford and even without Andrew Flintoff and James Anderson it is a formidable outfit. Their batting, where Mark Chilton hit form with a ton against Kent, is now further boosted by the arrival of Brad Hodge.
Billy the kid
There are more illustrious names at the Rose Bowl than Billy Taylor, but none of them could have made more of an impact that he did on the first day against Middlesex. Playing his first Championship game since midway through last season, Taylor sent Middlesex crashing from 50 for 1 to 52 for 6 with a brilliant burst of seam bowling, including the hat-trick of Nick Compton, Paul Weekes and Ben Scott. He shouldn't have to wait too long for his next match.
Keeping something in reserve
The role of back-up wicketkeeper can be one of the least rewarding in a team as, unlike the fast bowlers or even frontline batsmen, the No. 1 keeper is rarely rested. So when a chance is thrown your way it must be taken. David Alleyne was handed a rare opportunity, just his twelfth in five years, when Chris Read was selected for England A. He responded with a fine match double of 57 and 109 - his first half-century, then century of his career. It was not enough to save Nottinghamshire, but shows that the team certainly have the necessary cover if Read disappears again.
Through the pain barrier
Bowlers can expect to put their bodies on the line as the season gets older, but Gary Keedy is battling against pain already this summer. He has a badly blistered spinner finger on his left hand and also managed to dislocate a finger on his right hand during last week's game against Worcestershire. But no fear, that won't stop him. He took four wickets in each innings against Kent set up a six-wicket win.
Chris Taylor has made quite an impact for Derbyshire since his winter move from Yorkshire, with two centuries already. His latest ton came against Glamorgan and he propelled his team to the commanding position of 247 for 1 before a clatter of wickets. But so long as Taylor was in, there was a set batsman at the crease - sadly Hasan Adnan wasn't reading the same script. Adnan refused the budge from his crease as Taylor went for a single to mid-on, leaving the batsman on 121 stranded. To make matters worse he fell shortly afterwards. David Houghton, the coach, had words with both after play.
With all the talk of players being asked to play too much, it wouldn't be surprising to find the leading stars taking any chance of a break. But not Shane Warne. Barely two weeks after the Test series in Bangladesh where, at times, he struggled to turn his arm over, he was back winning matches for Hampshire. In the second innings against Middlesex he sent down 37 overs, claiming 7 for 99. He has now said the 2009 Ashes isn't out of the question.
Marcus Trescothick finds his four-day feet with 154 against Northants...Ian Bell follows a first-innings duck with 79 at Trent Bridge...Andrew Strauss also recovers from a zero with 141 against Warne and Hampshire...Matthew Hoggard enjoys a profitable workout for Yorkshire with five wickets...Sajid Mahmood takes seven against Kent, while Geraint Jones hits 60...Monty Panesar skittles Somerset with 5 for 32...Andrew Flintoff turns his arm over and finishes with 3 for 30 in his outing for Lancashire.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo