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Don't let World Cup fool you, Yorkshire v Essex is where it's at, baby

Adam Lyth scores through the leg side Getty Images

Yorkshire 289 for 6 (Lyth 95, Kohler-Cadmore 83) v Essex

This is where it's at, baby: Yorkshire and Essex duking it for supremacy. Not quite how Sir Neville Cardus would have put it, admittedly, but when the World Cup is in full flow, and England are involved in a troubled run chase, the Championship needs to go full-on Iggy Pop, the grandfather of punk, to grab even a tiny share of attention.

While the World Cup understandably dominates attention over the next month or so, the Championship will take shape. Surely Somerset will never have a better chance of winning county cricket's premier tournament for the first time than this year. As for Yorkshire and Essex, they are still not sure what their seasons will deliver. The next three days will reveal much. The winner, if there is to be one, may be pleasantly surprised by their lofty position come Thursday evening.

An even first day has left us none the wiser about which side might prosper. Yorkshire were dominant just after tea at 224 for 2 with the prospect of hundreds for both Adam Lyth and Tom Kohler-Cadmore, but Simon Harmer's tightly-engineered off-spin held Essex together, as it must, and neither hundred materialised as Yorkshire lost four wickets for 28 in 13 overs and they came to rest at 289 for 6.

David Willey, omitted from England's World Cup squad, was one of those wickets, leg before as he propped forward at Harmer. It's fair to say that as he walked off you would not have been tempted to bottle the air around him and sell it as a Happiness Potion.

Headingley's World Cup matches are still to come, of course, and they will be enhanced by the magnificent new Emerald Stand, which will remain empty for this match while a few final touches are carried out but which gleams virginal white between the cricket and rugby sections of the ground. The decrepit old stand where the sun never dared intrude has been replaced by something more uplifting. People may even be caught smiling.

It is a grand development - £43m worth, of which Yorkshire's share was £18m - and brings a sense of beauty to a ground that once upon a time only admired beauty in a Geoffrey Boycott defensive push, Fred Trueman's outswinger or Brian Close's bruised forehead and where most of the cognoscenti would have probably dismissed Keats' Grecian Urn as something you couldn't rightly sup out of.

But their Lust for Life, as Iggy once put it, centres proudly around the County Championship and there was much to sharpen their interest: a debutant batsman, and from Huddersfield, too; signs in Kohler-Cadmore's 83 that has game is maturing nicely; a condemnatory statistic about Yorkshire opening stands that just will not go away; and an Essex wicketkeeping crisis, not that they would admit to being too interested in that.

The debutant opener was Will Fraine, who moved from Nottinghamshire in the middle of last season, and whose father is a senior figure in an ice cream company that is one of Yorkshire's major sponsors. His 39 from 69 balls was not quite the indulgence promised by the Idaho Valley Mint flavour, but was a sober affair, prospering largely through learned steers through backward point, head determinedly over ball, enough to satisfy the members on first sight. Sam Cook brought one back to bowl him through the gate.

Fraine is the latest player to try to address some very un-Yorkshire shortcomings at the top of the order. According to the Yorkshire specialist Graham Hardcastle, it is 20 matches since they have managed a hundred stand for the first wicket in first-class cricket when Shaun Marsh and Kohler-Cadmore did so against Surrey at The Kia Oval; there again, they were responding to 529.

The fact that such a skilful player as Lyth has routinely been one of those openers makes it an even more unlikely statistic. Lyth did his share of playing and missing in making 95, but otherwise had few alarms, his most uncertain moment perhaps coming on 17 when he edged Cook just in front of second slip.

Lyth was also involved in the run out of Gary Ballance, who is searching for a century in six successive Yorkshire matches. Len Hutton once made a hundred for Yorkshire in seven successive matches, although that sequence was interrupted by England calls. It was an avoidable run out, a casual first run being followed by joint uncertainty over the second, Sam Cook's throw from square leg doing the rest.

Lyth could barely have succumbed more to self-blame had he walked home in bare feet wearing a placard saying 'Stone Me'. "It was my fault," he said. "It's not great when you run the best batsman in the country out. I can't honestly tell you how awful it felt. I can't apologise enough. He said he would forgive me if I got 150 so he hasn't forgiven me."

England might only have eyes for the World Cup at the moment, but the Ashes will soon be here and in these parts they are adamant that Ballance, defiantly playing as deep in the crease as ever, should be part of them. Lyth's excessive self-blame proved as much.

Lyth's departure to a defensive push at Jamie Porter soon after tea gave Will Buttleman the first of two simple catches - he also held Kohler-Cadmore's attempted drive - to adorn his emergency uptake of the keeping gloves after Robbie White injured an ankle in training, so ending his loan spell from Middlesex; he came in on debut against Hampshire last season, too, when Adam Wheater was injured midway through a match.

Michael Pepper damaged a finger against Kent last week, soon after returning from an appendix operation and Wheater, the senior man, is a long-term absentee with a badly-broken finger. They said it would be difficult replacing James Foster, but nobody said it would be downright dangerous.