Sussex 318 for 7 (van Zyl 79, Haines 58) vs Lancashire
April cricket is usually played in changeable conditions and the fine balance between a stubborn winter and a willing spring reflected the evenly poised contest between Sussex and Lancashire on an engrossing first day.
It snowed when these sides met in the opening round at Old Trafford - the fixtures reversed after a bug infestation damaged the Hove outfield - and while temperatures were by no means that extreme, the briskness in the air was the one constant.
As the players warmed up, the ground was bathed in glorious sunshine but neither that nor the gulls' cries were convincing anyone to remove their winter coats - in some cases two winter coats - and dip themselves in the sea as a chill wind arrived and dense cloud cover set in, giving way to varying shades of white and grey for the rest of the day.
Things began gloomily enough for Sussex when they lost Aaron Thomason for a duck on the 17th ball of the match, an excellent delivery from Tom Bailey that tore through the batter's defences and clattered into middle and off.
Stiaan van Zyl's arrival at the crease brought the hosts numerous bright moments however, as he and Tom Haines drove - literally in van Zyl's case - the Sussex recovery from 6 for 1 to 110 for 1 by lunch.
van Zyl's prowess through the off-side, namely his sublime driving through extra cover, accounted for the majority of his 12 fours, including two through the region off consecutive Danny Lamb deliveries.
Having survived a chance early in his innings when Steven Croft failed to grab what would have been a stunning catch at second slip, van Zyl settled into a rhythm that looked set to deliver his second century of the season, following his 113 at Glamorgan during round two.
Matt Parkinson entered the attack in the 21st over after his match-winning 7 for 126 among his nine wickets at Kent last week. But van Zyl lofted his sixth ball over the fence at long-on and, in Parkinson's next over, helped himself to two fours, one swept and the second thumped through his favoured extra cover zone to move within one of his half-century, which he brought up with a single off Parkinson.
Haines followed van Zyl in passing fifty a short time later - the fourth time Haines has done so this season - and the pair walked off for lunch with their side holding a much sunnier outlook than at the start of the day.
Lancashire emerged from the break with a spring in their step and a chirp in their collective voice as they sought a breakthrough. They achieved it before their facade became forced through a probing Saqib Mahmood delivery that angled slightly across left-hander Haines and found an outside edge that went through to Dane Vilas behind the stumps in place of Alex Davies, who was fielding but couldn't take the gloves after suffering a knock to his finger during the week.
So ended Haines' innings on 58 and a fruitful second-wicket stand with van Zyl worth 133. It continued a run of early form this season for Haines, who followed his 155 in the first match against Lancashire with scores in the 80s against Glamorgan and Yorkshire and he now has 455 runs from seven innings.
"I've worked really hard for this," said Haines, who put his form down to increasing his volume of practice during the off-season. "I'm loving my cricket this year.
"I spoke to Alastair Cook at the end of the Essex game last year and he said, 'all the best players in the world hit the most balls and that's just how it is.' I've just tried to do that really, it's not hitting balls for the sake of it but hitting as much as you need to feel good."
van Zyl followed Haines out when, on 79, he slashed at a ball well outside off stump from Liam Livingstone - back in Lancashire's side after leaving the IPL citing bubble fatigue - and found Luke Wells at backward point.
Tom Clark and Ben Brown managed to steady Sussex again, although it wasn't all smooth for Clark, despite the silkiest straight drive he produced to deposit Livingstone effortlessly over the fence.
Dropped on nought, another of four chances missed by Lancashire, Clark copped a blow from Lamb that sent pieces of his helmet flying. Having passed an on-field concussion test, he was pinned lbw by Bailey shortly before tea and Sussex faced another period of reconstruction as the sky darkened and the floodlights came on.
They did manage to rebuild once more through captain Ben Brown and Delray Rawlins, the latter reaching 42 off 64 balls, including straight sixes off Parkinson - which cleared the sightscreen and landed in the nets where Jofra Archer had been continuing his rehab from hand and elbow injuries - and Livingstone.
But, with the new ball about to be taken, Rawlins slapped Parkinson straight to Wells at extra cover.
Brown followed, trapped by a pin-point accurate ball from Lamb, returning to the attack having bowled six maidens among his 15 overs and conceded just 35 runs to that point.
When Stuart Meaker fell to Bailey, Sussex were 292 for 7 having been 197 for 3 after winning the toss, suggesting that the failure of any of their batters to convert starts into big scores might leave them exposed.
But their 318 for 7 at the close was hardly poor and left them within reach of a fourth batting bonus point with George Garton, who fell three shy of a century at Glamorgan, unbeaten on 30. It also highlighted the closeness of the tussle and set up another enthralling day.
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo