Derbyshire 209 for 5 (Hughes 85*, Ansari 4-44) v Surrey

On a rain-marred first day in which Surrey collected the first of the 15 points they require to guarantee promotion back to the top tier of the County Championship, they found themselves in a better position than their fielding deserved against Derbyshire having dropped five catches - four of them the first 90 minutes of play. Life will not be so forgiving in Division One.

It would, however, be churlish to say that Surrey were lucky. With England's tour of the UAE looming and their spin options worryingly threadbare, left-arm spinner Zafar Ansari delivered a first-day performance to justify the growing voices calling for his inclusion in England's Test squad, taking 4 for 44.

On an excellent pitch that has so far offered seam movement and tacky turn, Ansari took four of the five wickets to fall on a truncated opening day, bowling with impressive control and patience. A belligerent innings by Chesney Hughes who finished unbeaten on 85 ensured that Ansari did not completely ruin Derbyshire's innings, but having been granted precious lives by Surrey's fielders they will feel as if they have let an opportunity for better things slip.

As an opening batsman who bowls spin in county cricket, comparisons will no doubt be drawn between Ansari and Moeen Ali, and Ansari is keen to extol his role as a bowler as much as a batsman.

This season has indeed brought upon a Moeen-style perception shift in which Ansari's bowling has widely become regarded as his most respected, if not most valuable, asset. While he is averaging just 29 with the bat in first-class cricket this season, he has now bowled more than 400 first-class overs - only Jeetan Patel has bowled more, and taken more first-class wickets: 43.

Having already played in the UAE earlier this season for the MCC alongside Alastair Cook, and made his international debut in Ireland in May, he will no doubt be close to the national selectors' thoughts as they convene before the UAE.

After the start of play was delayed by light rain, Ansari toiled away diligently at the Pavilion End under dark and moody skies for 21 overs during two sessions, demonstrating impressive control and patience.

Having won the toss and chosen to bat beneath heavy clouds Derbyshire will have been as surprised as they will have been pleased that after an hour of play both openers remained at the crease. Indeed, around the one-hour mark three consecutive overs induced three edges through to the slips -- one which fell just short and two that were put down; both, rather remarkably by former international wicketkeepers Kumar Sangakkara and Steven Davies. Two further catches would be also spilled.

Ansari's introduction brought with it a wicket as Billy Godleman, seeking to continue an impressive run of form, was bowled between bat and pad looking to force the ball through the leg side.

It was some time before Ansari would bowl again, 18 overs in fact, and rather appropriately it was not until he returned that Surrey found another breakthrough. When Ansari removed opener Ben Slater for a hard-fought 42, trapped lbw to end a gritty partnership with Hughes, it began an uninterrupted spell of 17 overs for Ansari that reaped 3 for 28. The other two wickets to fall were Wayne Madsen, caught and bowled and Wes Durston, also lbw.

As the light and rain closed in there was just enough time for Tom Curran to prize out Harvey Hosein before play was halted for the day.

Although the pitch offered turn what was conspicuous about Ansari's bowling was that it was inconspicuous. He did not turn it square, or get it to drift or bounce wickedly, it was straightforward, controlled spin bowling. A career economy rate of 3.12 suggests such pressure is consistently applied.

Only Hughes, typically a colourful stroke-maker, demonstrated the application required on a pitch that has certainly not been easy to bat on. He did unfurl a couple of trademark cover drives but it was his restraint that illuminated where the rest of Derbyshire's batsmen went wrong on a day in which good things came to those who waited.

Freddie Wilde is a freelance T20 journalist. @fwildecricket