MCC 166 for 3 (Bell 70*, Flower 40*) trail Sussex 200 (Montgomerie 61) by 34 runs

The restoration of the traditional curtain-raiser between MCC and the champion county at Lord's after a 13-year absence heralded one the earliest starts to what will be the longest-ever English season. And for Sussex it was not a notable beginning to the defence of their title. After winning the toss they were bowled out for 200, and by the close MCC had reached 166 for 3.

Fifty years ago, this fixture drew an opening-day crowd of 12,000. Today, although there was sunshine, there was also a chill in the air and the Good Friday crowd didn't make four figures. With April barely underway, and rain and temperatures in single figures all week in London, it was hardly surprising. But those who bravely turned up had enough entertainment to send them home happy.

Ian Ward's maiden innings for his new county was brief - he cracked 19 of the first 23 runs before lobbing to square leg off debutant Adam Harrison. Richard Montgomerie and Murray Goodwin - standing in as captain for Chris Adams who was sidelined with an elbow injury - were untroubled until Goodwin (17) aimed an expansive drive at Alex Gidman and was well held by Alastair Cook at third slip (60 for 2). Montgomerie was content to play the anchor role, surviving some close calls as the ball regularly fizzed past his outside edge, but Tony Cottey (17) wasn't so fortunate, snicking behind to James Foster off Graham Napier (87 for 3).

Sussex enjoyed a good hour after lunch, with Montgomerie and the impressive Tim Ambrose taking the score to 139 before Gidman struck again, trapping Ambrose lbw for 35 (139 for 4). Robin Martin-Jenkins made a scratchy 12, mistiming a pull to mid-on off Martin Saggers (154 for 5), and then in the 45 minutes before tea Sussex fell apart.

A collapse in which their last five wickets fell for 23 runs was triggered by Matt Prior's dismissal, using his feet to try to hit James Tredwell over the top but only succeeding in finding midwicket (177 for 6). Montgomerie's charmed life then ended when he nicked Tredwell to Kevin Pietersen at first slip for 61 (180 for 7). Montgomerie was earlier dropped off a harder chance by Pietersen - one of two reprieves he received, and he should also have been run out in the forties. The Sussex tail subsided in a flurry of heaves and swipes, as Tredwell and Napier shared six wickets.

MCC were given a torrid start as Mohammad Akram and Jason Lewry found pace and bounce, and Robert Key (13) and Cook (12), England's Under-19 captain, both fell lbw within four overs of each other (31 for 2).

Pietersen, the man considered by many a shoo-in for a Test place once he qualifies for England at the end of the summer, and Ian Bell then cut loose, adding 40 in six overs as Sussex's attack wilted. But just as Pietersen was beginning to look ominous, he was bowled for 17 by one from Martin-Jenkins which came back into him as he attempted to drive (71 for 3).

That was to be Sussex's last success of the day. Bell reached his fifty off 73 balls, ending unbeaten on 70 and surviving some nervous moments against Mushtaq Ahmed. With Andy Flower - who himself looked far from settled to start with but grew in confidence and closed on 40 - he added 95 for the fourth wicket to put MCC in the driving seat.