County cricket – as it happened
10.16am: Morning all and welcome back for a new season on the, ahem, much-imitated, but original county cricket live blog. Our writers will be here with all the opening day's play shortly; Andy Wilson is at Trent Bridge for Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire, Richard Gibson will be taking in Yorkshire v Kent at Headingley, Mark Pennell is at the Oval for Surrey v Sussex and Richard Latham will be reporting from Taunton, where Somerset open up against Middlesex.
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10.28am: To the disappointment of sports desks everywhere, there is no blanket of snow here in Nottingham for the start of the County Championship season, writes Andy Wilson at Trent Bridge. It's pretty perishing, but barring a late blizzard play should start on time - and according to the forecast I've seen, that should also be the case in the other six games getting underway today.
Having said that, I can't remember ever seeing as much snow on the way to the first game of the season. It's still pretty deep through Edale and the Hope Valley - is there a finer train route in England than the one between Stockport and Sheffield? It really is too early to be starting the season, and you'd have to be as blithely unconcerned as county cricket is about media management to time the launch to coincide with the golf tournament that is apparently getting underway in Augusta later - mind you maybe it's the golfers who will be worried about the loss of media exposure caused by the clash with Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire.
Anyway, welcome back. Things are a bit different this year. It won't be quite the same without Hoppsy, who was one of the three musketeers responsible for setting the whimsical tone of the county blog when it began two years ago, to miss the first ball of the season. But we do have Richard Gibson, a near neighbour of the Parson's in the posh northern suburbs of Leeds, and the ace ghost writer to James Anderson and Graeme Swann, to maintain continuity at Headingley.
Messrs Selvey and Marks will still be chipping in regularly, hopefully with recipes, beer recommendations and even the odd comment about the cricket, but they're both otherwise engaged in Sri Lanka for the next week or so. However we still have two other matches covered.
Our third contributor today is a blog debutant, Mark Pennell, a Birmingham City fan who's been covering Kent comprehensively for decades, and is fondly known as Shoestring on the county circuit because of his previous life as a private investigator. He's at the Oval for Surrey's return to Division One, and a reunion for their coaching team of Ian Salisbury and Chris Adams - assuming Grizzly had recovered sufficiently from a knee operation earlier this week - with Sussex, their former employers.
Last but not least there's Richard Latham in his familiar surroundings of the Taunton press box for Somerset's opener against the other London returnees, Middlesex. Richard will hopefully be along soon to tell us what's on offer at the lunchtime carvery.
There's a bit of a tale here already today even before the toss. Peter Hartley, the former Yorkshire seamer who is now an established umpire, has had to pull out with illness. Fortunately there's an admirably qualified stand-in on hand in Paul Pollard, the former Notts opener who also had a stint with Worcestershire. The Notts press officer and local newspaper man have just walked into the press box in quick succession wearing natty early-season scarves. It's a soup-and-Bovril-at-drinks sort of opening day, but it's still good to be back.
10.52am: Richard Gibson is checking in from Headingley: "Yorkshire begin life in Division Two in remarkably good spirits, given the sombre mood that prevailed following relegation last September, and the snow that blanketed the outfield at Headingley yesterday morning, against opponents that denied them the Division One title with victory here in the final match of 2010.
"Optimism abounded at the club's pre-season lunch yesterday to
"By the time Graves stood to address the 200 guests, the
"Yorkshire's slip fielders placed orders for hand warmers with the physio yesterday and were granted early use of them as Kent, who include six new signings in their XI, won the toss and will bat. Yorkshire's most significant winter addition Phil Jaques does not arrive for a fortnight but they are still well stocked for batsmen, an observation supported by their omission of Adam Lyth."
11.10am: , predictions for the season are coming thick and fast. Add yours, and check back to see how wrong you were at the end of the season.
11.14am: Nottinghamshire have already lost a wicket, writes Andy Wilson, but Leicestershire may well have made an historically bad start to the season across the east Midlands at Grace Road. They lost wickets to each of the first two balls from the Glamorgan seamer Huw Waters. Ramnaresh Sarwan, their new overseas signing, knew he wasn't joining one of the big guns of county cricket, but cannot have expected to be called upon at number four only three balls into the season.
11.32am: Some opening thoughts from a chilly Kennington Oval courtesy of : "It's a raw-boned, two-sweater day in SE11 where newly-pomoted Surrey, having been invited to bat by Sussex, have already lost their South African opening bat Jacques Rudolph for a 12-ball duck. With only nine runs on the board the left-hander, who only flew in to the UK 48 hours ago, was caught by Ed Joyce at the second attempt at third slip. It followed a jet-lagged, leaden-footed drive at a good length ball from Naved Arif. With temperatures in single figures, it is all a far cry from the heat and humidity of Colombo where Surrey supporters will be keeping one eye on the batting exploits of Kevin Pietersen."
11.47am: Richard Latham has a weather (and food) update from Somerset: "It had to happen. After what seemed like weeks of unbroken sunshine in the West country, the new county cricket season has dawned grey, wet and windy at Taunton where the heavy covers are on and prospects for play before lunch are bleak. The sunglasses are back in the drawer and the thermal vest is on at the insistence of the wife, who is always more sensible about these things than I am. She was right as usual.
"The Press Box is like a fridge and the water for a desperately needed cup of coffee is taking longer to boil due to the sub zero temperatures. Through misted up windows I can spot roughly 20 spectators, most of them huddling together for warmth in the Sir Ian Botham Stand. Team news is that Vernon Philander makes his debut for Somerset, perhaps not encouraged by the fact that his surname was spelt wrongly on the official scorecard. The South African seamer may be the talk of world cricket at the moment, but no one here has yet grasped that there is only one L in Philander. He should worry. Joe Denly makes his Middlesex debut - and his name isn't on the official scorecard at all!
"Most encouraging news is that the fabulous Taunton carvery will be in operation again this season, offering the members of the media ample opportunity to put on weight. Bring it on!"
11.54am: In the comments section, is experiencing déjà vu all over again: "How wonderful to see Notts' new signings respecting the club's proud tradition of relying on the middle order and tail to get the runs."
12.07pm: It's a gloomy start for Surrey in many ways, writes Mark Pennell. With the floodlights on in Kennington Surrey lost their second wicket in the opening 45 minutes when Chris Jordan fell for seven. A hesitant push drive at former Kent paceman Amjad Khan took a fine inside edge before careering into the right-hander's leg stump. Though their slip cordon have hands thrust deep into pockets, it looks a shrewd decision by Sussex to field first.
12.26pm: has been active in the comments, keeping us updated with tumbling wickets at Trent Bridge: "James Taylor has come and gone. Similar to Hales, hit one cracking cover drive to get off the mark, then perished going for a repeat - in his case he got more on it, but maybe slight outside edge made it uppish, kervezee took good low catch at cover point. that was 26-3 and now it's 26-4, wessels driving extravagantly at his second ball, flies to third slip where klinger klung on. the bowler richard jones on each occasion - he impressed me at blackpool back half of last season."
And then: "34-5. third wicket for jones, cracking catch by mitchell at second slip, read driving. could notts be all out in a session?"
1.01pm: Another wicket at the Oval, writes Mark Pennell. Shoreham-on-Sea gets its first mention of the summer courtesy of rookie left-arm seamer Lewis Hatchett, who opened his Sussex account for the season with the prized scalp of Mark Ramprakash.
The Surrey run machine had reached 24 under the lights at a gloomy Oval when he appeared to push slightly across one from Hatchett that, after a considerable delay, caused umpire Nick Cook to raise the finger of fate.
Walking in at 79 for three, Surrey skipper Rory Hamilton-Brown must have hoped for a far brighter start to his side's first division campaign than this.
1.13pm: Worcestershire for the title? Dismissed by pretty much everyone to be relegated - including the bookmakers, who I'm told have them odds-on to go down - they have capitalised on winning a good toss to reduce the much more fancied Nottinghamshire to 74 for six at lunch at Trent Bridge, writes Andy Wilson.
It's been good old-fashioned seam bowling by Alan Richardson (of course), David Lucas (much-travelled left arm seamer originally from Nottingham who is now on his fourth county, and apparently cleans windows during the winter) and Richard Jones (comparative youngster from Stourbridge). Moeen Ali also chipped in late on with the useful off-spin that has the England hierarchy interested, trapping Neil Edwards lbw - a meek ending for the Cornish opener after grafting all morning against the seamers.
But Nottinghamshire's batting performance has been very ordinary. Alex Hales, James Taylor, Riki Wessels and even Chris Read all went flashing loosely outside the off stump as though batting at Hove in high summer, not Trent Bridge in the spring. Mind you Michael Lumb received no reward for restraining his attacking instincts, as he went pushing at a good one from Lucas.
Paul Franks has hinted at one of the lower order rescue acts in which he specialises, and there's still six-hitting Andre Adams to come. But Notts will do well to scramble a single batting point from here.
1.17pm: And a round-up, also courtesy of Andy Wilson: "Elsewhere, as my favourite local radio football commentator used to say in a deep voice on Wish FM, there have been wickets for Glamorgan's Huw Waters at Leicester, and Northamptonshire's Jack Brooks against Derbyshire; and runs for Adam Wheater for Essex against Gloucestershire. But performance of the morning may have come from Ramnaresh Sarwan, who after surviving a hat-trick from the third ball of the season on his Leicestershire debut has grafted to 18 from 73 deliveries at lunch against Waters and Glamorgan."
1.20pm: has taken to the comments to give us this lunchtime update:
"Surrey are 95 for three at lunch with Zander de Bruyn unbeaten on 36.
"It's coats on in the press box too, as no one has yet to master the air conditioning."
1.28pm: New-look Kent, new-look Key at Headingley, writes Richard Gibson. Robert Key, cutting a svelte figure, became the first batsman to a County Championship half-century in 2012, reaching the landmark in the 27th over of the innings. Scott Newman, borrowed from Middlesex, followed him to 50 in the next over, and Kent are 117 without loss at lunch. Credit to groundsman Andy Fogarty, who despite being faced with snow yesterday, has produced what appears to be a fine pitch for early April.
Yorkshire have struggled to create opportunities - although Newman did edge the fifth ball of the morning low to Adil Rashid at third slip off Ryan Sidebottom, and Rich Pyrah had a confident leg before appeal turned down when the left-hander had 31 to his name. So Kent will be much happier than Yorkshire - and me for that matter - at the first lunch break of the summer.
The platter of sandwiches presented to us in the press box offered a varied selection of ham and beef. Not much cop for a vegetarian. It reminded me of England's tour of South Africa in 2004-05 when at a restaurant in Bloemfontein, I scanned the menu and found not much beyond steak incinerated to different degrees and accompanied by various sauces. "What vegetarian options do you have?" I meekly asked the waitress, as she came to take our order. "Pork," she barked. Sadly, she wasn't joking, although it did seem to tickle the others sat arond the table.
1.42pm: Umpires Rob Bailey and Martin Bodenham will inspect at 1.45pm, writes Richard Latham from a soggy Taunton. The rain has stopped and the covers are being removed, but the skies remain heavily overcast and I have just spoken to Somerset's Director of Brian Rose, who doesn't foresee a start until around 3.30pm at the earliest. Encouragingly, the two ducks which had been waddling around the outfield for much of the morning have taken flight for wetter pastures, the mist has cleared from the Press Box windows and the first carvery lunch of the season has been consumed. The beef was rare, the Yorkshire puddings fluffy and the crackling on the pork crisp and toothsome. Nothing more than we have come to expect.
1.56pm: Amid the below the line discussions on American ale and Easter cooking, provides these early thoughts: "Adam Wheater's found a novel way of keeping warm by smashing a 50 off 30 balls at Chelmsford and as for Worcestershire, didn't they lose their first six matches last season? It's early doors as Mr Cliche himself Ron Atkinson would say, but reducing Notts to 74/6 suggests that they may make a better start this season."
2.20pm: Brian Rose was being unduly pessimistic, writes Richard Latham. The umpires have decided that play can commence at 2.45pm if there is no further rain and suddenly the outfield is packed by tracksuited players from both sides. One or two are even carrying bats, rather than the traditional football, perhaps reasoning that it is too early in the season to be ruled out by a soccer injury. If all goes according to plan, tea will be at 4.45pm and there will be a minimum of 55 overs bowled in the day. The pitch carries more than a tinge of green, as you would expect at this time of year, but that can be misleading at Taunton where any skipper winning the toss assumes a grave risk in inserting the opposition. Most of the assembled players have hands deep in pockets and it will take a brave man to hold a sharp slip catch. Let battle commence.
2.27pm: Surrey lose two quick wickets after lunch as Sussex land a double blow through Pakistan left-armer Naved Arif, writes Mark Pennell.
Just three balls after posting a half-century top-scorer Zander de Bruyn went for a 77-ball stay worth 52. After hitting seven fours, the former Somerset stalwart played airily outside off stump to edge to wicketkeeper Ben Brown.
The hosts then lost captain Rory Hamilton-Brown for an unconvincing 18. Having been dropped at second slip by Ed Joyce against Arif, he failed to cash in and fell two balls later and without addition to his score.
Aiming to pull, the right-hander gloved one leg-side and again Brown clung on tumbling to his left.
2.59pm: Mark Pennell is back with this chilly update from The Oval:
"It's so cold in London today (where Surrey continue to struggle at 148 for five) it reminded me of the start to the 1995 campaign when Kent welcomed their new overseas signing Aravinda de Silva to the club for his first and, what transpired to be, only taste of county cricket.
"The tiny Sri Lankan took to the field in Canterbury wearing four jumpers and trudged off to field under the lime tree looking distinctly uninterested and resembling the 'Michelin man'.
"De Silva endured a nightmare start with the bat for Kent in a bone-numbingly cold April , so much so that their then captain, Mark Benson, received hate mail from a disgruntled member.
"Yet, as soon as the sun came out, De Silva began to shine and, once up and running, set about filling his little boots. He ended his 16-game stay with a little matter of 1,781 runs at an average of almost 60.
"Added to which, he scored a sublime hundred in a losing cause at the B&H final against Lancashire.
It's funny what you think of on a freezing cold day at cricket."
3.08pm: Meanwhile Andy Wilson has the latest on the home team's travails at Trent Bridge:
"Nottinghamshire have produced some pretty abject batting performances at Trent Bridge in recent years, but surely not many worse than today's. They were bowled out for 118 inside three hours. Credit to the Worcestershire seamers, of whom Richard Jones, a 25-year-old from Stourbridge, ended with six for 32. But they were helped considerably by the home batsmen's shot selection, or rather lack of it. In addition to the sorry procession of pre-lunch slashes, Graeme White slapped a long hop to point, and Andre Adams tried to launch his second ball over mid on, only to offer a steepling catch to cover."
3.25pm: Some press box musings from Mark Pennell:
"As with batting, and comedy for that matter, there's a sense of timing when it comes to reporting on cricket and it's fair to say that a few of the occupants of the press box at the Oval today are struggling for early-season form.
"On good days you'll type some words, look up to see the ball being delivered, make a note, and then seamlessly return to your typing.
"But here, on the opening day of the LV= Championship campaign there are a few, 'oh bugger it's or 'what happened there's flying around as the assembled writers find themselves missing the occasional delivery.
"I just happened to mention to Pat Gibson, chairman of the Cricket Writer's Club, writer for The Times and all-round eminence grise, that I was struggling with my timing.
"I had to chuckle at his response. With his usual dead-pan delivery, 'Gibbo' turned to say: "Don't worry son, I usually discover my timing around October!"
3.39pm: Congratulations to Dan Redfern for scoring the first century of the Championship season, writes Andy Wilson, and to Derbyshire for the new approach that he symbolises. After a few years of heading down the Northamptonshire line, ie packing their team with South Africans who did not count as overseas for reasons not worth remembering, the Peakites are now providing more opportunities to their own once again. The team for their opening match, against Northants funnily enough, includes eight Englishmen of whom four came through Derbyshire's own junior ranks - Redfern, Ross Whiteley (who's still there on 63), Paul Borrington and Tom Poynton). That is major progress.
4.00pm: County live blog regular has been keeping us updated on the first day's play at Chelmsford - or Chelsmfort, as he prefers - and comments: "There were times last season when Essex looked incable of scoring 276 runs in a match, let alone 2 sessions. Foster and Goddleman are looking well-set and accumulative. The next session could see a good day's batting turn into an excellent one."
4.04pm: Underway at Taunton where Vernon Philander bowled the first ball of Somerset's season to Middlesex opener Sam Robson, writes Richard Latham. Marcus Trescothick won the toss and decided to unleash his new South African pace recruit without delay, which looked a good decision as with his third ball Philander had Robson caught behind for a duck. Conditions appear great for bowling and the only hint of doubt in Trescothick's mind might be that he inserted Warwickshire on a green Taunton pitch in the opening game of last season - and saw them run up 642! Philander is already generating life off a length and it could be welcome to the First Division for the Middlesex batsmen. They got off the mark with a Philander no-ball, but Chris Rogers has already survived a loud lbw shout and another confident appeal for a catch by wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter, both off Philander in his opening spell.
4.14pm: Two changed men have been at the centre of the action at Headingley, writes Richard Gibson. The streamline Robert Key was run out three short of a hundred when he misjudged a single to mid-off and was left short of his ground by Andrew Gale's direct hit. Key's problem was he struck the drive off Adil Rashid too well, and was always struggling as a result. The incredulous look he offered in the direction of umpire Neil Mallender was probably more about his own error rather than that of a perceived one by the official because up until that point he didn't look like getting out. Rashid is the other figure of interest, although his alteration is not a physical one. The leg-spinner has been working on his approach to the crease and bowling action with Jack Birkenshaw this winter and the fruits of that labour were evident from his very first ball. His bustle to the crease has slowed to a walk, and the loop, flattened in line with his confidence last summer, appears to be back. It was from a flighted delivery that Rashid tempted Ben Harmison, younger brother of Steve, into a sliced drive to slip on the verge of tea, which Kent took at 239 for three
4.26pm: The impressive Philander went on to bowl a seven-over spell from the River End, taking one for eight and having two confident appeals against Chris Rogers rejected, writes Richard Latham. But it wasn't as easy for the other Somerset bowlers and when Rogers and Middlesex new boy Joe Denly put together a half century stand for the second wicket the early storm appeared to be weathered.
Rogers was like a cat on hot bricks in an absorbing battle with Philander, but then relaxed fatally when the more appetising medium pace of Craig Meschede was introduced in place of Steve Kirby at the Old Pavilion End. On 17, he casually helped a short ball from Meschede around the corner straight to fine leg where George Dockrell took a simple catch. Meschede's first over had gone for 13 so it was a major boost for the young all-rounder and left Middlesex 51 for two in the 18th over.
4.42pm: Surrey are all out for 264 at the Oval with Tom Maynard left high and dry only 14 short of a century, writes Mark Pennell. The resolve of last man Jade Denbach finally cracked when he aimed a to force off the back foot against Amjad Khan only to give wicketkeeper Ben Brown a fourth catch. Khan finished with figures of five for 57, while Maynard went in unbeaten on 86 from 101 balls and with 16 fours. After tea, Sussex will have 28 overs to bat through until stumps.
4.47pm: Tea at Taunton where Middlesex may well be the happier of the two teams with a total of 71 for two off 26 overs, writes Richard Latham. Joe Denly is already proving his worth for his new county and is unbeaten on 37, having survived a baptism of fire from Vernon Philander, by far the pick of Somerset's bowlers on his debut. There has not been much back-up for the South African, who showed why he had quickly become the talk of Test cricket with an opening spell that continually asked questions of the batsmen and might easily have brought more than one wicket.
5.35pm: We're wrapping up proceedings above the line for today shortly, but feel free to continue discussing the action below the line. Match reports for County Championship Division One matches , and those from Division Two . Thanks for all your comments.
6.00pm: It's been hard work for Yorkshire's bowlers but Ajmal Shahzad has nipped one out with the new ball thanks to a fine low catch by Anthony McGrath at second slip, writes Richard Gibson.
6.04pm: At Taunton, bad light has finally done for the day's play, with Middlesex on 118 for four, and that's it for the updates above the line today. See you tomorrow...