The County Championship kicked off in glorious April sunshine. For all the criticism that early April is too early to start the season, it can be utterly beautiful. It would be barking mad to try and build an English cricket season around trying to predict the weather.
Strength in depth
Defending champions Yorkshire made an early statement of intent beating newly promoted Worcestershire by 10 wickets despite having six of their squad with England in Antigua and an injury to Ryan Sidebottom. Tipped, probably correctly, as favourites to lift the trophy, no county has strength in depth like Yorkshire. They should very easily be able to cope with absences for England duty as their talented young players like Will Rhodes and Jack Leaning step up to the plate.
Sussex have a good reputation for bringing on bowlers who have lost their way elsewhere. New bowling coach Jon Lewis seems to have done a good job with both Tymal Mills and Ajmal Shazhad. Shazhad, who joined Sussex from Nottinghamshire, picked up six wickets in their 92 run victory over Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl. Mills bowled with impressive pace picking up 3 wickets to go with Shazhad’s six. Hove is where careers go to be revived.
Rolling back the years
At Taunton, veteran Paul Collingwood rolled back the years with his first five wicket haul in a decade, only the second of his career, and an unbeaten century to set up an impressive win for Durham. It’s not always easy to secure victory at Taunton, where the wickets traditionally get flatter and flatter as the match progresses, and this was an important and impressive win by the visitors. Durham have one of the best new ball attacks in the country and Chris Rushworth bowled with searing accuracy to pick up six wickets in Somerset’s second innings.
For the Somerset supporters there was an air of déjà vu with two batting collapses. On the plus side, Jamie Overton was notably quicker than any of the other bowlers on display. If he can work on his consistency and stay fit, this should be the season where he really pushes onto the radar of the England selectors. National selector James Whitaker was down at Taunton to watch him and Durham batting all-rounder Scott Borthwick. Both will have impressed him.
The wait continues at Grace Road
It was all change at Grace Road over the winter with a new chief executive, coach and captain, but their hunt for a championship victory for the first time in two seasons continues as they drew with Glamorgan. There were plenty of positives though: 147 from Ned Eckersley and 70 by Niall O’Brien who also took nine catches in the match. New captain Mark Cosgrove scored an unbeaten half century in the second innings to help secure the draw. There’s certainly a positive vibe at Grace Road, and the belief that they can be more competitive this season than the last two.
At the end of the first round, it is Durham who lead division 1 with 23 points, one ahead of Sussex and Yorkshire. In division 2, only 4 teams were in action and both matches ended in a draw, so Glamorgan leads the division, having picked up more bonus points.
The Natwest T20 blast was launched on Thursday at Edgbaston and whilst the call for city franchises rumbles on, this year’s T20 blast has attracted some big overseas signings. It now relies on decent weather and good pitches, and should be a success.