And we’re off, a gentle two runs coming off the first over from Tom Bailey.
Love this picture from a hundred years ago today – the start of the 1922 cricket season. Striding purposely out of the Old Trafford pavilion are: captain Miles Kenyon, Frank Watson, Lol Cook, Ernest Tyldesley, Dick Tyldesley, Harry Makepeace, Walker Ellis, Cec Parkin, Peter Fairclough, Charlie Hallows and wicketkeeper Ben Blomley. With many thanks to Ken Grime and the Lancashire Heritage Foundation.
Just spent fifteen minutes looking at the proofs of Paul Edward’s new book Summer Day’s Promise. It’s a belter for anyone who keeps the candle burning for county cricket – due out later this summer. Siddle up to him at Cheltenham and Southport and he’ll sign one for you too.
At Old Trafford now, where both teams are in their semi-circles, stretching, and the weather is behaving itself, despite the scorecard displaying the weather in Manchester which says, now: light rain, next: light rain, later: light rain.
Among the first public pronouncements from Ben Stokes in his new role as England’s Test captain was a desire to bat at No 6 and thus maximize his impact as an all-rounder. As such, he plumped for the same berth when making his first appearance of the summer for Durham at Worcestershire.
On a quiet opening day at New Road this meant sitting on the balcony of the Graeme Hick pavilion and watching others make hay in watery sunshine, however. The visitors won the toss and reached a commanding 339 for three courtesy of Sean Dickson’s third hundred of the season.
After Dickson’s organized 104 from 184 balls came unbeaten half-centuries for Scott Borthwick (80) and David Bedingham (69). Ed Barnard struck twice as the hosts plugged away dutifully – including England’s Alex Lees, bowled off the inside edge for 27 – while debutant Ben Gibbon claimed his maiden first-class wicket when South Africa’s Keegan Petersen edged behind on 50 in the afternoon.
Gibbon, a 21-year-old left-armer, signed for Worcestershire at the end of last season after combining cricket league in Cheshire with a job in construction. “It’s hard graft and I’m not happy to have to do it any more,” he said at the time, perhaps not realizing how challenging the pitches at New Road can be.
At muggy Old Trafford, Dom Sibley chugged to a selective elbow-nudging century, batting all day for his 118 not out. A combination of quite glorious drives, with the high elbow just so, and inelegant nudges, it was his first century for Warwickshire since he made twin hundreds against Notts in September 2019.
An inveterate fiddler between deliveries, adjusting waistband, trousers and box, Sibley looked in no strife against the Lancashire attack as, after a slow start, he stepped onwards, all that winter practise, and the decision not to tour with the Lions, coming to fruition. His hundred came with a squeeze into the offside, followed by appreciative banging of the balcony by his teammates and a sweaty hug with Chris Benjamin, who was lbw shortly afterwards for 47. Very nicely done: 227 balls, 13 fours.
Two hundred miles away, Rory Burns, another dropped England opener, was doing something similar, off 245 balls. Anchoring an innings for Surrey that did not get going at the other end until Sam Curran came in and, with a gentle evening murmur passing slowly around the Oval, hit Northamptonshire‘s Simon Kerrigan back over his head for six.
To complete the circle, Alastair Cook made an even slower hundred for Essexafter they rebuilt from the ruins of nought for one with the first 34 deliveries of the day Yorkshire sent down being dot balls. Cook faced seven bowlers during his second hundred of the year, including Joe Root, playing for Yorkshire for the first time since resigning the England captaincy.
A run-heavy day for Sussex against Middlesex, with yet another opening century, this for Tom Alsop, on loan this season to Sussex from Hampshire; while the 21-year-old Ali Orr was dropped three times, before being caught at slip on 99 just before tea. There was confused delight when Cheteshwar Pujara was dismissed for 16. At the Rose Bowl, Felix Organ scampered to a hundred, and James Vince 78 for Hampshire against Gloucestershire. Mohammad Amir finished with three for 51.
At 152 for one, things were looking promising for bottom-of-the-table Leicestershirebut Glamorgan‘s Marnus Labuschagne grabbed three wickets with his part-time spin, as they lost six for 117 after tea.
Chelmsford: Essex 234-3 v Yorkshire
The Rose Bowl: Hampshire 310-8 v Gloucestershire
Old Trafford: Lancashire v Warwickshire 273-7
The Oval: Surrey 261-6 v Northants
Sophia Gardens: Glamorgan v Leicestershire 285-8
Hove: Sussex 354-6 v Middlesex
New Road: Worcestershire v Durham 339-3
Hello! As I write this, there’s a distinct air of sogginess in the air, with rain forecast to sweep in from the north west later, pausing play at Old Trafford, Cardiff and New Road, but probably sparing the south.
The wait for Ben Stokes continues this morning, with Ali poised at New Road with his fountain pen. There, Sean Dickson made a compact hundred yesterday, precipitating a glut of runs from openers round the grounds, a doffed hat to Dom Sibley, Rory Burns, Alastair Cook, Tom Alsop and Felix Organ.
Time just to wonder which of the games will spring a surprise, moving out of the regular trot of yesterday, into a canter.