About the only unpredictable thing was the appearance of a couple of familiar names on the umpiring front. Jeremy Lloyds, the former Somerset and Gloucestershire batsman, was standing in the uncompleted affair in Belfast, and John Steele, once of Leicestershire, was officiating in Taunton.
But back to cricket's answer to the Grand National, in which the first to fall were Cheshire. Northamptonshire, last season's beaten finalists, made short work of the Minors' batting as John Emburey became only the second bowler to take a hat-trick for the county (after David Larter in 1963). Then Richard Montgomerie (69 not out) made even shorter work of the bowling - 25 overs - as the first-class county ran out nine- wicket winners by 4pm.
Derbyshire, who rested Dominic Cork, needed about an hour longer, but an unbroken third-wicket stand of 131 between Chris Adams (68 off 41 balls) and Tim O'Gorman (62) got them home by eight wickets with more than 23 overs to spare.
It was no more difficult for Essex, Middlesex or Surrey. Nasser Hussain, having taken 26 deliveries to get off the mark, proceeded to make 105 to help Essex to a comfortable 119-run win over Devon.
Middlesex made the long trek to Carlisle and emerged victors by 102 runs, Mike Gatting smacking 71 and John Carr 62 against Cumberland. Surrey crushed the Netherlands, who included the former New Zealand Test player Chris Pringle in their line-up, by 159 runs at The Oval.
Warwickshire went west and and so did Cornwall's hopes of progress to the next round, the holders winning by 133 runs. Centuries by the captain, John Stephenson, and by Jason Laney, who set a competition record 269 for the first wicket, helped Hampshire to brush aside Norfolk by 99 runs.
However, the performance of the day had to be that of Vince Wells. He smashed 201 (the second highest individual score in the competition's history) against Berkshire to help Leicestershire reach 406 for 5 (the second highest total of the tournament). Leicestershire won by 106 runs.
Rain frustrated Sussex's efforts to get their match against Ireland finished. They still had five overs left when they called it a day on 323 for 7, just four runs short of their record for the 60-over tournament. The Sussex captain, Alan Wells, hit 113.
There was more unfinished, and far less happy, business for Sussex off the field after one of their players was named last night as the player who had failed a drug test during the championship match against Kent at Tunbridge Wells last month. However, neither the Test and County Cricket Board nor Sussex would confirm the report until the result of a further, mandatory test on a second urine sample is known.Reuse content