England's big names served humble pie by spinner Tom Craddock

England XI 328-7 Essex

Ignore the half centuries from Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann that dragged England to 328 for 7 on the first day of their match against Essex. One distant day the star of the first day of England's first match of the Ashes summer will be the answer to a quiz question at The Cricketers' Arms: in that glorious back-to-back Ashes year of 2013, which bowler's first three first-class wickets of the season were Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Matt Prior?

'Shane Warne? He was long-gone, though there was talk of a comeback.' Australia's Nathan Lyon may get a mention. Then some county cricket aficionado will throw David Masters' name into the mix, remembering that England warmed up for the Ashes against Essex that year.

It would be unlikely if Tom Craddock's name cropped up. The wrist spinner's three victims possess 46 Test centuries between them, before Sunday he was without a first-class wicket this season. Now Craddock has a treble to tell the grandkids about.

"It's a bit surreal, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell stood there, I thought if I could join a few dots then I'd be happy," said Craddock. Best day of his career? "No doubt."

Graham Gooch has had many better and at his old stamping ground his charges let him down. "Certainly come the Test series, if we get starts we've got to put big totals on the board," said England's batting coach, "because the job of the batters is to create an opportunity for the bowlers to win the match."

Yesterday the bowlers bailed out those batters. It was only thanks to that eighth-wicket partnership of 116 between Bresnan, in for the stiff-shouldered Stuart Broad, and Swann that the top seven's inadequacies were not compounded.

Some threatened to steal Craddock's thunder. An early Alastair Cook signature pull shot suggested he was glad to be back home. But then Tymal Mills produced a magic moment to dismiss the England captain for 18 from 31 balls. After forcing Cook into a squashed cut shot, the 20-year-old rapped Jonathan Trott's pads with a ball clocked at 94.5mph; without protection, Trott would have needed an ambulance capable of matching that pace. Joe Root also made an early bid for top billing. He edged his first ball for four but the rest of his boundaries in his 41 from 53 balls led to purrs of appreciation. Although Mills cracked him on the knee to remind England's new opener – and his rival Nick Compton – of sport's vagaries. With concentration disrupted, Root edged to second slip.

Up stepped Pietersen, who hit four boundaries within 10 balls to go past partner Trott's 34-ball 14. As is Trott's admirable custom, he treated his innings before lunch with Test-level commitment. But after a feed, he played an unnecessary drive to give Mills a second. The rest of the day belonged to the previously obscure Craddock. He dismissed Pietersen caught and bowled for 49 after dropping him in the previous over. Jaik Mickleburgh then held onto a sharp catch at short leg to help the 23-year-old snare Bell. Prior was fooled by genuine turn to complete Craddock's illustrious triumvirate of victims. That left England 206 for 6 and suggested Ravi Bopara had made an inspired, rather than conspired, decision to bowl first on a pitch he described, with a rueful smirk, as being "full of runs".


Broad's shoulder aside, Bell's form will give the England management most cause for concern. His 13 runs came in an often torturous hour from 46 deliveries. At Test level that would be questionable, against a Second Division attack, it is damnable. In 19 Tests since the start of 2012, Bell averages a touch over 32.

With Jonny Bairstow, bowled here for 23, yet to wholly convince in his eight Tests, England's middle order is looking better in the nets than in the middle. Bell and Bairstow will hope that Graeme Onions, in for the rested James Anderson, and his fellow bowlers make names for themselves today. But Sunday was all about that man Craddock. Remember the name, one distant day it could win you a keg.

Essex scoreboard

Chelmsford (First day of four): England have scored 328 for seven wickets against Essex

Essex won toss

ENGLAND First Innings

*A N Cook c Foakes b Mills 18

31 balls 2 fours

J E Root c Westley b Mahmood 41

53 balls 7 fours

I J L Trott c Foakes b Mills 32

54 balls 6 fours

K P Pietersen c & b Craddock 49

58 balls 10 fours

I R Bell c Mickleburgh b Craddock 13

46 balls 1 four

J M Bairstow b Mahmood 23

43 balls 3 fours

†M J Prior c Foakes b Craddock 20

38 balls 4 fours

T T Bresnan not out 55

132 balls 5 fours

G P Swann not out 62

87 balls 8 fours

Extras (b4 lb8 w1 nb2) 15

Total (for 7, 90 overs) 328

Fall 1-33, 2-73, 3-115, 4-163, 5-175, 6-206, 7-212.

To bat S T Finn, G Onions.

Bowling D D Masters 21-4-54-0, T S Mills 21-4-80-2, S I Mahmood 12-1-60-2, R S Bopara 12-2-36-0, T R Craddock 17-5-67-3, T Westley 7-0-19-0.

Essex T Westley, J C Mickleburgh, H D Rutherford, O A Shah, *R S Bopara, M L Pettini, †B T Foakes, S I Mahmood, D D Masters, T R Craddock, T S Mills.

Umpires R A Kettleborough and R T Robinson.