For the first time in years Lancashire have not started the season burdened with being favourites to lift their first Championship since 1934. Their resources suggest that it might not take new coach Peter Moores as long to turn them into winners as it did to re-energise his former county Sussex, who won their first Championship six years after he took over at Hove in 1997.
He was back there yesterday to a predictably warm reception from the county he served for 20 years as player and coach. If his England experience has soured Moores' love affair with the game there was no suggestion of it as he shook hands with a succession of well-wishers after overseeing a typically energetic warm-up.
The England coach Andy Flower will no doubt be checking on the form of some of the candidates for the first Test against the West Indies, which is just a fortnight away, with his predecessor and the reports would have been mixed. James Anderson bowled with sustained hostility in what is likely to be his only Championship match of the season but Sajid Mahmood will need to perform better for England Lions next week if he is to force himself into contention.
Mahmood got a bit out of a pitch with more bounce and carry than has been the case at Hove in recent years and one well-directed bouncer thudded into Mike Yardy's helmet. His next offering, however, was a floaty half- volley outside off-stump which the new Sussex captain drove to the boundary. It summed up his day.
Anderson probed diligently until he unseated Yardy with a ball which shaped back into his pads, having made the breakthrough when Chris Nash was caught off an inside edge.
Yardy's departure was the first of three wickets in 10 overs, with Lancashire's new captain Glen Chapple picking up the other two, including Matt Prior, who drove loosely outside off-stump.
Anderson struck again in his fourth spell when he held a sprawling catch in his follow-through to remove Luke Wright before going off briefly suffering from cramp. Joyce proved more difficult to shift, though, and with Robin Martin-Jenkins has so far added 87 in 26 overs with Joyce closing in on a maiden hundred for his new county and his partner driving on the up impressively on his way to a half-century.