Nottinghamshire defied the disapproval of rival counties over their signing of batsman Riki Wessels and were rewarded yesterday with a debut half-century from the 25-year-old former Northants player, but they were unable to correct the impression that their title defence is falling apart.
Beaten inside three days in each of their last two matches, Notts were dismissed for 223 by bottom-of-the-table Worcestershire, who have so far lost all of their six matches.
Wessels – born in Australia but with a South African passport – moved to Trent Bridge during the close season, having not played in England in 2010 after a rule change caused him to lose his eligibility as a Kolpak.
Notts, struggling with injuries and a lack of runs from their top order batting, would have preferred to give Wessels his debut sooner. But there has been controversy over the loophole they exploited to sign him – on an entrepreneur visa – which enabled them to circumnavigate the new, tighter restrictions on non-England-qualified players.
It prompted the England and Wales Cricket Board to lobby the Home Office to prevent further such signings but Notts have now satisfied themselves that theirs is watertight. Director of cricket Mick Newell said: "We're pretty happy with Riki's registration now, having completed all the necessary paperwork, and I'm not interested in what any other counties think." Wessels made 67 off 83 balls after Notts had won the toss at New Road but only two other Notts batsman made more than 25 and the champions were bowled out inside 68 overs.
Like Notts, Yorkshire are finding it difficult to fulfil pre-season expectations. They dropped opening batsmen Adam Lyth and their bowlers found the going tough at Hove, where 20-year-old Luke Wells confirmed the good impressions he has made since breaking into the Sussex side with his third century of the season.
It is the kind of form craved by Kent's Joe Denly. His century against Leicestershire yesterday was his first in the Championship since July 2009. He and Rob Key put on 198 for the first wicket at Tunbridge Wells as bottom-of-the-table Kent enjoyed one of their better days.Reuse content