Having beaten Middlesex effectively in two days once the weather cleared at Hove last week, Sussex are threatening to do something similar to Warwickshire, the 2012 County Champions, as they attempt to set a testing early pace in the 2014 race.
They are still without Chris Nash and Luke Wright, while Matt Prior, after his century last week, has had to sit this one out because his troublesome Achilles is sore again. But an unfussily accomplished 117 from their captain, Ed Joyce, of which 101 were scored between lunch and tea, put Sussex in command.
Given that Jonathan Trott’s 37 was the next highest score on a day when 19 wickets fell – although not in circumstances that concerned the pitch liaison officer Jack Birkenshaw – Joyce’s contribution was all the more valuable. Sussex were indebted to the all-round excellence of their four-man seam attack, who combined to bowl Warwickshire out for 87 after Ian Bell, captain for this game, had won the toss and decided to bat first. It was the county’s lowest score since they were shot out for 86 by Essex at Chelmsford in 1999.
None of the Sussex quartet was more impressive than Chris Jordan, making his first appearance of the season as one of the few returning from winter England duty with his reputation enhanced.
He set the standard by bowling to a length that exploited moisture in the pitch and swinging conditions and took three wickets in the space of 33 deliveries during a fine opening spell. Varun Chopra, Laurie Evans and Bell – who made a duck – all fell to catches behind the stumps under the scrutiny of national selector James Whitaker.
There was more evidence at Lord’s that Steven Finn’s recovery is progressing well but Jordan’s claims on a Test place are looking strong.
As Steve Magoffin, Jon Lewis and James Anyon concentrated similarly on bowling to a full length, there was no testing of Trott’s comfort against the short ball. Yet the England No 3 looked already to have put his burnout behind him, playing with comfortable fluency before a lapse in concentration against Magoffin cost him his wicket.
Warwickshire’s attack, which featured Chris Wright for the first time since last July after a stress fracture, was not quite so consistent as Sussex’s. But, Joyce apart, no batsman prospered.
Batsman of the day
Unfazed by the pressures of a Championship debut for Gloucestershire, Will Tavare upheld the family name in glorious fashion with an unbeaten 135 against Hampshire at Bristol.
The 23-year-old left-hander, who was handed a one-year contract after he was the leading scorer for the county’s second XI in 2013, is the nephew of Chris Tavare, the renowned grafter who scored almost 25,000 first-class runs in a 19-year career with Kent and Somerset that also brought him 31 Test caps.
Coming in at 17 for 1 in the seventh over, Will survived chances on 14 and 32 in a partnership of 163 with opener Michael Klinger. His century spanned almost four hours, which would have met with his uncle’s approval, although the manner in which he reached it, with a huge six off left-arm spinner Liam Dawson, might not.
Bowler of the day
There may have been some emotional force behind Derbyshire’s demolition of Essex in their delayed return to cricket after the tragedy that led to last week’s postponement at Leicester, but perhaps too early evidence of the Graeme Welch effect with seamers Mark Footitt and Tim Groenewald taking five wickets each as Essex crumbled to 94 all out.
Groenewald, who dismissed England captain Alastair Cook to a leg-side caught behind for 35, took a hat-trick as Ravi Bopara was caught at second slip, Greg Smith was bowled and Ben Foakes trapped in front.
Essex coach Paul Grayson missed the carnage in Chelmsford for a worthy prior engagement: he was running in the London Marathon to raise money for the Lord’s Taverners charity.
His finishing time was 4hr 4min 3sec, which was never going to trouble Wilson Kipsang but was a full hour faster than Middlesex director of cricket Angus Fraser’s time in the 2012 race.