There were a number of reasons for turning up at Lord's yesterday. MCC v the Champion County celebrates the start of a new season, one full of promise after last summer's Ashes, especially for cricket fans who subscribe to Sky TV.
This match was once thought of as a Test trial, a place for promising young men like Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar, just back from their Test debuts in India, to show how they have come on. Unfortunately, it was the spinner Panesar who was batting for MCC when play began.
Cook had contrived to get himself caught by Mark Ealham in the third over of MCC's innings on Friday evening. Poor Panesar lasted until the sixth ball of the first over of the day, caught by Jason Gallian off Ryan Sidebottom.
This gave the few hundred spectators a chance to look at promising young players from last winter's A tour of the West Indies, Alex Loudon, Ed Joyce, Rikki Clarke and Ravinder Bopara. Unfortunately, they managed only 71 unconvincing runs between them out of MCC's 168, leaving them 23 behind Nottinghamshire.
Their coming and going left plenty of gaps in which spectators could discuss tales of strokes, broken limbs and broken hearts during the break for winter. As for the weather, it was most generously described as seasonal. It tried to relent, briefly, when the sun shone thinly just before lunch before the moist cloud cover returned. It was the sort of weather Sidebottom would like to take with him.
Sidebottom is one of the diaspora of Yorkshire fast bowlers. Chris Silverwood is the latest to quit, for Middlesex who are delighted to have him. Sidebottom left a couple of years ago and played a leading role in Nottinghamshire's Championship winning team with 48 wickets at 22.83.
When the weather improves, he will remember fondly the first hour or so of yesterday's play. He had taken Cook's wicket on Friday. After Panesar, he had Loudon caught at second slip by David Hussey for 16, then Joyce at fourth slip by Graeme Swann, and Bopara, by Hussey again, all edging balls of decent length, moving late. He will do well to improve on his figures for his first spell of the season: 9-6-7-4.
That Sidebottom's final analysis was 4 for 42 was a consequence of a delightful cameo from Steven Davies, the 19-year-old Worcestershire keeper, whose talent has already been recognised by England Under-19 and England A, and not long after his county debut.
Without making too much use of his feet, Davies stroked the ball forcefully and prettily, particularly to the mid-on and cover-point boundaries. Coming in with MCC in trouble on 100 for 6, Davies steered the innings towards a measure of respectability, scoring well before being caught immobile in his crease by Gregory Smith.
Luke Parker, Warwickshire's acquisition from Oxford University, also showed more form than his betters before he was caught by Chris Read for 32, one of the keeper's three catches at the bottom half of the innings, including one fine diving effort to dismiss Tim Bresnan. Davies might do better to adopt Read as a role model than England's present incumbent.
The selectors clearly intended this game to be a display by England's best young batsmen, but the weather and wicket had contrived to turn the contest on its head. This was a day for bowlers, as Darren Bicknell discovered at the top of Nottinghamshire's second innings, when he shouldered his bat to a ball from Bresnan that jagged in and took his off stump out of the ground. The batsmen at least would not have been sorry to see the covers come on during a spell of very light drizzle in the tea interval.
MCC v Nottinghamshire (Lord's; second day of four)
Nottinghamshire won toss
Nottinghamshire - First Innings 191
MCC - First Innings (Overnight 7-1)
R S Bopara c Hussey b Ealham 18
A N Cook c Ealham b Sidebottom 1
M S Panesar c Gallian b Sidebottom 1
A G R Loudon c Hussey b Sidebottom 18
E C Joyce c Swann b Sidebottom 4
R Clarke c Read b Ealham 25
L C Parker c Read b Ealham 32
ÝS M Davies b G J Smith 42
T T Bresnan c Read b Franks 21
*J P Stephenson c Swann b Franks 1
M H A Footitt not out 0
Extras (lb5) 5
Total: (all out, 55.2 overs) 168
Fall: 1-5 2-7 3-37 4-43 5-43 6-100 7-107 8-163 9-167.
Bowling: Sidebottom 16-6-42-4; G J Smith 13-3-57-1; Ealham 14-7-26-3; Franks 11.2-2-34-2; Swann 1-0-4-0.
Nottinghamshire - Second Innings
D J Bicknell b Bresnan 0
*J E R Gallian not out 40
R J Warren c Davies b Bresnan 4
D J Hussey b Bopara 19
W R Smith not out 1
Extras (lb1 w3) 4
Total: (for 3, 18 overs) 68
Fall: 1-0 2-10 3-54.
To Bat: ÝC M W Read, P J Franks, M A Ealham, G J Smith, R J Sidebottom, G P Swann.
Bowling: Bresnan 7-2-17-2; Footitt 4-2-16-0; Clarke 2-0-20-0; Bopara 3-2-5-1; Stephenson 2-0-9-0.
Umpires: P J Hartley and J W Holder.
University matches (first day of three): Fenner's: Warwickshire 380-4 (N V Knight 79, I J Westwood 124) v Cambridge UCCE. Chelmsford: Essex 422-3 dec (M L Pettini 72, A Flower 112 no, J S Foster 101 no) v Loughborough UCCE 3-0. The Parks: Derbyshire 321-4 dec (M J Di Venuto 88, C R Taylor 102) v Oxford UCCE 14-1. The Oval: Surrey 375-4 (S A Newman 89, A D Brown 73 no) v Durham UCCE. Hove: Sussex 118 for 3 v Cardiff UCCE 118-3. Headingley: Yorkshire 546-7 (J J Sayers 116, A McGrath 151, C White 103 no; G Nawaz 4-55) v Bradford/Leeds UCCE.Reuse content