Following four defeats in four Benson & Hedges Cup matches, and a three- day championship humbling at home to Gloucestershire, a first-innings total of 191 was hardly what Middlesex were hoping for against Durham. But Sherwin Campbell, making his Durham debut, struggled to adjust to the pace of the pitch and gave Fay a notable first wicket in his second over when he was caught by Mark Ramprakash at point. Two balls later Stewart Hutton was adjudged lbw and then John Morris edged his first ball to Jonathan Carr at slip. From 30 for 3, Durham struggled to reach 114 for 6 by the close.
The day had begun badly for Middlesex when Dion Nash, their New Zealand Test bowler, withdrew with the back injury that had kept him out of the recent Test series in the Carib- bean.
Jason Pooley was bowled by Melvyn Betts in only the second over, and the same bowler produced the delivery of the day to dismiss Ramprakash with one that rose sharply and caught the outside edge.
That Middlesex managed to reach any sort of respectability was due to Mike Gatting's 74, but even the captain rode his luck. He finally ran himself out just when he had begun to look settled. Thereafter Middlesex capitulated, losing their last four wickets for five runs in 15 balls.
At Sheffield, Yorkshire's batsmen again found runs easy to come by, racing to 486 for 5 against Derbyshire in front of the chairman of selectors, Ray Illingworth. Last week Yorkshire hit 536 for 8 dec against Glamorgan.
This time it was the Australian Michael Bevan who dominated much of the contest with 136 runs from only 160 deliveries before one of the country's brightest prospects, Anthony McGrath, took over to record his top score for the county - 91.
Graham Rose equalled his career-best bowling figures as Nottinghamshire were bowled out for just 200 on the opening day against Somerset at Taunton.
The Somerset all-rounder took 6 for 41, his best performance since his Middlesex debut in 1985, when he returned identical figures against Worcestershire. To complete a tough day for Nottinghamshire, another Australian, Shane Lee, then hit a glorious 82 off 78 balls, with 14 fours, as Somerset replied with 187 for 4 by the close.
Andy Hayhurst, the Somerset captain was taken to hospital for precautionary X rays after being hit on the collar bone by a ball from Chris Cairns but returned to report nothing more than bruising and will bat today.
The West Indian all-rounder Winston Benjamin hit a rapid century after tea as Hampshire wrested control from Essex at Southampton. Benjamin, discarded by the West Indies after a row a year ago on their tour of England, finished with a career-best 102 not out.
Hampshire, put in by Essex captain Paul Prichard, ended the first day at 381 for 6 from 104 overs thanks to Benjamin's late belligerence.