It was a day for bowlers in Div One with no side able to surpass 200 runs as the County Championship resumed.
HAMPSHIRE v LANCASHIRE
Hampshire trail by just two runs after they bowled Lancashire out for 149 as 15 wickets fell on the opening day of the Specsavers County Championship clash at the Ageas Bowl.
James Vince top scored with 40 as batsmen found it difficult on a sandy pitch as the home side reached 147 for five at the close of play.
Ryan McLaren, returning to the county he represented in 2016, chose to bat after winning the toss under blue skies with only the occasional nonthreatening cloud.
The pitch hinted spin would be heavily used across the four days with a sprinkling of sand at either end of the wicket – marked by a noticeably lighter hue.
For the first hour things went swimmingly for the visitors as Alex Davies looked at easy against the new ball, while Haseeb Hameed wanted to put into practice tips learned during a batting session with England batting coach Mark Ramprakash earlier this week.
Watchful Hameed took exactly half an hour to open his tally, with a guided edge through fourth slip, but fell tamely as he dabbed his bat at a wide Fidel Edwards delivery which was caught at second slip.
Davies had appeared fluent against pace but struggled with Dawson’s turn and bounce.
He got away with a thick edge to James Vince at second slip on 31, but five runs later prodded straight to Sean Ervine at first slip.
Dane Vilas feathered an edged behind off the medium pace bowler Ian Holland before Liam Livingstone lbw to Kyle Abbott on the other side of lunch.
West Indian Shivnarine Chanderpaul attempted to re-build the innings using his vast experience with Jos Buttler.
But the 42-year-old was pushed into a quick single to take on Mason Crane at backward point, with the fielder directly hitting to leave Lancashire 88 for five.
Buttler continued the procession when he was bowled by an Edwards beauty – which clipped the top of off-stump.
Leg-spinner Crane had been forced to watch England man Liam Dawson bowl 14 overs before he had a go at turning it out the sand.
And it only took until the second over to have McLaren chipping back to him, before Gareth Berg made sure every Hampshire bowler came away with a wicket when Stephen Parry edged to first slip.
Crane mopped up the tail with Jordan Clark and Matt Parkinson both nicking off in consecutive balls to leave the 20-year-old with figures of three for 27.
Hampshire began their reply with freedom as Jimmy Adams and Lewis McManus put on 21.
But left hander Adams slashed with minimal foot movement to be caught behind before the wicket-keeper followed with a tentative prod to Livingstone at first slip.
Vince and Ervine entered and appeared to be playing on another wicket as boundaries flowed and a day high 59-run stand was put on, with Vince in particular driving and flicking well with supple wrists.
Ervine departed when he flicked behind and Vince skied a pull shot to mid-wicket for 40.
Parkinson found the edge of George Bailey’s bat in his first over before Livingstone caught low at first slip but Holland and Dawson took Hampshire to the close without another loss.
MIDDLESEX v WARWICKSHIRE
James Franklin and Ryan Higgins added 93 in 19 overs for the seventh wicket to shade the honours for Middlesex against Warwickshire on a helter-skelter day of championship cricket at Lord’s.
Franklin played a captain’s innings of 55 from 76 balls, with a six and seven fours, and Higgins a gutsy 38 after being hit on the head, to rally Middlesex from 59 for 6 to 161 all out after they had earlier skittled Warwickshire for 126. In four overs’ batting before stumps, Warwickshire scored 12 without loss to trail, overall, by 23 runs.
It was breathless stuff, on an opening day which started with Steven Finn bowling with real pace to take 4 for 53 in Warwickshire’s first innings and, with Tim Murtagh (3 for 20) and Tom Helm (2 for 42) equally impressive, putting Middlesex seemingly in command.
But Warwickshire, winless so far this season and cast adrift at the bottom of the Specsavers County Championship Division One table, fought back tigerishly after Chris Woakes marked his return from a two-month injury absence by taking a wicket with his fifth ball and 2 for 25 in a six-over new ball spell.
Soon, as wickets continued to fall either side of tea, Middlesex were themselves in deep trouble before Franklin and Higgins tilted the balance of an absorbing day back towards the champions. Franklin was eventually last out, caught at slip trying to run a ball from off spinner Jeetan Patel to third man.
It was quite a day for Higgins, who was a late inclusion after Adam Voges was injured in the warm-ups but then chipped in with the wicket of Matt Lamb, had to retire hurt after being hit on the helmet trying to hook the first ball he faced, from Chris Wright, but then returned to bat with courage and character in support of Franklin. Higgins’ 38 came from 51 balls, with six fours.
Middlesex’s initial collapse featured a memorable championship debut for Warwickshire’s Ryan Sidebottom, a bustling 27-year-old Australian seamer with a British passport plucked from the Birmingham League and who took 8 for 33 for Warwickshire Second XI, against Northants seconds, two weeks ago.
Here, he finished with 4 for 29 after castling Middlesex tailenders Helm (2) and Murtagh (4).
In his first spell, Sidebottom had John Simpson leg-before for 2 and bowled Nathan Sowter for a duck. In between, Wright picked up a good low catch off his own bowling to dismiss Nick Compton for 22 and, just before tea, Stevie Eskinazi ran himself out for 7 after setting off for a risky single and being sent back by Compton.
Finn’s superb post-lunch spell of 3 for 33 hastened Warwickshire’s earlier slide – with Tim Ambrose and Keith Barker caught behind for 4 and 12 respectively and Woakes taken at second slip for 12.
The England fast bowler was well supported by Middlesex’s other seamers, with 23-year-old Helm also impressing and Murtagh as accurate as always as he included eight maidens in his 16 overs.
Helm, swinging the new ball at a decent lick with his rhythmical action, made the initial breakthrough on a green-tinged pitch after Warwickshire, who chose to bat, lost Andy Umeed for 1 in the sixth over when he edged a drive to Franklin at third slip.
Dominic Sibley, on Warwickshire Championship debut following his switch from Surrey, played some confident strokes before, on 20, edging Finn low to Eskinazi at second slip.
Finn’s pace and bounce troubled Jonathan Trott, but it was the slippery Helm who removed the former England batsman for 18 when he moved one back up the Lord’s slope to take the inside edge on its way through to keeper Simpson.
Murtagh had produced a testing new ball spell of 7-5-5-0 and his reintroduction at the Nursery End quickly brought him a deserved wicket, with Bell (14) edging a lovely outswinger to Simpson.
At lunch Middlesex were 64 for 5 with Higgins bowling Lamb for 3 off an inside edge in his second over, and after the interval Finn and Murtagh completed Warwickshire’s misery.
That, though, was but a precursor to more breathless action during the rest of the afternoon and early evening.
YORKSHIRE v ESSEX
Mohammad Amir returned an excellent five for 18 as leaders Essex enjoyed the better of a helter-skelter opening day of their Specsavers County Championship match with Yorkshire at Scarborough.
The Pakistan left-arm quick claimed his first five-for in an Essex shirt in his second Championship match as his 11.2-over burst helped blow the hosts away for just 113.
The visitors then responded with 188 for eight from 58 overs, a lead of 78. Captain Ryan ten Doeschate reached an unbeaten 61, while Ben Coad claimed 3-29 from 12 overs.
Amir, 25-years-old, struck twice in his first six-over burst with the new ball, twice in two balls in the first over of his second spell and once immediately after lunch.
He was backed up by new ball partner Jamie Porter, who claimed three wickets, and two for Ravi Bopara as the visitors expertly made use of swinging conditions.
Alex Lees, captain Tim Bresnan and Coad all fell for ducks following an uncontested toss.
There was the odd loose shot. Tom Kohler-Cadmore played down the wrong line to an in-swinger from Amir and Adil Rashid played across the line and was lbw to Bopara.
But Essex bowled their hosts out rather than being gifted a series of wickets.
Having said that, Yorkshire should have posted more than 113, as Adam Lyth and Ryan Sidebottom showed with a last-wicket stand of 39 to give the score some respectability from 74 for nine.
Lyth played superbly in the circumstances, and never at any stage opted to attack his way out of trouble with partners coming and going too often.
Yorkshire have lost two of their last three Championship matches, including here against relegation-threatened Somerset last month.
If they lose here, the champions of 2014 and 2015 will be looking over their shoulders at the foot of the table instead of aiming for another title.
For unbeaten Essex, a win here will be a giant step towards their first Championship title since 1992, especially if Lancashire’s struggles at Hampshire turn into a defeat.
But that chain of events is nowhere near certain as Yorkshire hit back with the ball after lunch.
They struck three times in the afternoon to restrict their visitors to 71 for three.
Jack Brooks made the breakthrough when he had Varun Chopra lbw in the fourth over before Coad and Bresnan got Nick Browne in the 16th and 17th overs, leaving the score at 48 for three.
Ravi Bopara pulled the second ball of the evening from Brooks for six, just out of Sidebottom’s reach at long-leg, straight drove the fifth for four before falling to the final ball - caught at square-leg pulling as the score fell to 81 for four.
Adam Wheater (34) and ten Doeschate shared 58 for the fifth wicket to ensure a lead, but Yorkshire hit back midway through the evening with three wickets in eight balls as the score fell to 144 for seven in the 43rd.
Coad, the pick of Yorkshire’s bowlers, had Wheater caught behind and James Foster at second slip in the 42nd over before Ryan Sidebottom removed Paul Walter in the next.
Brooks had Simon Harmer caught at second slip in the 53rd over to leave the score at 164 for eight, a lead of 51, before ten Doeschate reached 50 off 70 balls.
Essex coach Chris Silverwood said: "We didn't expect so many wickets to fall today, but the ball consistently nipped around.
"If we can try and capitalise on this and just eke a few more runs out, we'll be in a strong position.
"It swung and nipped. There's been good balls kicking around all day, and the wickets have fallen in clumps. There's always one with your name on, so you have to capitalise before it gets you," he added.