On a day that began with all nine visiting captains opting to forgo the toss and stick the home side in – pre-empting bowlers’ dominance – it was prospective England batsmen making the grandest statements.
The stripling Lancashire captain, Liam Livingstone, impressed the onlooking chairman of selectors, James Whitaker, with his maturity – not to mention the audacity and outrageousness of his strokeplay – as he was last man out for 68 of his side’s 109 against Somerset, on a day when 18 wickets fell at Old Trafford. At Lord’s Sam Robson and Nick Gubbins made centuries in an opening stand of 241 for Middlesex against Essex, watched by England’s head coach, Trevor Bayliss.
But perhaps the classiest of the lot came from James Vince, whose push for a national recall began in earnest with an achingly elegant century, his 19th in first-class cricket, for Hampshire against Yorkshire. Vince’s stylish work from No3 was done in front of the stylish No3 many had come to watch, Joe Root. Root’s biggest contribution to the day, indeed, was being the bowler against whom Vince brought up his ton.
Vince likes facing Yorkshire. He has more centuries against them (three) than against any county, including his first, 180 at Scarborough in 2010, when the Yorkshire attack included Tim Bresnan, Steve Patterson and Adil Rashid, who were all flayed about here, too. Yorkshire’s bowling, led by Ben Coad, who took three wickets to move to 21 for the season, felt a little samey on a dull surface typical of this ground.
Coming to the crease after the early loss of Michael Carberry, edging a slashed drive at Coad, Vince was not entirely faultless. On 39 a familiar failing emerged as he drove hard at David Willey and edged to second slip where another former England batsman, Adam Lyth, was in such a generous mood that he allowed his drop to run away for four. Then, having taken tea on 97, he had a big yahoo at Root’s first ball, and missed. But three balls later he had a 180-ball century, with an elegant cut to the point fence, his 14th four.
As ever with Vince, many of those fours were memorable, from the early drive off Coad through mid-off to the consecutive whip through midwicket and cover drive off Rashid as the light worsened. He guided neatly to third man and reached 50 with a pull through wide mid-on – a sure sign that he had plenty of time. He has well-documented foibles but in form like this it is obvious why he attracts infatuation.
He had three substantial stands. The first, 66 with Jimmy Adams, was in a rather funereal morning session (Adams was lbw to Coad first ball after lunch), and there was 110 with the punchy Sean Ervine later on. Ervine was dismissed – caught by the tumbling Jonny Bairstow, who had a tidy day, off Coad – in a 33-ball spell against the new ball after returning from a delay for bad light.
Between times came 82 with 21-year-old Tom Alsop, making his first appearance of the season after a winter with the Lions. He has been unimpressed to find himself left out for Hampshire’s assorted imports and responded by punching two of his first three deliveries back past Coad for beautiful boundaries.
Having looked so comfortable, particularly on the cut, it was a surprise to see him play around Patterson and be given lbw for 40. For all Hampshire’s negative press, here were two England prospects, hailing from their catchment area, forging a strong position from which Hampshire will look for a second win over Yorkshire in three weeks.
At Old Trafford, Livingstone’s brilliant innings – only one other team-mate made it into double-figures – carried Lancashire to 109 having been 42 for six (with Haseeb Hameed out for a second consecutive duck) against Somerset, for whom Craig Overton took five for 47. Livingstone brought up his 50 with a crunching six down the ground, and resorted to ramping the quick bowlers in an attempt to haul his team to respectability. It was a similar story when Somerset batted, with Dean Elgar (66 not out) playing a lone hand as the bowlers dominated. Somerset closed 44 ahead, with two wickets in hand.
Ian Westwood’s return from a broken foot proved timely for Warwickshire at home to Surrey, with the opener’s pugnacious 153 from 227 balls – ended at slip by Mark Footitt moments before bad light ended play at 5.55pm – helping the Bears reach 292 for six from 84 overs and record their first batting points of what has been an underwhelming start to the campaign. Tom Curran, tipped to be in the England squad to face Ireland next month, claimed three for 90 but it was Sam Curran’s removal of Tim Ambrose lbw with an in-swinger and Footitt’s late intervention, both with the second new ball, that ensured Gareth Batty’s decision to bowl first was not as ill-judged as that by Ian Bell when the two sides met at the Oval a fortnight ago.
The efforst of Robson and Gubbins against an Essex attack unable to hold their line or length ensured Middlesex take total control into the second day. Robson made his 18th first-class hundred, driving and cutting as beautifully as ever, while Gubbins’s was the only wicket to fall just before tea, shortly after completing his fifth Championship century. Bad light stopped play three overs after tea and the players did not return.
In Division Two, leaders Nottinghamshire enjoyed a remarkable day at Trent Bridge against Sussex. They took lunch 88 for five with the top five out, but by tea were 362 for eight, thanks largely to Riki Wessels, who ended the innings unbeaten on 202 (his maiden double-century) from 177 balls, including seven sixes. He received strong support from Stuart Broad (57 from 46) as Notts racked up 447 all out in only 77.5 overs after delays for bad light. Given six overs to survive late in the day, Sussex tumbled to 11 for three, with James Pattinson dismissing Chris Nash and the nightwatchman Stuart Whittingham, and Broad getting Harry Finch.
Moeen Ali made 50 in his first innings of the season as Worcestershire were bowled out for 188 by Northamptonshire, who closed on 102 for six, with Ben Duckett unbeaten on 45. At Bristol, where bad light also played a part, Durham moved to minus 43 points by reducing to Gloucestershire to 265 for seven, with Keaton Jennings and Paul Collingwood each picking up two wickets in an over.