Winning the toss doesn’t always mean winning the match in cricket – but it can often go a long way, as Warwickshire, Hampshire and Kent all found out to their cost on day one of round four of the 2021 County Championship.
For English cricket’s red-ball kings Essex, it all went very well.
They won the toss at Worcester, chose to take first use on another New Road batsman’s paradise and former England captain Alastair Cook duly caressed his first century of the summer.
But the coin did not drop so kindly elsewhere.
Group One leaders Warwickshire, who had become the first side to beat Essex in two years only four days earlier, lost the toss on a green wicket at Chester-le-Street and were skittled for 87. On a dried-out, more benign surface, Durham then rubbed it in, as they closed on 88-0.
Similarly, Group Two leaders Hampshire, winners in their first two matches, found themselves rolled for 92 by Surrey, who then eased to 131-1 at the close. And Kent were almost as stunned in Cardiff, where they were bowled out for 138 by Glamorgan, who closed on 109-2.
England fast bowler Mark Wood did not take long to make an impact on his return to red-ball duty for Durham for the first time since 2018.
He removed last week’s Warwickshire matchwinner Rob Yates with the first ball of his second over – and Durham did not look back as Wood (3-28), Ben Raine (5-9 in 13 overs, eight of which were maidens) and Brydon Carse (2-15) exploited the conditions.
By contrast, only two wickets went down in the day at New Road, where the Pears were well and truly ‘Cooked’. Alastair’s 115, backed by 75 not out from captain Tom Westley, helped Essex rack up 266-2 against Worcestershire.
Another centurion was Nottinghamshire opener Ben Slater, who hit 107 on a day when 18 wickets fell at Derby.
Both he and Haseeb Hameed were coming off centuries at New Road last Sunday – and Slater’s second successive ton contrasted with his opening partner. Hameed went for a second-ball duck.
Backed by 66 from Joe Clarke, Notts were bowled out for 256, before then destroying Derbyshire after tea, as the hosts collapsed to 86-8, England’s Stuart Broad taking two of the wickets.
The third and final centurion of the day was Sam Evans, who hit 102 as Leicestershire closed on 264-4 against Gloucestershire at Bristol.
Dan Worrall was the hosts’ star performer, taking all four wickets that fell for 54, off 24 overs.
Jordan Clark was the star man for Surrey, taking 6-21 as Group Two leaders Hampshire were bowled out inside 35 overs.
England’s Rory Burns (61 not out) and South African opener Hashim Amla (59 not out) then hit unbeaten half-centuries as Surrey closed with a lead already of 39.
It was a good day for Middlesex at Taunton as Nick Gubbins (75) and Robbie White (70 not out) helped the visitors pile up 306-6 against Somerset, for whom England spinner Jack Leach went wicketless.
Timm van der Gugten and David Lloyd were the architects of home success, taking four wickets each as Glamorgan bowled out Kent for 138 in Cardiff.
Lloyd then hit an unbeaten 54 as the hosts reduced the deficit to just 29 by the close.
It was also a day for bowlers in Leeds, where Wayne Parnell took 5-64 for Northamptonshire to bowl out Yorkshire for 206.
But it was Ben Sanderson who struck perhaps the main blow, bowling in-form Adam Lyth, who had hit 488 runs in his first three matches this season, with the first ball of the match.
Group Three leaders Lancashire also struggled as, despite paceman Tom Bailey taking 3-69, Sussex ran up 318-7 in the day at Hove, of which Dan Van Zyl made 79 and Tom Haines 58.