Alan Gardner at Essex v Lancashire 6-0
Welcome, pilgrims. It is a sunscreen and cable-knit sort of day in Chelmsford, where a solid crowd has packed into the Tom Pearce Stand and in front of the pavilion (plus a few others dotted around) to see the return of Essex to Division One of the Championship. The press box is packed almost to the rafters - and anyone who has been up here will know that is not merely a figure of speech - and the bell has just been rung, with Lancashire's openers expected shortly after Steven Croft asked for a toss and won it.
There is no Alastair Cook in the Essex side, of course, after a hip problem ruled him out; James Anderson, meanwhile, will be putting his feet up in the changing rooms for now (possibly practising his golf swing, with Cook having promised him a round after ducking out of their duel). Essex have also taken the tough decision to play Adam Wheater ahead of James Foster - as flagged here
- while young Aaron Beard is preferred to Matt Dixon, in an attack that includes Neil Wagner, Jamie Porter and former South Africa international Simon Harmer.
Lancashire, meanwhile, welcome the old barnacle Shivnarine Chanderpaul straight into their side, 48 hours after he arrived in the country. Dane Vilas is the third new Kolpak signing involved, with Luke Procter and Toby Lester the men to miss out. Haseeb Hameed brings further England interest, having been passed fit after another blow to his hand in last week's university game - he has just nurdled a first single into the off side, having left one and blocked two, and all seems well in the world. Although a flash at Neil Wagner's first ball from the other end was less reassuring.
Spin did not play much of a role at Chelmsford last season but, despite Simon Kerrigan's absence (he is playing for the 2nd XI), Lancashire have included Stephen Parry for a first Championship appearance since 2014, while Essex have Harmer's offies. It may be the first week of April but Croft was not for inserting; let's hope there's something in the surface for a proper rumble to ensue.