Essex 73-2 v Warwickshire
New Zealand offspinner Jeetan Patel, introduced inside the first hour and a half on the first day of the Specsavers County Championship match at Chelmsford, claimed two prime Essex wickets before lunch.
Essex, electing to bat, had reached 60 without loss when Patel dismissed Alastair Cook for 39 and quickly added the scalp of Tom Westley as the Division One leaders made it to the interval somewhat unsteadily on 73 for two. Patel had two for 18.
It was a desperately slow opening hour before the first drinks break on a scorcher of a day, and a road of a pitch. In fact, it was the wicket used for the Royal London Cup semi-final defeat by Nottinghamshire on Friday night, and on which 743 runs were scored for 10 wickets.
It took 23 balls before the first runs were put on the board, a glorious off-drive by Cook for four. Essex finally reached double-figures in the eighth over when Browne, facing his 25th ball, moved from one to five with a similar shot to Cook’s.
When Rikki Clarke was replaced at the Hayes Close End he had figures of 5-3-7-0. Browne had faced 47 balls before a tickle to fine leg moved him into double digits. But the left-hander took a liking to Boyd Rankin and rattled up seven off an over, including a pull to the midwicket boundary.
The introduction of Patel, just back from Champions Trophy duty, gave a hint of what is likely to become the major theme as the game goes on. Patel got one to fizz past the outside of Browne’s back, and almost broke the partnership on 49 when Browne toed one just over the head of Boyd at back-pedalling mid-off.
The final ball of Patel’s third over accounted for Cook, frapped on a front pad thrust out to counter any turn. Westley had just swept the bowler for four when he edged to Clarke at slip and the early patience had been undone. By lunch Warwickshire had spin from both ends.