Warwickshire 269 for 3 (Hain 77*, Lamb 69*, Sibley 51) v Essex
With Somerset under pressure at Taunton, Essex have an opportunity here to take a decisive step towards regaining the County Championship title they surrendered to Surrey last season. Seeking a seventh straight win, they would have had expectations of a productive day when opting to forego the toss and bowl, yet they have run into a show of collective resistance from Warwickshire that may prove to be timely.
The home side's resources are seriously reduced because of injuries and illness. Rob Yates, Tim Ambrose and Adam Hose were all ruled out of this match. Already missing were Ian Bell, Liam Norwell, Olly Stone and Ryan Sidebottom through long-term injuries. Although the gap between themselves and bottom-of-the-table Nottinghamshire was still a yawning 42 points at the start of this round, Warwickshire are due at Trent Bridge next week and thus cannot yet rule out relegation.
To be have suffered only three opening-day casualties and picked up two batting points, against a side that beat them by 187 runs at Chelmsford in July, will therefore feel like a good day's work.
Of their depleted top order, only Liam Banks, caught at leg slip without scoring, failed to frustrate the Division One leaders.
Dom Sibley offered more evidence of why he is high on England's watch list, sharing an opening partnership of 87 with Will Rhodes. Sibley, the leading run-scorer in the division, took a minute under three hours to complete his half-century, exhibiting the kind of patience and watchfulness that sometimes seems to be a lost art.
Sibley's next run took him to 1000 in the Championship and though he rather spoiled the narrative by losing his wicket without further addition, he had set a tone that Sam Hain and Matthew Lamb would then pick up, the fourth-wicket pair dominating the rest of the day with a partnership so far worth 128.
Essex hinted at taking control just before lunch. Simon Harmer, who was handed the ball only 40 minutes into proceedings, struck twice in the space of six deliveries. Rhodes, the left-hander, edged to the wicketkeeper, the ball having turned away from him just a tad. Banks, the 20-year-old who had made a maiden half-century in the Chelmsford match, then fell to his fifth ball.
Those two successes compensated somewhat for a wicketless morning for their seamers that had begun, unusually, with a flurry of no-balls. Two of Jamie Porter's first three deliveries of the match were called for overstepping, which he repeated in his next over. The affliction appeared to be catching when Sam Cook's front foot was twice too far advanced in his third over.
Once they had sorted themselves out, they were a little unlucky. Both had the batsmen playing false strokes without finding the edge, although Sibley was a little fortunate when he nicked one off Cook on 21, the ball passing between first and second slips. Aaron Beard, who took the place of the departed Mohammad Amir, had Rhodes playing and missing.
Harmer dismissed Sibley midway through the afternoon, doing well to hold on to the ball after tripping over Hain as he moved to his right to take what should have been a routine caught-and-bowled. Sibley, who had looked secure enough by then for spectators to be contemplating a fourth hundred of the season from the former Surrey batsman, chided himself for his error, thumping his bat into his right pad as he began a slow walk back to the dressing room.
Essex might then have anticipated more inroads. The pitch was clearly offering something for Harmer to exploit. Yet the day's remaining 54 overs yielded only frustration as Hain, who has faced 185 balls for his 77, and Lamb, 149 balls for his 69, found deep resources of resilience and concentration.