LV= Insurance County Championship Division 1 – Middlesex v Essex day 1 report

Jon Batham of ECB Reporters Network reports from Lord’s

Lord’s Cricket Ground – Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

Middlesex: Yet to bat

Essex: 162-3

Dan Lawrence was the highlight as Essex had the better of a truncated, gloomy opening day of the LV = Insurance County Championship season against newly-promoted Middlesex.

Lawrence, a man still on the fringes of England selection despite a dismal 2022 Championship season where he averaged only 22.10, showed little of the aggressive intent so much in vogue and survived a chance when 32 in reaching 74 not out in a score of 162-3 before bad light and rain intervened for the final time.

He shared a stand on 121with skipper Tom Westley, while it was hard work for the home bowlers, new skipper Toby Roland-Jones the pick with two for 42.

The opening day began amid news Andrew Strauss’ High Performance Review had been consigned to history.

Perhaps more pertinently changes to the point-scoring system mean only five will be awarded for a draw and batting sides are now required to score 450, not 400 for maximum points.

The hope is for more aggressive batting akin to England’s Test approach, despite the season starting on April 6 under grey skies at Lord’s with rain in the air.

Eyes too were on opening batters, the accepted wisdom being any England vacancy is at the top of the order, assuming Jonny Bairstow isn’t shoehorned into the role as soon as he returns from injury.

With Essex losing the toss and being inserted by Roland-Jones such a backdrop was of little relevance to Sir Alastair Cook – legend of a different England era – while opening partner Nick Browne is probably not on the radar.

Nevertheless, the pair rattled along early on, despite the gloom, but this had more to do with the friendly offerings served up by Roland-Jones and Tim Murtagh, who was uncharacteristically loose from his beloved Nursery End, than any regard to chasing the bonus points.

Neither though entertained us for long, Cook the victim of a leg-side strangle, while Brown fell to the very next ball, Robson holding a fine catch above his head. Infuriatingly for Browne and the visitors, he hadn’t reached the boundary rope before the rain came, the first of two interruptions to a much-truncated morning.

Their demise brought Lawrence to the crease, a man with a case to make as one on the England fringes. He began fractiously, surviving an injudicious charge down the wicket before Robson dropped him at slip. To rub salt in the wounds, the right-hander drove luckless bowler Murtagh gloriously straight for four in the very next over.

Such shows of flamboyance were rare through much the afternoon as circumspection superseded daring-do, but in harness with Westley, Lawrence batted the visitors into a position of strength, reaching 50 from 113 balls with seven fours.

The 100 partnership was delayed by tea-time rain, but on the resumption, Lawrence expanded his repertoire, flat-batting Roland-Jones calypso style through the covers before advancing to the next ball and lofting it over the same region.

Westley remained becalmed if untroubled and it was a surprise when he slashed the persevering Roland-Jones to backward point to depart for 48.

Soon afterwards the light closed in before the rain came again and play was abandoned for the day.

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