London: Essex were glad to have England captain Alastair Cook on board for a rare County Championship appearance as 15 wickets fell on a dramatic first day against Hampshire at Chelmsford on Monday.
The opening batsman finished the opening day of this four-day Second Division clash unbeaten on 25 in an Essex total of 5 for 72 after the hosts had dismissed Hampshire for a seemingly meagre 197 featuring 60 from former Zimbabwe international Sean Ervine. And Ervine then rocked Essex with the ball, taking two for 10 in two overs, after Tom Westley had been run out and Australia's Rob Quiney fell lbw to seamer James Tomlinson.
Left-hander Cook, seeking some first-class form ahead of the start of next month's Test series against New Zealand, has so far faced 71 balls including two boundaries in 109 minutes at the crease. Veteran Essex seamer David Masters did the bulk of the damage when Hampshire batted, with line and length swing bowling helping him to a return of 4 for 29 in 16 overs.
Teenage left-arm seamer Reece Topley weighed in with three for 66. Elsewhere 22-year-old West Indian batsman Chesney Hughes struck the highest first-class score of his career to leave Derbyshire well-placed against Yorkshire in a First Division clash at Headingley.
Hughes's 171 not out, including three sixes and 25 fours, was the cornerstone of Derbyshire's 302 for four on a first day when West Indies mainstay Shivnarine Chanderpaul fell for four. Meanwhile James Taylor, looking to revive his England career, made 97 in Nottinghamshire's 320 all out against Durham at Trent Bridge - venue for the first Ashes Test - which also featured 40 from Australia opener Ed Cowan.