First day: Warwickshire trail Hampshire by 39 runs with eight first-innings wickets in hand
It was always anticipated that Shane Warne would play a prominent role in this match but few could have guessed in quite what guise.
The world's premier spinner - and Hampshire captain - was no doubt aware of the 1,131 runs conceded on this pitch last season for only 12 wickets when he won the toss and elected to bat. Furthermore, he was keen to see Warwickshire bat last against his spin on a wearing pitch and rest players who had just spent 153 overs in the field against Glamorgan.
But the pitch for this match bears no relation to last year's. Left with an unusually generous growth of grass, it offered substantial assistance to the seamers in the first couple of sessions. Hampshire were dismissed for 184.
It is certainly not a poor pitch, a view confirmed by ECB pitch inspector David Hughes, but it did assist the bowlers and Warne erred in his judgment. Nick Knight confirmed that Warwickshire would have bowled had they won the toss.
The Bears took advantage of Warne's generosity superbly with as disciplined a display of bowling as they have produced in a long time.
Hampshire actually started well. John Crawley, put down at short leg off Heath Streak when on 21, chanced his arm successfully and, with the patient Brown, saw off the opening overs.
Naqaash Tahir, making his first Championship start of the season in place of the injured Dewald Pretorius, made the breakthrough.
Naqaash bowled beautifully in his first spell. He is still not back to full match fitness but uses his excellent wrist position to hit the seam and obtain swing in nearly all conditions. Here he induced Crawley to drive to point at one which shaped away before finding some extra bounce to account for Brown.
Later in the day Naqaash pulled up sharply as he attempted to haul in a ball speeding to the boundary. The injury appeared serious as he was carried off the pitch but he was later diagnosed with cramp and is expected to take a full part in the remainder of the match.
Neil Carter, bowling as well as at any time in his career at present, sustained the pressure. His 15 overs cost only 18 and accounted for Lamb, pushing away from his body, before Chris Benham left one which nipped back.
Kevin Pietersen, after a cautious start, drove with ominous power and added 47 with Sean Ervine.
Dougie Brown struck three times in eight balls to end the resistance. Brown has accepted, somewhat reluctantly, that his days as a fast bowler are behind him and has bowled well without fortune this season.
At last he found some reward as Ervine nicked one that seamed in, Warne slogged to mid-on and, crucially, Pietersen chopped on a ball that nipped back. Shuan Udal hit out effectively but the total was at least 120 below par.
In reply, Knight (108 balls, seven fours) and Ian Westwood posted Warwickshire's first century opening stand of the Championship season.
Westwood enjoyed some fortune early on but battled through. He was badly missed by the keeper, Pothas, on five and flirted with the slip cordon on several occasions. He survived the bad patches against Warne to attain a maiden Championship 50 (91 balls, ten fours).
Warne delivered an unusually high proportion of full tosses and long-hops, all of which Westwood despatched with elan.
Some of the gloss was taken off Warwickshire's day in the final minutes. Knight was superbly caught off the full face of the bat at leg slip before Michael Powell pushed forward at a ball he could have left. But Warwickshire could hardly have hoped for a better opening day.
Some Warwickshire members will never take to this festival but a good many doubters must have been won over yesterday. A beautiful day on a gorgeous ground with Warwickshire on top: what more could they ask for?