First day: Worcestershire have scored 459 for five wickets
If there has been one man left feeling slightly left out in Worcestershire's run-riots during the last fortnight it must have been Phil Jaques.
While his team-mates have been rewriting the New Road batting records Jaques has been relatively becalmed with a hat-trick of mere 50s in his last three County Championship matches. But the Australian newly-wed was scoring for fun yesterday with a superb, career-best 244.
In the wake of skipper Vikram Solanki's 222 against Gloucestershire and Ben Smith's 203 against Somerset, Jaques was Worcestershire's third double century-maker in as many matches.
Another huge first-day score mercilessly rubbed Ronnie Irani's nose in it following the Essex skipper's baffling decision to bat first.
It was that grand old man of Essex, Trevor Bailey, who used to regularly entertain Test Match Special listeners by proclaiming his golden rule on 'What to do when your side wins the toss?'
"You bat," the old Barnacle would bark. "If you're in any doubt, have a good think about it. But you still bat."
Bailey would have been dowsing his tonic with a little more gin than usual had he been present yesterday after witnessing just how badly Irani's unfortunate decision turned out.
The thought of what effect a spot of mid-morning cloud and drizzle might have on the atmospheric conditions was what encouraged Irani to back his bowlers.
But, by the end of the day, he was left feeling just as rueful as that other former Essex man, Mike Denness, when the former England skipper infamously chose to allow Australia first use of the pitch at Edgbaston 31 years ago.
Australia won by an innings and Denness was removed from high office. At least Irani can be consoled by the fact that the same fate is unlikely to await him.
Admittedly, Essex, despite standing second in the Division Two table, are not the bowling force they once were.
Darren Gough is unquestionably in the limelight of his career while Alex Tudor is a long way short of the sort of form that once earned him notoriety as an England nightwatchman.
They were without the one man who might have made a difference, Andy Bichel. It had been hoped that the former Worcestershire allrounder, Essex's latest over-seas signing, might fly in from Down Under in time to start his career for his new county against his old.
But only one look at their scores over the last couple of matches would have made anyone think twice about facing Worcestershire right now.
Bichel's plane does not touch down until today.
It wasn't total control for the Worcestershire batsmen amid yesterday morning's early gloom.
Jaques twice edged but neither chance went to hand. Instead, it was his partner Stephen Moore who departed first, caught behind off Tim Phillips.
Solanki then returned a catch to give Phillips his second wicket. At which point Smith came in to prove Jaques' most productive part-ner in a third-wicket stand of 146.
It was at this stage of the afternoon that Jaques was walloping the majority of his 34 boundaries. In one over he smote suffering South African Ryan Ten Doeschate for five fours in six balls.
Losing Smith to a 'waft' outside off stump to Andre Adams, the ball after Jaques had reached his double century, did not stop him.
The cheerless prospect of seeing Graeme Hick come in No 5, arriving at the wicket at ten past five with only three wickets down and almost 400 on the board had its expected demoralising effect. Jaques and Hick added a further 80.
Jaques' previous best score of 243, scored for Yorkshire against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl two years ago, had long looked under threat.
But no sooner had he surpassed it than, to his next delivery, he was out, gloving Gough a catch behind.
Having passed 50 or more six times in nine innings, Jaques has a haul of 659 runs from nine first-class innings for Worcestershire, at an average of over 82.
More importantly, even after the tireless Gough had struck again with the new ball to send Hick's stumps flying, this latest first-day run-mountain ought to have set up a winning platform. l Charlie Shreck and Mark Ealham kick-started Nottinghamshire's Championship season by combining to dismiss Middlesex for 276 at Trent Bridge.
The champions, who have not won in the competition this summer, reduced the visitors from 210 for three on resumption, Ealham taking four for 48 and Shreck's four for 98.
Nottinghamshire skipper Stephen Fleming then struck 75 as his side's first-innings reply reached 158 for four.