Rob Key plans face-to-face talks with James Anderson and Stuart Broad

Things could only improve thereafter as the cogs gently began to loosen and muscle memory kicked in for an aging body that has endured close to 54,000 first-class deliveries, excluding such rarities as wides and no balls.

Typically miserly, the longer Anderson bowled, the greater the figure in the maidens column grew, although there was little by way of threat to the visiting batters: a forlorn lbw shout, an appeal for a legside strangle to the wicketkeeper more in hope than expectation , and a rueful stare after a thick edge flew between the slip cordon and gully.

In something of a battle of the generations, there was greater luck for Saqib Mahmood, one of the England seamers who directly benefited from the decision not to take his Lancashire team-mate to the Caribbean.

Mahmood made a fine start to his Test career, taking six wickets at 22.83 in that West Indies series. If he was a touch unfortunate to go unrewarded in an opening session that saw Gloucestershire reach 101 without loss, he received more than he perhaps served after lunch when both Harris and captain Graeme van Buuren flicked leg-side short balls off their hip and were caught by the keeper. Harris’s 67 was the biggest of three Gloucestershire half-centuries alongside Chris Dent (52) and Ryan Higgins (51 not out).

A third England bowling hopeful, the perennially unused leg-spinner Matt Parkinson, claimed one wicket on a seam-dominated opening day that saw Ali take 6-47 to help dismiss Gloucestershire for 252. Lancashire ended the day 11-1 in reply.

How much Anderson’s Lancashire exploits impact a potential England recall will perhaps become clearer after next week’s planned sit-down with Key. Broad has already suggested his 537 Test wickets speak for themselves and he does not feel the need to prove himself at Nottinghamshire.

Key will be hoping availability among England’s seam options improves between now and the first Test against New Zealand in six weeks’ time. Playing his first red-ball match since last August, Sam Curran did not take a wicket in 10 overs for Surrey against Somerset.

Having failed to feature in England’s three Tests in the West Indies because of fitness issues, Ollie Robinson is yet to play for Sussex due to illness. Chris Woakes’s first Warwickshire match has been delayed by niggles, and Mark Wood is targeting a white-ball return in May after undergoing elbow surgery.


Dom Sibley’s safer approach serves him well against Dan Lawrence and Essex

By Scyld Berry at Edgbaston

It was, again, the tortoise that won. Dom Sibley, aiming to regain his place from him as England’s Test opener, ground out 33 in 31 overs so far. The hare, Dan Lawrence, made a breezy 30, including five fours off ten balls, before being bowled through the gate, which England’s number four should seldom be, then tweaking a hamstring in a hare-like sprint to cut off a boundary scored by Sibley.

The tortoise’s blocking secured the opening day for Warwickshire. The county champions reached 76 for two in reply to a below-par 168 by Essex on a dry pitch of some seam-movement. Essex batted, not like the red-ball county champions of 2017, 2019 and 2020, more like a county under the clouds of a far-reaching racism inquiry.

Having lost his England contract, Sibley turned down the Lions tour and went back to the drawing-board. He has preserved his patience, phlegmatism and his soft hands so the edges are less likely to carry, and above all his judgment of what to leave outside offstump. After England’s winter, it was startling to see someone not throwing his bat and donating his wicket.

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