LONDON: One of the enduring rituals of any cricket match was deliberately done away with on Sunday's opening day of the new English County Championship season.
The toss of a coin to decide which side bats or bowls first has been a staple of Championship cricket for more than a hundred years.
But in a bid to guard against home teams preparing 'result' pitches to favour otherwise modest medium-pace seamers, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have introduced a rule, on a one-year trial for the time being, that allows visiting captains to field first if they want to in first-class Championship cricket.
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As a result, no toss was needed in four of the five matches that got underway Sunday.
Gloucestershire captain Gareth Roderick was the odd man out and, having called correctly, he backed up his decision to bat first after winning the toss by making an unbeaten 88 in his side's total of 262 in their Second Division match away to Essex.
England Test captain Alastair Cook was 17 not out as Essex reached stumps on 39 for one.
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Nottinghamshire's Steven Mullaney had the honour of scoring the first hundred of the new Championship season and his 113 helped his side, tipped to challenge holders Yorkshire for the First Division title, amass 446 against Surrey at Trent Bridge.
Veteran West Indies fast bowler Ravi Rampaul took five for 93 for the visitors on his Surrey debut.
Warwickshire paceman Keith Barker also took five wickets as hosts Hampshire struggled to 189 for eight, but Ryan McLaren's unbeaten 84 helped his team close in on a batting bonus point after at one point being reduced to 87 for seven.
Keaton Jennings's 116 provided the lion's share of Durham's 256 against Somerset in their First Division encounter at Chester-le-Street before the visitors slumped to 30 for three.
In the Second Division, Ben Duckett's first-class best of 178 not out helped Northamptonshire close on 296 for two at home to Sussex.
One enduring English 'tradition', namely that of the weather keeping the players in the pavilion, was maintained with a wet outfield preventing any play at all on Sunday in the Second Division match between Worcestershire and Kent at New Road.
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