New season equals, evidently, new team.
To dust the superlatives off after one encouraging performance by Northants in Cardiff would’ve been a touch premature but two in as many weeks offers a more compelling argument.
The bowling has been penetrative and the batting has had a definite air of purpose to it and while more runs are needed from a couple of the top order, you can’t have everything.
Stephen Peters, in the final stages of the build up to the campaign, spoke of the need to dominate games on home soil and on their seasonal bow at Wantage Road, that is what is transpiring.
Essex are coming a distant second and the County have the lower reaches of their batting order to thank for that.
Too often, when a coach or captain come out with the phrase ‘we bat a long way down’ the reality is they do anything but.
In all probability they will have a tail that can offer a bit with bat in hand, the odd cameo here or stubborn defensive effort there, but nothing in the way of consistently substantial contributions.
But Northants are currently fielding an XI who comfortably live up to that billing.
There’s David Willey, who is better than a number eight, Steven Crook who is no number 10 and Trent Copeland, with a first class century to his name, is as good a number 11 - and this is no exaggeration on this evidence - as you will find anywhere in the world and this trio put the home side firmly in control of proceedings.
When Graham Napier reduced them to 171-8 in the morning session, still 12 runs in arrears, parity would probably have been taken but by the time Copeland was dismissed for an excellent 70, the lead stood at 216 with the twin effect being a buoyant mood in one camp and a deflated one in the other.
Essex will no doubt be wondering just how on earth 228 was added for the final two wickets but in truth it was down to decent batting with a few slices of good fortune as opposed to the reverse.
Both the ninth and tenth wicket partnerships were records for the County against Essex, as good an indication you need of the standard of fare produced, and the fact the runs were added at a fair lick, in just 36 overs means that the County gave themselves plenty of time to do their work with the ball.
But if Essex had a poor time of it on the first day, they certainly made a better fist of it second time around.
Rob Quiney and Tom Westley had few problems as they put on 77, a bad miss by David Murphy down the leg-side off Copeland to relieve the latter, but he perished not too long after when he chipped Willey to midwicket where Peters took a sharp chance.
In the penultimate over, Ben Foakes essayed a loose drive at Copeland to round off what was a more than satisfactory day for the hosts, leaving Essex with a steady hill to climb, this is assuming the weather holds of course, if they are to salvage anything from their current predicament.