Durham wicketkeeper Ollie Robinson is ready to take his chance in a potential “shootout” for the England gloves this summer.

With Ben Foakes yet to match imperious glovework with consistent runs and Jonny Bairstow potentially at a career crossroads following a lean tour of India, there are a number of contenders eager to push to the front of the queue.

Foakes’ Surrey team-mate Jamie Smith has no shortage of admirers, Somerset’s James Rew enjoyed a superb breakout season in 2023 and white-ball regular Phil Salt is keen to make the move across formats.

But there is also a compelling candidate at Chester-le-Street. Robinson was outstanding as Durham stormed to the Division Two title last season, scoring three centuries and 931 runs at a strike-rate of 88.66 to mark himself out as a ‘Bazball’ natural. In the field he contributed 37 catches and 10 stumpings.

That won him a place on England Lions’ winter series against India A and the 25-year-old is not shying away from the possibility of a swift promotion ahead of Durham’s top-flight return against Hampshire on Friday.

“You see articles all the time, people putting stuff online, and it sounds like the media think there’s going to be changes with England,” he told the PA news agency.

“Whether it’s me or someone else, who knows, but that’s an exciting place to be at the start of the season. It’s a bit of a shootout in a way.

“Things like the Lions call-up show you you’re not that far away. It might just be about who starts the best. That’s not me putting pressure on myself but it is an exciting opportunity to really put your name in the hat if something was to happen and changes are to be made.

“Coaches talk about having healthy competition all the time and that’s what drives people onwards, knowing someone is on your tail. I’m used to that, before I was here I was at Kent and I had Jordan Cox and Sam Billings around me so I’ve always had that feeling of trying to force my way in.”

Robinson is also pleased to be coming through at a time when England’s attacking philosophy, led by head coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes, chimes with his own instincts.

“That’s the way I’ve always played, I like to score runs and hit boundaries,” he said.

“I remember opening the batting for Kent against Northamptonshire once and getting 100 off 100 balls. Everyone was asking, ‘Are you in a rush to get somewhere?’.

“It’s a breath of fresh air for me that it’s becoming more the norm to go about things that way. I score quickly and hit the ball in areas that some players don’t. Batters are there to score runs, it doesn’t matter how many you face.”

Cricketers around the country are gearing up for the Vitality County Championship which gets under way on Friday.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at five players who could make their mark this season.

Josh Hull (Leicestershire)

A 6ft 7in left-arm seamer who has his sights set on being England’s version of Mitchell Starc. Hull may need to add a bit more pace to his weaponry but he can swing the ball and, at 19, has plenty of time on his side. Hull has made only 20 professional appearances but already shown an appetite for the big occasion after defending eight in the last over of the 2023 One-Day Cup final as Leicestershire upset Hampshire. Hull will miss the first couple of red-ball rounds this month because of injury but, fitness permitting, he can enhance a burgeoning reputation that has already attracted admiring glances from England director of men’s cricket Rob Key.

Gus Atkinson (Surrey)

The only individual included in every England squad this winter, Atkinson was sparingly used in the white-ball matches before Christmas and not at all in the 4-1 Test series defeat in India recently. Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum liked what they saw, though, and indicated the fast bowler will likely be given a go this summer. With England’s emphasis on those who can operate in the high 80mph bracket, Atkinson fits the bill. After withdrawing from the Indian Premier League, Atkinson can elbow his way into England’s plans with some starring roles for Surrey in the early part of the season.

Josh de Caires (Middlesex)

Started last season with designs on a top-order role before finishing the campaign as an off-spinning all-rounder. The son of former England captain Michael Atherton, De Caires followed up a seven-for against Hampshire with an eight-wicket haul versus Essex. It may be these two performances become outliers as the 21-year-old’s career progresses but England are always on the lookout for promising spinners, even if the cupboard appears to be more stocked than usual.

Tawanda Muyeye (Kent)

Arrived in the United Kingdom as an asylum seeker after he and his family fled their native Zimbabwe, Muyeye has one of county cricket’s more interesting backstories. He is also one of the most precocious and eye-catching talents on the circuit and a video of him batting on social media earned praise from Kevin Pietersen. With an attacking verve ready-made for Bazball – Muyeye has expressed an interest in playing for England – the 23-year-old may need to become more consistent to get his wish but he bolstered his reputation with a breakout 179 against Northamptonshire last June.

Ollie Robinson (Durham)

With scrutiny on whether Jonny Bairstow or Ben Foakes will take the gloves for England this summer, there is a very real possibility Robinson will swoop in and leave them both surplus to requirements. Robinson averaged 58.18 at a jaw-dropping strike-rate of 88.66 in Durham’s promotion last season and is more than adept behind the stumps. The 25-year-old made a couple of counter-attacking 80s in England Lions’ unofficial Tests against India A and higher honours may beckon this summer. It is therefore feasible England could have two Ollie Robinsons in their ranks – remarkably they share the same birthday although Durham’s wicketkeeper-batter is five years older than the 20-cap seam bowler.

Ollie Robinson should have all the motivation he needs under the leadership of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum to get back to firing on all cylinders, according to former England seamer Alex Tudor.

Robinson’s fitness issues surfaced once more in Ranchi as a twinge in his troublesome back meant he was down on pace, sending down just 13 wicketless overs in the fourth Test and unused in India’s chase of 192 as the hosts went 3-1 ahead in the five-match series.

Despite an outstanding record of 76 wickets at an average of 22.92 in 20 outings, there is again scrutiny at whether Robinson’s body can withstand the rigours of Test cricket.

His previous competitive appearance was seven months ago – when a back spasm shortened his involvement – and a seamer described as the heir apparent to Stuart Broad now seems at a crossroads in his career.

Tudor was a keen observer of Robinson’s underwhelming return in his role as a talkSPORT commentator and sympathises with the 30-year-old, as several injuries restricted him to 10 Tests between 1998 and 2002.

But Tudor hopes Robinson can rediscover his mojo and argued there is no greater incentive for him than the chance to play under the relaxed environment cultivated by captain Stokes and head coach McCullum.

“His place is definitely up for debate, which you wouldn’t have said a year or so ago,” Tudor told the PA news agency.

“He’s a quality performer but he’s having a few issues with lasting a Test match. I’m sure he’ll want to sort this out because playing in and around this team, it’s what any cricketer would want.

“England are full of positivity under Ben Stokes, who backs his team to the hilt, the same with Brendon McCullum. The atmosphere that they’re creating, any sportsperson would want to be a part of that.

“I’m sure Ollie Robinson is no different but it’s for him to get it sorted to get his body right and show everybody what he can do.”

England are due to arrive into Dharamsala on Sunday ahead of the fifth Test, starting on Thursday, with conditions expected to be wetter and cooler than what they have so far experienced on this tour.

There has been persistent rain and hail showers in recent days in the small city at the foothills of the Himalayas in north India although the weather is forecast to brighten up ahead of the Test.

Fast bowlers could therefore be called upon more at the HPCA Stadium, with James Anderson expected to shrug off a minor thigh issue to play as he looks for two more wickets to take him to 700 in Tests.

“It will be another milestone in a glittering career,” Tudor said of the 41-year-old seamer. “I don’t think he would have ever dreamed of the haul of wickets he’d get when he first got into the team.

“Getting to 700 wickets will be a fantastic milestone and one that I think no other seamer will get near again. Jimmy’s really shown the next generation how to go about things.”

Tudor first met Anderson during the 2002/03 Ashes tour, with England’s now record wicket-taker then a shy 20-year-old as part of the ‘A’ team. Anderson made his international debut soon after.

“Quite early on, the England team knew what they had,” Tudor added. “It would be foolish of me to say ‘I knew straight away he was going to have this illustrious career’.

“But he’s evolved with the times, got better with age and got better and better. The biggest compliment I can give is I regard (ex-West Indies fast bowler) Malcolm Marshall as the greatest of all-time but Jimmy’s like the English version of Malcolm Marshall because he gets wickets all around the world.”

Shoaib Bashir claimed three top-order wickets but England were again met with resistance from in-form India opener Yashasvi Jaiswal in Ranchi.

Joe Root (122 not out) and Ollie Robinson (58) helped England add 51 to an overnight 302 for seven but they lost their last three wickets for six runs in 17 balls on the second morning of the fourth Test.

James Anderson snared Rohit Sharma to move to within three of 700 Test wickets before the recalled Bashir trapped Shubman Gill and Rajat Patidar lbw and had Ravindra Jadeja caught bat-pad as India went to tea on 131 for four.

Jaiswal (54 not out) was immovable on a pitch which, despite the odd delivery keeping low, was devoid of the gremlins that had given England’s top-order major problems 24 hours earlier.

Robinson, in his first competitive appearance since July, twice drew the edge of Jaiswal but the ball bounced short of Zak Crawley then Ben Stokes, the latter much to England’s obvious chagrin.

Anderson made the breakthrough in his second over, getting one to hold its line and kiss Rohit’s outside edge on the way through to Ben Foakes, but while Robinson did likewise to Jaiswal, the ball dropped in front of a diving Crawley at second slip before scurrying away for the opener’s first four.

Robinson was memorably chided during the Ashes for bowling “124kph (77mph) nude nuts” by former Australia opener Matthew Hayden and the seamer did not do much to shed the tag as he operated in the mid-70mph range.

But he engaged in a fascinating tussle with Jaiswal, who pushed at a wider delivery after lunch and Foakes dived forward to take the edge, only for third umpire Joel Wilson to rule the ball had bounced.

England celebrated before the ‘not out’ verdict was returned on the two big screens and England were momentarily stunned, with captain Ben Stokes cupping his hands to his mouth in shock.

At the other end, Bashir was probing away and while he was dumped back over his head for six by Jaiswal, the off-spinner, in just his second Test, extracted some turn to beat both Gill (38) and Patidar (12) on the inside edge and gain leg-before verdicts.

Tom Hartley was not introduced until the 32nd over and was thumped for back-to-back sixes by Ravindra Jadeja, who was the undone by extra bounce from Bashir and popped a catch to Ollie Pope at short leg.

Earlier, India took the new ball after two deliveries but the hosts could not capitalise as Robinson collected three fours in an eventful over off Akash Deep, who beat the lower-order batter’s outside edge twice.

Robinson brought up a first Test half-century by slog-sweeping Jadeja for a ninth four, to go with one six, and stretched his stand with Root into three figures – England’s first century stand for the eighth wicket since August 2017.

But an attempted reverse sweep off Jadeja brushed Robinson’s glove on the way through to Dhruv Jurel and England’s innings unravelled quickly.

Shoaib Bashir clothed a skier to backward point while Jadeja had his and India’s third wicket of the morning when Anderson made a hash of a sweep and was lbw. Jadeja was the pick of the bowlers with four for 67.

James Anderson snared India captain Rohit Sharma after Joe Root was left stranded on 122 not out as England were all out for 353 on the second morning of the fourth Test.

Anderson kissed the outside edge of Rohit’s bat as India went to lunch on 34 for one in Ranchi after Ollie Robinson registered his maiden Test fifty in a 102-run stand with Root, who added 16 runs to his overnight score.

Robinson’s dismissal for 58 was the start of England losing their final three wickets for six runs in 17 balls, with Jadeja taking three dismissals to finish with figures of four for 67, as Root ran out of partners.

Robinson, who got away with an lbw decision off Jadeja on Friday evening because India had used all their reviews, took the attack to India’s bowlers on a pitch with very few of the demons seen on the first morning, although the odd delivery still kept low.

India took the new ball after two deliveries as England resumed on 302 for seven, but the hosts could not capitalise as Robinson took three fours in an eventful over off Akash Deep, who beat the lower-order batter’s outside edge twice.

Robinson brought up a first Test half-century by slog sweeping Jadeja for a ninth four, to go with one six, and stretched his stand with Root into three figures – England’s first century stand for the eighth wicket since August 2017.

But an attempted reverse sweep off Jadeja brushed Robinson’s glove on the way through to Dhruv Jurel and England’s innings unravelled quickly.

Shoaib Bashir clothed a skier to backward point while Jadeja had his and India’s third wicket of the morning when Anderson made a hash of a sweep and was lbw.

Ben Stokes warmed up alongside the bowlers before India had to negotiate a 45-minute period before lunch but it was Anderson and Robinson, making his first competitive appearance since last July, entrusted with the new ball.

Anderson made the breakthrough in his second over, getting one to hold its line and kiss Rohit’s outside edge.

Robinson, whose bowling was famously described as “124kph (77mph) nude nuts” in the Ashes by former Australia opener Matthew Hayden, did not touch 80mph but drew the edge of Yashasvi Jaiswal only for the ball to bounce short of Zak Crawley and disappear for four.

Robinson beat the outside edge on a couple of occasions but was then driven by Jaiswal, who has made double hundreds in his last two Tests, for his fifth four in the over before lunch.

England have put an emphasis on height in selecting seamer Ollie Robinson and off-spinner Shoaib Bashir for the fourth Test against India on a pitch expected to offer turn and variable bounce.

The surface in Ranchi was described on Wednesday by Ben Stokes as “like nothing I’ve ever seen before” 48 hours before the start of the Test, with cracks running down one side of the cut strip.

After a second inspection on Thursday alongside head coach Brendon McCullum and selector Luke Wright, England captain Stokes elected to keep faith with two seamers as Robinson partners James Anderson.

Robinson and Bashir are both well over 6ft and the bounce they can extract has earned them the nod over skiddier pair Mark Wood and Rehan Ahmed as England look to hit back from a heavy defeat in Rajkot.

“We get asked about the pitch and we give our opinion but that doesn’t mean we are going in with too many preconceived ideas,” Stokes said. “The pitch could be as flat as a pancake, who knows?

“If it is, we will adapt to that. We do like to look at the pitch two days out and one day out, because that’s how we like to pick our XIs. Looking at that, I think there is going to be assistance for spin.

“But I think also it looks like someone like Bash, who releases the ball from such a high release point, the extra bounce that he gets we feel is going to bring us more into the game.

“I also feel having two seamers gives us a good chance purely because of Ollie Robinson’s release height and his relentlessness with his areas.”

The selection of Robinson, who has not played competitively since the third Ashes Test in July, and evergreen Anderson may lessen the need for Stokes to resume his career as a fully-fledged all-rounder.

Despite reporting no soreness after a 35-minute spell of bowling full tilt on Wednesday, Stokes was coy about if he would give his side, trailing 2-1 in the five-match series, another seam option.

“I’ve pulled up really well,” Stokes told the BBC. “It’s another step forward for me in terms of the ball. As keen as I am to get there, I do have to be very sensible about it.”

Bashir took four wickets in his debut for England in the second Test in Visakhapatnam before bring dropped in Rajkot but he partners slow left-armer Tom Hartley as the tourists’ two main spinners.

That means no room for Ahmed, who played in the first three Tests and took 11 wickets at an average of 44, although Stokes insisted the young leg-spinner’s absence was no reflection on how he has performed.

“He’s gone out and tried everything that we’ve asked of him,” Stokes said. “The way in which he has taken the game on with the ball is something I’ve been very, very impressed with.

“I think he’ll take a lot of learnings out of these three games, which will only progress his career, rather than not being the person who bowled in that situation, if that makes sense.”

Despite bowling 38 overs in the 434-run loss in Rajkot and just four days’ rest between the end of the third Test and start of the fourth, Anderson retains his spot.

Anderson needs just four more wickets to become the first fast bowler in history to reach 700 in Tests and Stokes marvelled at the 41-year-old’s professionalism and longevity.

“If you’re a young fast bowler, Jimmy Anderson is the one person who you want as your role model,” Stokes added. “Not only the amount of wickets he’s got but the fact he can keep going at his age.

“Even saying approaching 700 Test wickets as a fast bowler is incredible. He’ll know that but I don’t think that will be at the top of his mind for this week, just because of where we’re at in the series.”

England have drafted in seamer Ollie Robinson and off-spinner Shoaib Bashir for their must-win fourth Test against India in Ranchi.

Fast bowler Mark Wood drops out after an onerous workload in the third-Test defeat in Ranchi, where he bowled mainly in sweltering conditions, while leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed has also been omitted.

Robinson is set for his first appearance of the series while Bashir returns after taking four wickets on his England debut in the second Test in Visakhapatnam earlier this month.

England trail 2-1 in the five-match series.

Australian greats Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting have rounded on England’s Ollie Robinson after the seamer’s provocative display in the Ashes opener at Edgbaston.

Robinson was happy to offer Australia some verbals on and off the pitch during England’s tense two-wicket defeat, offering an expletive-laden send off to centurion Usman Khawaja and then defending his behaviour in a press conference where he asked: “If you can’t handle that, what can you handle?”.

The combative seamer took match figures of five for 98 in the first Test and was not sanctioned by the match referee, but his conduct appeared to rile two men who were far from shrinking violets in their own playing days.

Hayden took aim at Robinson’s lack of express pace and suggested Australia should be looking to hammer him out of the attack.

Declining to use Robinson’s name in an appearance on SEN Radio, he said: “The other bloke, he’s a forgettable cricketer.

“(He’s) a fast bowler that is bowling 124kmph nude nuts and he’s got a mouth from the south. Someone like him, you can just go, ‘Brother, I’m coming at ya’. Davey Warner can do that, right. He can just say, ‘You’re bowling 120′.”

Ponting, who was namechecked by Robinson as someone who had sledged England in the past, also rose to the bait.

“If he is sitting back thinking about me, then no wonder he bowled like the way that he did in that game, if he’s worried about what I did 15 years ago,” he told the ICC Review Podcast.

“This England cricket team hasn’t played against Australia and they’ll find out pretty quickly what playing Ashes cricket and playing against a good Australian cricket team is all about. If Ollie Robinson hasn’t learned that already after last week, then he’s a slow learner.

“He’ll learn pretty quickly that if you’re going to talk to Australian cricketers in an Ashes series, then you want to be able to back it up with your skills.”

Robinson is sure to have a target on his back when the series resumes at Lord’s next week, but fellow seamer Stuart Broad is reluctant to pass on the baton.

Broad has long been the preferred target for Australian fans, dating back to a curious incident in 2013 when he declined to walk after his outside edge was parried to slip.

Replying to a Twitter post from Australian broadcaster Fox Sports, which referred to Robinson as ‘No.1 Villain’, Broad wrote: “I can’t have lost that tag already can I?! Disappointing.”

Ollie Robinson was unrepentant after appearing to give Usman Khawaja an expletive-laden send-off as tempers rose on day three of a delicately-balanced first Ashes Test.

Khawaja’s masterful 141 was ended when England’s ring of close fielders led to the Australia opener attempting to make room, only to york himself as he was castled by Robinson.

Television cameras seemed to show a fired-up Robinson giving Khawaja a verbal volley in his celebration as he helped restrict Australia to 386 and give England a slender first-innings advantage at Edgbaston.

After England closed on 28 for two for a lead of 35, a combative Robinson had no regrets about how he reacted towards Khawaja, arguing past and present Australia cricketers have let their emotions boil over in the heat of battle.

Asked whether he is concerned about having a target on his back for the remainder of the LV= Insurance series, Robinson responded: “I don’t really care how it’s perceived, to be honest.

“It’s the Ashes, it’s professional sport. If you can’t handle that, what can you handle? When you’re in the heat of the moment and have the passion of the Ashes that can happen.

“We’ve all seen Ricky Ponting and other Aussies do that to us so just because the shoe’s on the other foot, it’s not received well. It’s my first home Ashes and to get the big wicket at the time was special for me.

“I think Uzzie played unbelievably well. To get that wicket at the time for the team was massive. We all want that theatre of the game and I am here to provide it.”

As for whether he expects to have to explain his conduct to the match referee, Robinson replied: “I’m not going to comment on that.”

Robinson and Broad finished with three wickets apiece to give England a slight edge before lunch but there were just 10.3 overs possible in the last two sessions because of persistent rain in Birmingham.

It was in a 22-ball window either side of showers where Australia gained a foothold under leaden skies and with the floodlights on – as a docile pitch came to life to make life tricky for England’s batters.

Ben Duckett and Zak Crawley were both dismissed and matters might have worsened as Australia were convinced they heard a noise when Pat Cummins went past the bat of Joe Root but the not out appeal was upheld on technology.

Asked whether England’s openers were irritated at having to go out in gloomy conditions, Robinson said: “Yeah they were but they understand if the umpire says it’s fit to play, it’s fit to play.

“Crack on, you won’t hear any excuses from our side. We still want to be positive and aggressive in our batting, but unfortunately we lost two crucial wickets. That’s just the game.”

Robinson hopes the rest of England’s batters can get towards a total in the 98.3 overs on the penultimate day that will allow them an opportunity to pursue victory.

However, Robinson believes England’s best chance of doing so rests on being able to bowl for all of the final day and give Australia a target to hunt rather than batting them out of the game.

Robinson added: “If they had a score to chase, that would allow us to bowl them out. If they were playing for the draw, playing defensively like they have done so far, it might be slightly different.

“When we are fresh with the harder ball I’m sure we can make inroads, I’ve no doubt we can take the 10 wickets quickly and wrap it up.”

Robinson’s profane tirade towards Khawaja was the main talking point post-play but Australia wicketkeeper-batter Alex Carey attempted to downplay the furore.

Carey said: “I didn’t see it at all, Usman hasn’t said anything.

“It’s the Ashes, at times it will be pretty exciting and hostile cricket. I didn’t see anything over the top there. From our dressing room, there was no comment.”

Ollie Robinson helped England salvage a slender seven-run lead on day three of the first Ashes Test, dismissing Australia for 386 to leave everything up for grabs at Edgbaston.

England took the last five wickets for 75 in the morning session, with Robinson claiming three of them as he roused himself from a wicketless second day performance.

He clean bowled centurion Usman Khawaja (141) and bounced out Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins to finish with three for 55, with James Anderson and Stuart Broad picking up one wicket apiece.

The day began with Australia on 311 for five, still 82 behind but in a marginally better position with half their wickets in hand and two set batters at the crease.

England needed early breakthroughs to nudge themselves back in front and Anderson almost delivered one when he took Alex Carey’s inside edge with his fourth delivery of the morning.

Anderson, who did not create a single clearcut chance on day two, had already started to celebrate as Jonny Bairstow tumbled low to his right but watched in dismay as the ball squirmed free from the wicketkeeper’s glove.

It was a painful start for Bairstow, who already had a missed a stumping against Cameron Green and another dropped catch off Carey on his ledger, and his frustration was plain to see.

Anderson continued to cause the left-hander problems and got him after 20 minutes, forcing one through Carey’s defences from round the wicket and trimming the bails with precision.

Moeen Ali started things off from the Birmingham End, fresh from receiving a fine from the ICC for using an unauthorised drying agent on his hands during Saturday’s play. If that was an unwanted present on the spinner’s 36th birthday, then things did not get a lot better as he worked through his spell.

A return to first-class cricket after almost two years in retirement has clearly caused some damage to to the all-rounder’s spinning finger – hence use of spray which caught the match referee’s attention. He got away with one loopy full toss but could not stop Cummins launching him for a couple of sixes as he struggled to get any purchase on the ball.

Stokes began to set some highly unusual fields in a bid to knock Australia off their stride and it seemed to work when Robinson uprooted Khawaja’s off stump. With a ring of four close catchers on the leg side, the opener tried to force the ball through cover and succumbed to a yorker.

The tail was knocked over with efficiency after that, Lyon pulling Robinson straight to deep square-leg, Scott Boland backing away and popping Broad to silly point and Cummins holing out off another short ball.

England head coach Brendon McCullum is confident James Anderson and Ollie Robinson will be fit for the first Ashes Test but has confirmed they will play no part against Ireland this week.

The five-match series against Australia begins on June 16 but England have fitness concerns over a number of their bowlers.

Robinson suffered an ankle issue for Sussex earlier this month and Anderson strained his groin while on Lancashire duty while injury-hit pair Jofra Archer and Olly Stone have experienced elbow and hamstring problems respectively already this summer.

England begin their eagerly anticipated summer with a four-day Test against Ireland at Lord’s on Thursday and while two of their key bowlers will miss out, they should be fine for the Ashes opener at Edgbaston.

“Yeah we’ve got a couple of niggles so we’re just monitoring those at the moment. I guess every team that goes into a series has got a couple of little things that you need to work through, but pretty confident we’ll have a good squad to be able to pick from,” McCullum insisted.

On Robinson and Anderson, he added: “For the first Ashes Test, I think they should be fit.

“They won’t be fit for this one against Ireland. We’ll just have to monitor it over this next sort of while, but we’ve got some great options right throughout the squad.

“When I first took over this job, people said there wasn’t much depth in English cricket and I disagree with that completely.

“I think there is an immense amount of depth and we’ve got plenty of good options throughout the squad.”

England bowler Ollie Robinson stole the show with a seven-wicket haul against Worcestershire on a day where Sussex team-mate Steve Smith was forced to wait before he made his LV= Insurance County Championship bow with the bat.

All eyes were on Australian great Smith at New Road in the first of three games for Sussex ahead of this summer’s Ashes series, but away captain Cheteshwar Pujara decided to field first after he won the toss on Thursday.

It proved a wise decision with England seamer Robinson ripping through the Worcestershire top-order on his way to figures of seven for 59 in a pleasing sign for the hosts’ chances of winning back the Urn in July.

Worcestershire did stage a recovery from 44 for five to eventually make 264 thanks to half-centuries from Adam Hose (59), Matthew Waite (59) and Joe Leach (53), but there was still enough time left for Sussex to bat on day one of the Division Two encounter.

Smith stayed in the pavilion though with opener Ali Orr and number three Tom Alsop able to get the away side through to the close on 63 for one with the Aussie set to bat at number five on day two.

Jonny Bairstow took a positive step in his bid to prove his fitness for the Ashes by claiming three catches for Yorkshire against Glamorgan.

Bairstow, fit again after an unfortunate leg break last October, kept wicket at Headingley and produced a superb grab down the leg-side to dismiss Kiran Carlson.

Glamorgan were all out for 245 and indebted to another Australian with Marnus Labuschagne top-scoring with 65 before Yorkshire suffered a late collapse to finish on 62 for five with Bairstow not out on two.

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Elsewhere in the second tier, Leicestershire were skittled for 122 with Derbyshire’s Henry Brooks claiming six for 20, which included the scalp of England all-rounder Rehan Ahmed for 23.

Hosts Derbyshire managed to wipe out the deficit before bad light brought proceedings to an early end with Haider Ali scoring 54 to lead them to 144 for three.

Both Stuart Broad and James Anderson were overshadowed by Brett Hutton at Trent Bridge on a good day for Nottinghamshire opener Haseeb Hameed against his old club Lancashire in Division One.

England seamer Broad picked up two wickets and Olly Stone also claimed a brace as Lancashire were all out for 214 but it was Hutton who did the majority of the damage for the home side with five for 66.

Lancashire, largely through Tom Bailey with 48 not out from 29 balls, had scored at almost five an over and it allowed Anderson time to get stuck into Nottinghamshire on the first day but Hameed came through unscathed to close on an unbeaten 57.

While Anderson finished wicketless from his seven overs, his team-mates fared better to reduce the hosts to 119 for five on a good day for bowlers at Trent Bridge.

Chris Woakes caught the eye for Warwickshire at the Ageas Bowl to dismiss Hampshire for 229.

Woakes picked up three scalps but Hampshire captain James Vince stood firm with 75 not out before Warwickshire reached 82 without loss at the close with Alex Davies unbeaten on 46.

Essex saw Alastair Cook (51), Tom Westley (62) and Matt Critchley (60) all pass fifty against Surrey but Gus Atkinson’s six for 68 along with Will Jacks’ two-fer saw them all out for 314 at Chelmsford.

Rain badly affected the other Division One match at Taunton where Northamptonshire closed on 137 for four thanks to Ricardo Vasconcelos’ 70 against Somerset on a day where only 37.4 overs were possible.

England seamer Ollie Robinson is enjoying being in the same dressing room as Steve Smith and doubts the former Australia captain’s presence at Sussex will have a material impact on the Ashes.

Smith linking up with Sussex for three Division Two matches in the LV= Insurance County Championship gives him a chance to get to grips with English conditions ahead of Australia’s bid to retain the urn this summer.

The union between player and county has divided opinion but Smith did not play any championship matches before the 2019 Ashes and still amassed 774 runs at a titanic 110.54 average in a drawn 2-2 series.

Earlier this week, he confessed he was welcomed to the Sussex nets by having his stumps rearranged by Robinson, who sees the advantages in playing alongside Smith and Sussex and India’s Cheteshwar Pujara.

“It’s a good battle,” said Robinson. “It’s nice to bowl at him and Pujara, I think it ups my game when I am training as well, it’s great to have them batting at the other end.

“(Smith) is obviously a very good player and I think he will score runs regardless of whether he faces me or not.

“We get a look at each other, but I don’t think it makes a big difference in the grand scheme of things.

“To have the world’s best batsman and Pujara in the same changing room has been cool. It hasn’t felt weird, I know (Smith) from previous series and it’s nice to have him around.”

Smith was restricted to a watching brief on the opening day of his championship debut at New Road, where Robinson hogged the limelight with seven for 59 as Worcestershire were all out for 264.

Robinson was a constant menace, bowling with vigour and at good pace, and only when he was taken out of the firing line did Worcestershire’s batters find any kind of rhythm at the crease.

This was only Robinson’s second outing of the season after experiencing some soreness in his back shortly after his return from New Zealand at the end of England’s winter touring programme in February.

The issue was not a major concern for Robinson but with the eagerly-anticipated five-Test series against Australia starting next month, he elected to have a pain-killing injection in the area.

“It’s similar to the one I had last year,” said Robinson, who struggled with a back problem during the 2021-22 Ashes. “I didn’t have a spasm, just the joint was getting slightly irritated.

“Last summer I let it go on and on, it took until June to be playing again. This year I thought I’d get it done as soon as possible and nip it in the bud.

“I don’t know many bowlers that don’t get jabs every year. It’s one of those things. I wanted to get on top of it before the Ashes, it feels really good now.”

Robinson’s contribution put Sussex in the driving seat – they closed on 63 for one before bad light brought an early end to the day – and, at this stage, he plans to play in the south coast club’s matches against Leicestershire and Glamorgan before linking up with England.

“I’m trying to peak for the Ashes, trying to get as many overs as possible between now and then,” added Robinson. “Three Sussex games and then the Ireland Test.

“I’m about 80 per cent, I’d say, there was a little bit of rustiness there, didn’t quite get my lengths right early on. But the wicket is quite helpful so when I did get it in the right area, they nicked it.”

Steve Smith was kept waiting for his first County Championship innings but had an excellent vantage point as Sussex team-mate Ollie Robinson ripped through Worcestershire.

The pair will be on opposing sides in this summer’s Ashes but are sharing a dressing room for now after Sussex somewhat controversially snapped up the former Australia captain for three Division Two matches.

He has been restricted to a fielding brief so far at New Road, watching from the slips and maybe making some mental notes as Robinson took top billing with seven wickets for 59 runs in Worcestershire’s 264 all out.

Robinson was nursing soreness in his back towards the end of England’s winter and this was just his second match of the season, but the seamer was a cut above as he took the first four wickets to fall.

Worcestershire recovered from 44 for five, with Adam Hose’s 59 followed by belligerent half-centuries down the order from Matthew Waite and Joe Leach, who put on 103 in 14.4 overs when Robinson was out of the attack.

But Robinson found the top of Waite’s off-stump for 59 from 54 deliveries in his first over back and then combined with Smith to remove Waite for a run-a-ball 53 as Worcestershire folded before Sussex closed on 63 for one at the end of the opening day, shortened by 21 overs because of bad light.

The expectation might have been on Sussex to bat first upon winning the toss under gloriously sunny skies but Cheteshwar Pujara’s decision to field was vindicated by Robinson’s opening burst of 7-0-30-4.

Ed Pollock collected an all-run four from the first ball of the day but another injudicious drive later in the over caught the outside edge and flew to Tom Clark, who moved across Smith to take the catch.

Azhar Ali, the ex-Pakistan skipper and jewel in Worcestershire’s crown, was caught on the crease and adjudged lbw by one angling into him while Jack Haynes, who bagged a pair against Gloucestershire last week, made just a single here before being squared up and nicking low to Tom Alsop at first slip.

Robinson had his and Sussex’s fourth when he snaked through a gap between Jake Libby’s bat and pad to uproot middle stump while Worcestershire were five down inside 50 minutes when captain Brett D’Oliveira was surprised by the extra bounce from Fynn Hudson-Prentice and an edge squirted to third slip.

Hose and Gareth Roderick settled once Robinson was withdrawn from the firing line, the pair putting on 92 either side of lunch, showing the kind of resistance that eluded those higher up the order.

Sean Hunt got a deserved wicket when Roderick feathered through to Oli Carter for 39 and the end looked nigh when Hose’s stumps were rearranged by Henry Crocombe’s precise yorker.

But Waite gave an indication of what was to come when he twice freed his arms off Hunt for leg-side sixes – another followed off Crocombe – while Leach found the boundary rope with regularity in a counter-attacking union that led to Pujara returning to Robinson sooner than may have been anticipated.

Robinson needed just six balls to break the enterprising stand, locating the top of off-stump to dismiss Waite, before Smith had his first tangible moment of the match when Leach was drawn into a stroke off the rampant bowler.

Last man Ben Gibbon lasted just two balls as he was pinned lbw to become Robinson’s seventh victim, with Worcestershire losing their final three wickets inside 13 deliveries.

Sussex openers Ali Orr and Clark showed better judgement than their Worcestershire counterparts, putting on 37 in gloomy conditions.

Clark was punished for driving loosely off Josh Tongue to depart for 12 but Orr was there on 37 not out, with Alsop unbeaten on 11, when the players came off under darkening skies.

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