CHRIS Rushworth continued his stunning start to his Warwickshire career with another four wickets as Essex’s batting imploded on a rain-affected opening day of their County Championship match at Edgbaston.

Former Durham seamer Rushworth went into this game, his fifth for Warwickshire, with 22 wickets at 15.27 apiece and enhanced those figures further with four for 28 as Essex folded to 126 all out.

Rushworth delivered a triple-wicket maiden in the last over before tea to reduce Essex from a relatively healthy 76 for two to 76 for five. Olly Hannon-Dalby followed up in the final session with four for 21, taking him past 450 wickets in all formats.

Warwickshire then encountered turbulence of their own as they reached 17 for two at the close of a day which provided abundant drama and entertainment despite play not starting until 3pm due to rain.

After Warwickshire captain Will Rhodes won the toss for the first time this season, Essex’s batters found life difficult in damp, seamer-friendly conditions. Only skipper Tom Westley (47 from 94 balls) lasted more than an hour.

Both Essex openers fell to the new ball. Rushworth, fresh from his dazzling seven for 38 in Southampton last week, sent an inswinger into Alastair Cook’s pads to win an lbw decision.

Hasan Ali, recalled in place of the rested Chris Woakes, struck with his fifth ball when Nick Browne feathered a leg glance and wicketkeeper Michael Burgess took a fine catch, one-handed and at full stretch.

Westley and Dan Lawrence added 52 in 12 overs before Rushworth’s brilliant over sent the innings into ruin.

Lawrence chipped the first ball to extra over. Matt Critchley narrowly survived the second and third then edged the fourth to Rob Yates at slip. Michael Pepper fell lbw to the sixth.

It was bowling of a level of control, intelligence and potency which would not look out of place in an Ashes series.

Control, intelligence and potency are attributes which Hannon-Dalby’s work consistently displays and he heightened Essex’s distress in the last session with a burst of four for 10 in 28 balls.

Simon Harmer’s obdurate 39-ball resistance for three was ended by a spectacular rearrangement of furniture, Doug Bracewell edged to slip and Westley was caught at extra cover.

After Ali returned to trap Sam Cook lbw and Hannon-Dalby hit Shane Snater’s off stump, the last eight wickets had fallen for 50 runs in 19.2 overs. 

Essex inflicted immediate damage upon Warwickshire’s reply when Jamie Porter’s first ball trapped Yates in front.

Porter added a second wicket with the day’s final ball when Alex Davies edged to third slip to leave the visitors still right in the game despite their paltry first-innings total.