SPECSAVERS County Championship favourites Yorkshire kicked off their bid for a third title in four seasons with a century from new captain Gary Ballance and five Hampshire wickets for Ben Coad as the new campaign got under way for 12 counties.

The White Rose, denied a hat-trick of championships on the final day of the 2016 season by Middlesex, were without rested England duo Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow and relied heavily on their former international colleague Ballance, who made 120 of his side's 273 all out at Headingley.

His was the only significant score in the innings as West Indian Fidel Edwards took three wickets and Kyle Abbott, the most high profile of the Kolpak contingent to arrive from South Africa this term, two for 64.

But Yorkshire's moderate total looked competitive when Coad, playing just his fourth first-class match after injuries to Jack Brooks, Liam Plunkett and Ryan Sidebottom, reduced the visitors to 58 for five.

The 23-year-old seamer shone bright in the evening session, taking out Michael Carberry, Jimmy Adams, James Vince, Sean Ervine and Rilee Roussouw in an emphatic spell of 8-2-18-5.

Surrey's Mark Stoneman had taken the spotlight earlier in the day, marking his first championship appearance since arriving from ailing Durham with the first ton of the season against Warwickshire.

The 29-year-old scored 165 and lasted 85.2 overs as the hosts piled on 327 for three, a scoreboard that will leave Bears skipper Ian Bell with plenty to ponder after he chose to field without a toss.

Rory Burns also weighed in with 71 in a 154-run opening stand with Stoneman, while Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara remains in position on 47.

At Chelmsford, Lancashire posted a battling 319 before grabbing a pair of important Essex wickets before the close.

A knock of 74 from another former Protea, Dane Vilas, was the standout in the Red Rose innings, with 47 from Test opener Haseeb Hameed, as the hosts made regular breakthroughs.

Neil Wagner and Aaron Beard shared six wickets before Kyle Jarvis and England's James Anderson picked up one each as Essex moved to 39 for two in a busy nine-over reply.

Division Two favourites Nottinghamshire dismissed Leicestershire, who were docked 16 points on the eve of the season on disciplinary grounds, for 251 at Grace Road.

A strike bowling duo worthy of a bigger stage, Stuart Broad and James Pattinson, took three wickets each but home skipper Mark Cosgrove, with 57, offered some resistance before departing to wicketkeeper Chris Read's 1000th first-class catch.

Nottinghamshire were 52 for one, Greg Smith undone by Zak Chappell.

Glamorgan won the toss and chose to bat at Northamptonshire only to be rolled over for 101.

At 26 for six, including four ducks, they were on course for even worse but Aneurin Donald (34) found sufficient support among the tail to help the Welsh side into three figures.

Northamptonshire made 268 for six as Rory Kleinveldt made an unbeaten 71 to go with bowling figures of three for 35.

At Canterbury, Kent were bowled out by Gloucestershire for 298.

Joe Denly and Darren Stevens made half-centuries before the latter returned with ball in hand to dismiss Gloucestershire opener Cameron Bancroft and leave the away team nine for one.