IN his weekly column for one of the Sunday broadsheets, Mike Atherton, while praising the state of Yorkshire cricket right now, yesterday asked whether a full strength White Rose side featuring Joe Root, Gary Ballance et al would beat England in a Test match.
“It is by no means clear-cut who would win,” said the former England captain in answer to his own theoretical poser before adding: “That says a lot about Yorkshire, presently, and possibly quite a bit about England, too.”
Just a few hours after those words hit the nation’s breakfast tables, a Yorkshire side shorn of not only their trio of players on England duty at Headingley but also Adil Rashid and Tim Bresnan backed up Atherton’s view that cricket within the Broad Acres is in rude health by seizing the initiative at Edgbaston in impressive fashion on the opening day of their LV=County Championship clash.
“We have to be happy with how the first day went,” said Rich Pyrah, the pick of the Yorkshire attack on a day when Andrew Gale’s men finished 146 runs behind Warwickshire with eight first innings wickets in hand.
“It is a decent pitch so to bowl them out at tea was a really good effort. We got the ball swinging and I felt we bowled well. We never let them off the hook with a disciplined performance.
“Hopefully, we can get a decent score and put pressure on them. There are a few cracks already (in the pitch) so if we can score big then it will set us up nicely.”
When Jim Troughton won the toss and elected to bat, Yorkshire could have been forgiven for fearing the worst. The hosts had, with one glaring exception in their opening fixture of the season when routed for 87 in the first innings by Sussex, shown a predilection for batting at Edgbaston.
Two scores north of 450 and another of 322 was vivid proof of that and with bright sunshine beating down from a clear blue sky as Gale called incorrectly, Warwickshire will surely have fancied a repeat on a wicket situated so close to the Raglan Stand that the boundary was enticingly short.
Ninety minutes into the day, such optimism looked well-founded with Varun Chopra and Troughton having moved the total on to 64-1 with relative ease.
Steve Patterson had tempted an edge from Will Porterfield in the 10th over that Aaron Finch had pounced on marvellously to his left to dismiss the opener.
That apart, however, Warwickshire had looked comfortable and the Yorkshire attack seemed to be in for a long day in the field.
Then, though, came two devastating periods of bowling either side of the lunch interval that transformed the day’s play.
Pyrah was behind the first, eliciting sufficient movement off the pitch to cause Chopra to edge a simple chance to Jonny Bairstow. Two overs later, Troughton was also on his way after badly mis-judging another fine delivery from Pyrah that shattered his stumps.
With three wickets down at lunch and the blue sky having been replaced by threatening clouds, Yorkshire then showed little mercy in the first hour or so after the interval to leave their hosts reeling at 124-7.
Jack Brooks did the initial damage with two dismissals in as many deliveries, as, first, Sam Hain played rashly to flick the ball to Finch at first slip and then Chris Woakes did exactly the same to again find the Australian, who this time did a spot of impromptu juggling before gratefully grasping the ball to his chest.
Rikki Clarke survived Brooks’s attempted hat-trick ball but it was a short reprieve with the one-time England international being dismissed by Patterson the very next over as another rash shot saw the ball fly to first slip where Alex Lees, moved there after Finch had temporarily left the field with a sore groin, claimed a simple catch.
Lees was still standing in for the Australian when he took his second catch as Pyrah made Ambrose his third victim of an impressive shift.
At that stage, Warwickshire seemed on course to fall comfortably short of even one batting bonus point only for their tail to wag unexpectedly as Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel led an unlikely fightback.
Barker hit 36 before being out-foxed by debutant Karl Carver, the teenage left-arm spinner having been preferred to Azeem Rafiq in Rashid’s absence, as Finch, by now back on the field, took the catch at first slip.
“He has a lovely action and looks a proper spin bowler,” said Pyrah when asked about the 18-year-old.
“Let’s hope that wicket was the first of many.”
With Barker gone, Patel shifted quickly into all-out attack mode which meant when the resistance of both Chris Wright and Boyd Rankin had finally been broken, he had hit an unbeaten 63 from 67 deliveries.
In reply, Yorkshire lost Adam Lyth and Jack Leaning in quick succession during a testing spell from Woakes.
But Alex Lees and captain Gale steadied the ship and saw the visitors through to the close with an unbroken partnership of 45 to ensure Yorkshire finished the first day on top to vindicate Atherton’s praise in that morning’s Sunday Times.