ANYONE who watched Jack Brooks tear through the Northamptonshire batting line-up yesterday could have been forgiven for thinking he had left Wantage Road under something of a cloud.
“The Headband Warrior”, as he is affectionately known, looked like a man with a point to prove en route to figures of 5-36.
Nothing, however, could have been further from the truth.
Brooks left for Yorkshire in the most amicable circumstances in 2012 – so much so that David Smith, the Northamptonshire chief executive, described him as “a lovely lad” during an afternoon visit to the press box.
It was a nice compliment by Smith, who saw his side blown away by the 29-year-old right-armer in one of his characteristically explosive bursts.
In tandem with Ryan Sidebottom, who took 4-16, Brooks highlighted the gulf in class between the divisions as newly-promoted Northamptonshire were dismissed for 94 – their lowest total against Yorkshire for 43 years – after the home team had lifted their overnight 328-7 to 459-9 declared.
Bad light denied Brooks further reward after Yorkshire enforced the follow-on. The early finish preventing the Northamptonshire second innings from getting under way, wiping out the final session and the outside possibility of a two-day finish.
Only more bad weather seems likely to prevent Yorkshire’s first County Championship victory of the season.
Rain is forecast for today and, to a lesser extent, for tomorrow, but, considering that the Northamptonshire first innings lasted just 30 overs, Yorkshire have no recourse to a rain dance yet.
“I’d back us to bowl them out in two sessions on the last day if we have to,” said Brooks, whose figures were his best for Yorkshire in the Championship. “I think it’s going to be a challenging year for them; they’re going to have to graft and work hard, which I know they will, and we’re not the sort of side that lets teams off the hook.
“I really enjoyed my time at Northants, but the way this game has gone has kind of justified my move to Yorkshire.
“It’s a great club to be a part of, and a few years of playing for Yorkshire at Headingley in a good era for Yorkshire cricket would be something to look back on with great pride.”
Before Brooks went about his blistering work, the first part of the day belonged to Gary Ballance.
The England left-hander, 117 overnight, advanced to 174, his highest score for the club and his second-highest in first-class cricket behind his 210 for Zimbabwe franchise Mid West Rhinos against Southern Rocks at Masvingo in 2011.
Ballance’s last seven scores in first-class cricket for Yorkshire are 90, 148, 108*, 101, 77, 5 and this latest effort.
If he is not in Peter Moores’s England team for the first Test against Sri Lanka at Lord’s on June 12, then Moores should really be relieved of his duties for a second time.
Beneath sunny skies, Ballance was quickly into his stride, on-driving Mohammad Azharullah to the foot of the Rugby Stand.
His batting partner, Sidebottom, had an early scare, being struck on the helmet by a short delivery from Azharullah and requiring treatment for a cut above his right ear.
Sidebottom shrugged off that blow to provide further support for Ballance, who reached his maiden 150 for Yorkshire from 235 balls.
He got there with an extraordinary uppercut for six over third man off Steven Crook, who looked around helplessly as if to say, “What can you do?”
Sidebottom fell with the total at 396, bowled by James Middlebrook, ending a stand of 72 with Ballance in 24 overs.
Ballance went two runs later, lbw to Hall, having faced 256 balls and hit 25 fours and two sixes, the eighth lbw victim of the innings to equal the record in first-class matches, which has now been done eight times.
Brooks and Steve Patterson added 61 for the tenth wicket from just 62 balls, Brooks’s unbeaten 37 his highest score for the county and including a magnificent lofted straight four off Maurice Chambers and a hooked six off the same bowler.
Brooks landed the first blow in the Northamptonshire reply when he bowled Middlebrook in the fourth over. Stephen Peters was lbw to Sidebottom, who had Kyle Coetzer caught at second slip as Northamptonshire slipped to 27-3.
After a spell of 5-1-17-1 from the Kirkstall Lane end, Brooks switched to the Rugby Stand end, where he returned figures of 7-1-19-4. Watched by his parents, Brooks had Rob Newton – one of his best friends – caught behind from one of the best balls he can ever have bowled, one Newton did well to edge as it shaped away and left him.
Brooks had Andrew Hall caught at third slip, David Willey held in the gully and Crook caught at backward-point to complete his five-fer.
Liam Plunkett had David Murphy caught behind before Sidebottom ended the innings with two wickets in successive balls, bowling Chambers with one that kept low and having Azharullah caught at first slip.