Beaming Yorkshire take the first-day honours

Adil Rashid
Adil Rashid
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THE sun shone on Mark Arthur’s first day as Yorkshire’s chief executive and, for much of the time, on the fortunes of the Yorkshire cricket team too.

There was the occasional cloud on their horizon before lunch as they slipped to 75-4 after winning the toss, their top-order frailties once more exposed.

But the afternoon brought wall-to-wall to sunshine – if not quite literally, then certainly in a run-scoring sense – as Adil Rashid and Gary Ballance batted throughout the session with sumptuous style.

And the evening elicited further rays of satisfaction as Rashid went on to 120 not out, his first century since August 2009, and Ballance to 107, the pair sharing a stand of 207 – Yorkshire’s eighth-highest for the fifth wicket and their highest for that wicket at Headingley.

While Arthur reiterated his vision for Yorkshire’s future off-the-field during a lunchtime press conference, which included his ambition to turn Headingley into “one of the top four Test grounds in the country”, the outlook was no less positive on the pitch as Yorkshire embarked on the post-Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow era with aplomb.

The talented duo, who are unavailable for the foreseeable future due to England and England 
Lions’ commitments, leave a hole in the Yorkshire side as great as if a stick of dynamite had been placed in the dressing room.

But after Yorkshire initially struggled on a good batting pitch, failing to counter some disciplined bowling, they were indebted to another ‘R’ and ‘B’ surname combination as Rashid and Ballance batted them out of bother.

Rashid scored his runs from 209 balls with 20 fours, while Ballance faced 197 deliveries and struck 13 boundaries, the pair helping Yorkshire to 332-5.

Although Ballance’s star has been steadily on the rise, which led to him being named in England’s provisional 30-man Champions Trophy squad, that of Rashid has been increasingly on the wane.

The leg-spinner made the last of his five one-day international and five Twenty20 international appearances back in 2009 and has dropped so far off the England radar that he has practically been visible only through a telescope.

But in front of national selector Geoff Miller and fellow selector James Whitaker, the 25-year-old showed glimpses of the quality for which he was initially chosen by Yorkshire in 2006 – that of his ability to brandish the bat.

For it was primarily as a batsman, rather than as a wrist-spinner, that Rashid was selected to make his first-class debut against Warwickshire at Scarborough, and it is as a batsman that he still has so much untapped potential – potential that Somerset will be hoping to quickly see the back of today.

As the epitome of a “confidence player”, the sort who can get down on himself as easily as he can feel good about his skills, Rashid would benefit from having an extended run in the Yorkshire top-six.

His position here at No 6 would seem about right for him and it appeared to get him thinking as a frontline batsman – as opposed to one with less responsibility on his shoulders lower down the list.

He certainly looked the part yesterday, treating a good-sized crowd to an array of wristy flicks and flourishing drives, a number of them met delightfully on the up.

Ballance, for his part, was classical and composed; the left-hander is the sort of batsman who never seems in particular strife at the crease, the sort who keeps the scoreboard ticking over as surely as if he was operating the levers himself.

How Yorkshire – minus pace bowler Ryan Sidebottom, who withdrew through sickness – were indebted to the two of them after the day began with familiar causes for concern.

Adam Lyth was caught behind from the fourth ball of the morning, bowled by Peter Trego, who then had Joe Sayers caught behind for a single to leave Yorkshire 17-2 after 45 minutes.

Phil Jaques and Andrew Gale steadied the ship with a stand of 54 in 13 overs before Gale was superbly caught by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, diving to his left, off Alfonso Thomas.

Gale’s dismissal for 17 continued a disappointing sequence that had brought the captain scores of 0, 9 not out, 2, 3, 25, 39 and 5 in first-class matches this season.

Jaques, badly dropped on 22 by – of all people – Marcus Trescothick at second slip off Trego, fell one run short of a half-century when Trescothick claimed a much simpler catch in the same position off Steve Kirby, the former Yorkshire pace bowler who produced a typically wholehearted effort.

Somerset were firmly in charge at that point, but Ballance and Rashid batted with great determination to wrest back control.

Ballance fell lbw to Kirby 10 overs out but, as the sun sank low over the West Stand, it was Yorkshire who were left dreaming of a third victory in four Championship games.