CHELMSFORD is not a place where a batsman comes to improve his average.
Yorkshire’s total was actually the highest by a visiting team at Chelmsford this summer, and they were the first visitors to achieve a batting point.Chris Waters
He is liable to relish the prospect with all the enthusiasm of a turkey contemplating the advent of Christmas.
“Oh, heck,” we’re playing at Chelmsford next week,” you can almost hear him saying.
“Bound to be a low-scoring game at that ground.”
Sure enough, the first day of this match followed the usual Chelmsford script.
Thirteen wickets fell as Yorkshire scored 208 after winning the toss, Essex replying with 122-3.
Yorkshire’s total was actually the highest by a visiting team at Chelmsford this summer, and they were the first visitors to achieve a batting point.
At a ground where eight of the nine completed first innings scores this season have been less than 250, and four of them under 200, they produced a relatively respectable performance; certainly a darn sight more respectable than they managed here in their first innings last year, when they were shot out for 50 before summoning a comeback win for the ages.
One of the main architects of that triumph was Harry Brook, then aged 19, whose second innings century remains the only one of his first-class career.
Recalled to the team yesterday in place of Jack Leaning, who was dropped after a pair last week against Surrey at Scarborough, Brook top-scored with 46 from No 5 having previously lost his place as opener to Will Fraine.
Brook, perhaps unusual in that he seems to enjoy batting at Chelmsford, appears more naturally suited to a middle order role; his willingness to use his feet to Essex’s chief weapon, the off-spinner Simon Harmer, was a particular feature of this innings.
Collectively, third-placed Yorkshire seemed to decide that attack was the best form of defence against the side directly above them in the table.
It seemed fair enough, given that there always seemed a ball around the corner with a batsman’s name on it, while Harmer’s threat is liable to be maximised if batsmen simply allow him to bowl at them with a crease-bound mentality.
Still Harmer claimed five wickets, his sixth “five-for” of the season, although he conceded 76 from 18.3 overs in which Matt Fisher, Keshav Maharaj and Ben Coad each struck him for a leg-side six.
Yorkshire rattled along at 4.2 runs per over, a reflection of their positive approach on a dry, competitive surface, if one already showing signs of variable bounce.
There was a bit of nibble at the outset, with Jamie Porter and Peter Siddle posing plenty of problems, and the cricket was always of compelling character.
Lyth was first out on a day that dawned sunny but which grew increasingly overcast to the extent that the final exchanges were played out beneath floodlights.
The left-hander had just survived a vociferous appeal for caught behind off Porter when he slapped the next ball into the hands of point, banging his bat in frustration as he left the scene.
Gary Ballance fell in strange fashion, losing his leg stump as he stepped too far across to the offside against Siddle, while Fraine was undone pushing forward at a Porter delivery that took the edge, ending an eventful innings of 29 from 33 balls with six fours.
Tom Kohler-Cadmore cut and on-drove a couple of handsome boundaries before becoming the first of Harmer’s victims from the River End, trapped playing back to a ball that turned and did not get up, the South African’s 50th Championship wicket this season.
Thanks to Brook and Jonny Tattersall, who played very well and also very positively against pace and spin alike, Yorkshire had advanced from 69-4 to 128-4 as lunch loomed.
Then Brook fell to the final ball of the session, bowled as he pushed forward at Harmer, and seemingly defeated on his outside edge, with Tattersall’s dismissal to the seventh delivery after the break, caught behind as he tried to cut Harmer, leaving Yorkshire rather less well-off at 129-6.
Fisher, playing his first match of the season after back and thumb injuries, is not a batsman to be underestimated, adding a useful 48 for the seventh wicket with Maharaj.
Maharaj fell lbw trying to sweep Harmer, and after Steve Patterson was bowled by one from Siddle that kept low and Coad magnificently caught by wicketkeeper Adam Wheater flying to his right off Aaron Beard, Fisher was last out when he tried to sweep Harmer and was lbw.
When Essex replied, Fisher took a quite brilliant catch off his own bowling to dismiss Nick Browne, flinging himself forward full-stretch to claim the ball left-handed millimetres from the turf when the batsman popped it into the onside.
Patterson found Alastair Cook’s outside edge and Duanne Olivier had Dan Lawrence pushing tamely to mid-wicket, but Tom Westley made an unbeaten 52 from 110 balls with eight fours to leave Essex - without the unwell Ravi Bopara for this game - the happier at this stage.