SOME things at Headingley never change: the endlessly interesting press box catering (yesterday’s juxtaposition was pickled onions and chocolate cake), the quirky characters who watch in the stands, and the unpredictable nature of the car park stewards.
But much of Headingley is changing fast due to the new floodlights (three of which are now in place, with the fourth due to go up on April 20) and because of the cable work going on to power those floodlights, which has led to so many trenches being dug that you half expect to bump into Blackadder and Baldrick as you stroll around the ground.
The stadium will look different again once the Dickie Bird-funded players’ balcony has been built, which the club say will hopefully go up either side of the Hampshire game starting on May 10, and which will complement the great man’s clock high above the West Stand. Headingley may only be an aesthetically pleasing ground to those who are easily pleased, but no one could accuse Yorkshire of standing still in their ongoing efforts to keep up with the Jones’s.
On the field, it is more a case of everyone trying to keep up with Yorkshire, who were comfortably the best side in the country last summer and proved it by winning the County Championship.
They are the bookmakers’ favourites to make off with the title again – even accounting for so many England call-ups, with practically the only Yorkie not selected for the ongoing West Indies tour being Dickie Bird himself, who turns 82 on Sunday week.
Anyone expecting a walk in the park against the Leeds-Bradford students, however, has received plenty of food for thought here (although thankfully not of the pickled onions and chocolate cake variety).
Yorkshire, as expected, have been the better side, but they have been given a stiff workout ahead of Sunday’s opening Championship game against Worcestershire at New Road.
As Leeds basked in weather said to have been hotter than that in Rome, Yorkshire closed day two on 126-6 in their second innings, a lead of 253.
Earlier, having scored 329-9 declared on the opening day, they reduced Leeds-Bradford from their overnight 46-0 to 202 all out, Jack Brooks leading the home side’s efforts with three wickets, and the magnificently-named Joe Ellis-Grewal leading those of the visitors with 42 from the No 10 position.
After Steve Bullen, the 22-year-old opening batsman making his first-class debut, hit Brooks for three boundaries in his first two overs, the students reached the promising platform of 62 before their first wicket fell.
Henry Thompson went lbw to Tim Bresnan, for whom it was a 400th wicket on his 142nd first-class appearance.
Bullen looked to attack at every opportunity, but Brooks had his revenge in his third over, the fifth of the morning, when he arrowed one through the young man’s defences. Brooks struck again shortly afterwards when he summoned just enough movement to find the outside edge of Logan Weston’s bat, the students losing their third wicket for four runs in 33 balls.
Billy Root, younger brother of Joe, battled for an hour in making 18 before he was cleaned up by Steve Patterson as Yorkshire exerted their authority.
A further two wickets went before lunch, Karl Carver having George Scott caught behind and Will Rhodes removing Harry Rouse in identical manner to leave the visitors 123-6.
Brooks was not out of the action for long and he claimed his third wicket shortly after the break when he trapped Chris Wakefield lbw.
The England Lions pace bowler then showed his fielding skills by running out Alex Lilley from mid-on, to where the former Yorkshire bowler had driven Carver.
Patterson pinned Liam Watkinson lbw and the innings ended when Ellis-Grewal – after some entertaining late hitting including a straight six off Carver – tried to reverse sweep Carver and was caught by Bresnan, who neatly anticipated the shot as he moved round from slip. Ellis-Grewal faced 64 balls and struck seven fours, while Carver and Patterson each finished with two wickets.
Leading by 127, Yorkshire lost their first wicket in the third over of their reply when Alex Lees went lbw to Lilley.
To these eyes, the batsman looked to be a fair way down the pitch and the ball seemed a little high, but the umpire, Tom Lungley, was much closer to the action.
Rhodes was bowled by a fine delivery from Ellis-Grewal, who backed up his batting with some probing left-arm spin, catching Dan Hodgson lbw. In the closing stages, Andrew Gale edged Rouse to second slip, Jack Leaning was caught in close on the off-side off the same bowler, and Ellis-Grewal removed Hodd lbw.