YORKSHIRE are in the rare position of having their strongest batting line-up available in this match.
So it was perhaps inevitable, in a Sod’s Law kind of way, that it struggled at the Ageas Bowl on Saturday.
Replying to Hampshire’s 455 all-out, Yorkshire lost half their team for 46 as Alex Lees fell for nought, Adam Lyth for eight, Joe Root for eight, Peter Handscomb for one and Jonny Bairstow for seven.
Only Gary Ballance, with a comparatively colossal 63 not out, stopped the rot as Yorkshire reached 128-6 by stumps, with Tim Bresnan (21) the other man to fall.
No matter the quality of personnel in their side, with Root and Bairstow making their first appearances of the season, it seems that Yorkshire’s batting remains a work in progress.
For the past couple of seasons, the club have made no secret of the fact that they are not happy with the collective contributions of leading players, even if they have all shone individually at various times.
Although it is still early days in the new campaign, the club are anxious for a return to the consistency of 2014, when they regularly posted sizeable totals.
The fulfilment of that objective could well be key to their hopes of reclaiming the title, currently on ‘loan’ at rivals Middlesex.
When Yorkshire finally began their first innings after tea on day two, there were perhaps some tired minds as well as tired bodies within their ranks.
Hampshire’s last three wickets had added 153 – Gareth Berg finishing undefeated on 99 – after the hosts had slipped to 302-7 from their overnight 281-4. Once again, Ben Coad, the 23-year-old pace man, was the pick of the Yorkshire attack, finishing with 4-71 from 30 overs.
Otherwise, the visitors toiled in the absence of injured trio Jack Brooks, Ryan Sidebottom and Liam Plunkett.
The contrast between Yorkshire’s hard-working bowling effort and Hampshire’s incisive one was highlighted when Berg and Kyle Abbott produced devastating new-ball spells. There was simply not a moment’s respite for the batsmen as they reduced Yorkshire to 19-4 inside 13 overs.
Lees was trapped lbw by Berg; Lyth played on to Berg as he defended indeterminately off the back foot; Root followed a delivery from Berg that rose on him outside off-stump and drew an edge behind, and Handscomb was trapped lbw by Abbott.
It seemed as though Handscomb was unfortunate, the Australian appearing to get his pad outside the line of off-stump, but the wicket was no more than Abbott deserved after he had given Ballance, in particular, a tough working over.
Bairstow has long been a man for a crisis, but not even he can do it every time. The England wicketkeeper was fifth out when he tried to turn Brad Wheal through mid-wicket and was trapped lbw.
Ballance and Bresnan added 48 for the sixth wicket in 12 overs before Bresnan hung out his bat at one from Berg and was adjudged caught behind. Ballance fought hard after his testing start, Adil Rashid ending unbeaten on 16.