FORGET The Hundred.
The 133rd Scarborough Festival is where it’s at – “proper crickeeet”, as Sir Geoffrey would say.
Two teams slugging it out in a County Championship match before a crowd that prizes the first-class game above all others.
And at a venue that positively oozes character, a timeless setting for a wonderful tournament.
In the eyes of most of the 4,984 present at North Marine Road, where Yorkshire are in control against bottom club Nottinghamshire, you can keep your 100-ball shenanigans, your city-based franchises, your unseemly player drafts and your forced razzmatazz.
You can stick them where the sun don’t shine – which it did on day two at Scarborough, once grey clouds had scuttled along on a freshening breeze. For, just as it has always been, the Scarborough Festival was the definition of “proper crickeeet”, a place of pilgrimage and annual worship.
If The Hundred is designed mainly for a different audience, one that probably thinks that “cricket” is a chirping insect, then one wonders whether it is an audience worth attracting – or whether more couldn’t have been done to maximise the popular T20 Blast.
The audience here – most of them probably too long in the tooth to care, and glad for that fact in this particular case – are watching a match in which Yorkshire are expertly turning the screw.
They seemed more screwed, so to speak, when they slipped to 38-5 in the first hour of the game, since when they have flexed their muscles impressively, recovering to 232 before dismissing Nottinghamshire for 184 and reaching 177-2 in their second innings, Adam Lyth (81) and Gary Ballance (52 not out) stretching the lead to 225.
Having played nicely on day one, when their first innings score stood at 41-0, Nottinghamshire have seemingly allowed their chance to slip and the opportunity of a first Championship win of the season to go with it too.
Yorkshire, in contrast, are pursuing an outside shot at the title; they need to win here to stay in the race, surely a formality from this position.
As well as Nottinghamshire played on that first day, and play well they did, one always sensed that their overnight 41-0 could quite easily turn into 141 all-out or something akin.
Chris Nash, the stand-in captain, is the only one of their top-order averaging more than 30 this season, and his score of 33 this time was bettered only by wicketkeeper Tom Moores, who top-scored with 48 from No 7. Other than that, Yorkshire knew that if they simply stayed patient, the wickets would come, and they came at a steady lick to secure a useful first-innings advantage.
No fewer than 120 of Nottinghamshire’s 184 runs came in boundaries, which summed up the slightly rabbits-in-headlights approach of a side that either hit out or got out, unable to do the ugly work needed in between.
In truth, Yorkshire’s first innings was nothing to write home about, rescued only by a century stand between Jonny Tattersall and Tim Bresnan. The highest partnership Nottinghamshire managed was 41 – by Ben Slater and Jake Libby for the first wicket, and by Moores and Luke Wood for the eighth.
Slater fell to the day’s first delivery, a fine inswinger to the left-hander from Ben Coad, which took the edge through to wicketkeeper Tattersall. Nash unfurled some handsome strokes from No 3, cover-driving and then punching Coad to the off-side boundary, as well as pulling Duanne Olivier for a powerful four.
But after Libby chopped on to Olivier trying to force to the off, Nash popped back a simple return catch to Olivier, an inexplicable misjudgment.
Joe Clarke did not linger, fourth out with the score on 94 when he followed one from Coad and was caught behind. Since scoring 112 and 97 not out against Yorkshire in the opening match of the season at Trent Bridge, Clarke has managed only 171 runs in 16 Championship innings at 10.68.
Liam Patterson-White, the 20-year-old left-arm spinner, was dropped on seven with the score on 116, Lyth failing to hold a sharp, high chance off Keshav Maharaj.
Patterson-White fought hard but was beaten so often by Steve Patterson that the Yorkshire captain should rightly have been up on an assault charge; time and again he went past the outside edge, the wry smiles of the bowler soon giving way to exasperated frowns, before Patterson eventually got one to take the outside edge.
Ben Duckett sent a ball from Maharaj over long-on and on to the red-bricked pavilion roof, before the spinner bowled him off his pad.
Moores struck three sixes to go with six fours in a sparkling cameo, falling to the first delivery after the briefest of rain interruptions, which broke his concentration as he was caught behind off Olivier, who also had Luke Fletcher skying to gully.
Olivier took 4-60 and Coad chipped in with 3-58, Coad also having Wood held at second slip by Lyth. Will Fraine was leg-before trying to work Fletcher to leg in the Yorkshire second innings before Lyth and Ballance added 108 in 29 overs.
Lyth swept to short fine-leg in the penultimate over, having faced 143 balls and hit 11 boundaries, while Ballance unveiled some sumptuous shots.
The Hundred is coming – but, to the joy of the Scarborough faithful, not just yet.