THE CRICKET season is almost two months old, but still no one seems nearer to “cracking the Coad”.
Ben Coad, the 23-year-old Yorkshire pace bowler, remains a mystery yet to be solved by batsmen up and down the land.
On the opening day of the Roses match, Lancashire’s finest looked as bemused as the rest have been as Coad captured a career-best 6-25 from 11.4 overs, his fourth five-wicket haul of what is fast becoming a stellar summer.
It helped to rout the visitors for 123 inside 44 overs after they had chosen to bat, Yorkshire responding with 93-2 to take a vice-like grip.
A few weeks ago, few people had heard of Coad outside his native Yorkshire.
Now, the young man’s name is spreading like wildfire through the county circuit.
Coad is now the leading wicket-taker in English first-class cricket this season with 32 at 13.71, one ahead of Kent’s Darren Stevens.
James Whitaker, the watching national selector, cannot fail to have been impressed as Coad went about his work beneath cloudy skies, while legendary umpire Dickie Bird, on a flying visit to the press box, upped the ante in unequivocal manner, asserting: “I’d pick him for t’first Test, me.”
After adding to his brace of five-wicket hauls against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, and another six-fer against Hampshire at Leeds, Coad reflected modestly on his best performance to date.
“It was swinging around and seaming, and the overcast conditions helped me out massively, but I’m personally very happy,” he said.
“It was a bit of a surprise when they chose to have a bat, and it was a good day for us overall.
“It’s a bit surreal at the moment from a personal point of view, but I worked very hard over the winter and hopefully I’ll just keep it going.
“There’s going to be times when it’s tough, so you’ve got to enjoy these moments as much as possible, and I’m just loving cricket at the minute.”
If no one has worked out Coad’s bowling so far this season, it is safe to say that no one has unravelled the mysteries of Ryan Sidebottom’s craft during his two decades at the top of the sport.
The 39-year-old got the ball rolling for Yorkshire yesterday after the opening session had been lost to rain, with play not starting until 1.10.
The left-armer took wickets with successive balls in the seventh over as Lancashire slipped to 18-2, Alex Davies popping one up to Alex Lees at point, and Luke Procter edging behind as he tried to withdraw his bat.
Sidebottom so nearly had a hat-trick, defeating Steven Croft’s outside edge with a fine ball that really deserved to end up on the mantelpiece.
Unchanged from the draw at Old Trafford in their previous Championship match, Yorkshire reduced the old enemy to 33-3 when Coad struck with his second ball after replacing Sidebottom at the Rugby Stand end.
It was a fine delivery that bounced, moved and left England batsman Haseeb Hameed, who edged to wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd.
Hameed’s last five first-class innings, in reverse order, are 9, 0, 7, 0, 0, a disappointing sequence ahead of next month’s Test series against South Africa.
However, dips in form are only to be expected for a 20-year-old, and it was only last August that Hameed struck two hundreds against Yorkshire in the game at Old Trafford.
With the first and last deliveries of his third over, Coad left Lancashire 47-5.
Croft, pushing forward, was lbw and Shivnarine Chanderpaul – perhaps lucky to survive a second-ball lbw shout when he shouldered arms to Coad – was caught in the cordon by Peter Handscomb.
When Coad had Dane Vilas caught down the leg-side, Lancashire were 48-6 and the young man had his first four wickets in the space of 18 balls at the cost of five runs.
After Jack Brooks trapped Jordan Clark lbw playing back, leaving the visitors 75-7, Coad took his sweater on figures of 7-2-16-4, returning on the stroke of tea after Sidebottom claimed the eighth wicket, Ryan McLaren lbw for the joint-highest score of 30.
Coad rounded things off soon after the break, having Tom Bailey caught at mid-wicket by Lees and Stephen Parry, who also hit 30, taken by Adam Lyth at second slip.
Bailey struck in the fifth over of Yorkshire’s reply when Lees was held in the gully, the bowler giving him an unnecessary send-off as he passed him on the pitch.
Handscomb arrived to stroke his first ball from Bailey to the cover boundary, the Australian settling down with Lyth to make sure that Yorkshire’s earlier good work did not go to waste.
Without injured bowlers James Anderson and Kyle Jarvis, Lancashire laboured, but they did get Handscomb for 33 when he was caught behind off Procter.
Lyth (40) and Gary Ballance were in situ when rain ended play at 6.25 with 8.2 overs left.