Rudolph impresses despite no fairytale return to Headingley

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THE homecoming was sweet rather than spectacular.

Jacques Rudolph, delighted to be back at the ground where he spent five years playing for Yorkshire, managed only 19 runs in the South Africa first innings.

So fluent and flowing in his time with the county, Rudolph was yesterday unusually becalmed.

He faced 74 balls and batted for nine minutes short of two hours; only three boundaries came off a normally punishing blade.

Rudolph, however, played a laudable hand. His innings, allied to that of Alviro Petersen, ensured the hard work of the opening day did not go to waste as South Africa constructed a commanding total.

Had the left-hander not shown such patience, England might have got back into the game.

As it was, Rudolph helped weather some probing bowling at the start of the day when batsmen of lesser pedigree might have crumpled in a heap.

England’s tactic to Rudolph was to consistently bowl short.

There was talk of an issue against the bouncer at the start of his career, but not once did he submit to the overcooked bait. Rudolph simply swayed out of danger and got his bat out the way.

He was not for intimidating on the overcast morning. It took a full-length ball to remove him just before lunch – to the relief of most of a capacity crowd.

Most, but not all ...

During his time with Yorkshire, Rudolph built up a bank of goodwill in his adopted county.

Some would have liked nothing more than to watch him assemble a sizeable total; perhaps even a seventh century in his 45th Test.

If that is to come, however, it must come later in the match.

There was no fairytale return on this Headingley Friday.

A man who scored 5,429 runs in 68 first-class games for Yorkshire at 52 did not pull up trees on this occasion – merely ruffled a few branches and shook a few leaves.

But he is a player transformed from the one who arrived at Headingley in 2007, a player whose time at Yorkshire helped inspire a second coming on the international stage.