Warwickshire v Yorkshire: In-form Rashid puts Yorkshire in control against champions

YORKSHIRE’s task at the start of the second day’s play was simple: to bat for the whole of the day or a significant part of it.
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MAY 16: Gary Ballance of Yorkshire looks on as he is dropped by Varun Chopra of WarwickshireBIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MAY 16: Gary Ballance of Yorkshire looks on as he is dropped by Varun Chopra of Warwickshire
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MAY 16: Gary Ballance of Yorkshire looks on as he is dropped by Varun Chopra of Warwickshire

The successful realisation of that objective would lead to the successful realisation of a sizeable lead.

They performed the task with admirable efficiency.

They are well-placed to beat the defending champions.

In gentle winds and glorious sunshine, Yorkshire resumed on 11-0 having dismissed Warwickshire for 128 on a rain-affected first day.

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Liam Plunkett’s maiden five-wicket haul for the club in Championship cricket, allied to splendid bowling from fellow pace men Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Patterson, belied the fact that this is more of a 300 pitch – not the negligible figure that Warwickshire managed.

There was perhaps a bit less in it for the bowlers yesterday – 
Warwickshire’s were certainly not able to make the ball swing around as Yorkshire’s had done – but it was still a surface on which batsmen had to proceed with appropriate vigilance and on which variable bounce has now become visible.

Yorkshire advanced to a closing total of 318-7 by virtue of steady accumulation and partnership building, in the process establishing a position from which the home side will do well to extricate themselves.

Those partnerships were not enormously sizeable but they were consistently solid and, in the context of the conditions and the overall contest, of a variety that should – weather-permitting – result in a third win for Yorkshire in five Championship games.

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Gary Ballance and Adil Rashid added 78 for the fifth wicket, Adam Lyth and Joe Sayers 77 for the first, and Rashid and Tim Bresnan 75 for the seventh.

In contrast, Warwickshire’s highest stand was 40 for the seventh wicket between Jim Troughton and Tom Milnes, and the home team were unable to exert sufficient pressure on the Yorkshire attack.

That Ballance and Rashid should share the highest stand of the match so far was no great surprise to those of a White Rose affinity.

They are the in-form batsmen in the Yorkshire team and they went into this game on the back of morale-boosting centuries in the previous Championship match at home to Somerset – in Rashid’s case, a career-best effort of 180.

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Ballance, who scored 107 against the West Countrymen, recorded his first Championship hundred for Yorkshire in the corresponding game at Edgbaston in 2011.

On that occasion, he shared a sixth-wicket stand of 188 with Rashid, who contributed 82, so the pair had happy memories of this venerable ground.

Rashid top-scored again yesterday, striking an unbeaten 68 from 104 balls with eight fours to continue his eye-catching start to the summer.

Signs of increasing maturity and contentment on-and-off the field have underpinned a run of form that would suggest he has now officially emerged from a dispiriting slump in his still-youthful career.

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Rashid’s leg-spin bowling has looked more questioning than it has for some time, despite the unfavourable early-season conditions, but it is his batting that has got the pundits purring and the plaudits flowing.

This latest effort lifted him to 359 Championship runs for the season at an average of 179.50, and although that average is bound to drop off at some point, there is no reason why his general form should, or indeed any suggestion of it doing so.

On the contrary, Rashid simply picked up from where he left off against Somerset, dispatching bad balls with typically wristy aplomb and defending good ones with the technique and tenacity of a top-order player.

When Rashid came to the crease with the score 147-4 in the 55th over, Yorkshire were not exactly reeling but they were in need of a stabilising stand after Warwickshire had dislodged Andrew Gale.

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The Yorkshire captain was magnificently caught one-handed at slip by Rikki Clarke off the New Zealand off-spinner Jeetan Patel for 40 and, with Patel having also had Phil Jaques caught behind, Warwickshire just had a glimmer of a chance to claw their way back into the match.

It was effectively ended – or at least one would suspect so now – by Rashid and Ballance, who displayed the necessary concentration and composure to reduce the threat of a home fightback.

Earlier, Lyth and Sayers were watchful against probing bowling, Lyth caressing the occasional cover-driven boundary and Sayers dropping anchor in a manner perfectly suited to the job at hand.

Both openers fell in the final 15 minutes before lunch, Lyth swatting Boyd Rankin to Milnes at point, who had moments earlier dropped him in the same position off Clarke.

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Sayers edged behind in Rankin’s next over having grafted two hours and 15 minutes for 24 runs from 97 balls, 36 of which he left alone – a statistic that suggested Warwickshire perhaps bowled a touch too wide to him at times.

Gale attacked at every opportunity and twice rode his luck; Darren Maddy put him down at point off Chris Woakes when he had scored 14, while Woakes caught him at long-leg off Rankin only for the fielder’s momentum to carry the ball over the rope.

Ballance made 52 from 104 balls with 10 fours, his innings ended when Patel suddenly turned one square to remove the off bail.

Andrew Hodd fell cheaply when Woakes pinned him lbw in the first over with the second new ball but Bresnan, who replaced Rich Pyrah after being released from Test duty at Lord’s, ensured the good work did not go to waste, scoring 38 before he was caught behind off Rankin in the penultimate over.