Yorkshire CCC v Hampshire: Silence of crowd tells its own story as Yorkshire recover after early travails at the coast
Slowly, inexorably, the gentle hum of conversation in the stands descends into silence, broken only by seagull cries high above the ground.
Suddenly, even in a crowd of a couple of thousand spectators, one is able to hear a pin drop in between the screeches and the squawks.
At such times, the gulls seem to gather in number and circle the venue with greater intensity, as if they instinctively sense there is trouble at t’mill.
There was certainly trouble at t’mill yesterday, where Yorkshire crashed to 33-6 after choosing to bat. Only the advent of rain at that stage, after 90 minutes and 21.2 overs of excellent bowling from the second-placed visitors, brought respite for the hosts and the chance to regroup.
An early lunch was taken, the game resumed immediately thereafter and the picture was transformed as Yorkshire recovered to 149-6. Although they they then slipped back to 158-8 before further rain made play impossible after tea, Yorkshire’s position was happier than had hitherto seemed likely, albeit far from cheerful per se as seagulls pecked away at the detritus left by a crowd of 2,254.
The architects of Yorkshire’s revival on a day blown along by a brisk breeze but not without sunshine, which came and went on a taunting whim, were Will Fraine and Dom Bess, who added 116 for the seventh-wicket in 30 overs.
They make for an ideal pairing in many ways - Fraine, tall and correct and a purveyor of classical strokes, along with those of brute force; Bess, a little less tall but a different sort of player - punchy, instinctive, as pesky as a fly. They are the type of cricketers that you want in a fight and both showed patience as well as skill.
Fraine, who witnessed the collapse at close quarters and was lucky not to join it when Joe Weatherley shelled him at third slip off Keith Barker when his score was one and Yorkshire were 10-3, had faced 59 balls for six runs when the first rain fell, emphasising his tenacity as well as the challenge.
It was a challenge because Hampshire’s bowlers provided an object lesson in how to locate a consistent line and length. There were no freebies on offer, no profusion of no-balls such as those dished up by Shannon Gabriel, who was not even picked for what should have been the third and final game of his short-term deal with Yorkshire, a damning indictment if ever there was one. Instead, an attack led by Mohammad Abbas, Barker and Kyle Abbott was unrelenting.
Perhaps the most telling example was that the first authentic boundary was not scored until just before the first rain delay, Matty Revis milking Abbott for a lovely cover-drive that zipped across the turf towards the white marquee. But, two balls later, Revis was gone, defending the same bowler to fourth slip, which left the hosts in their 33-6 predicament.
None of the batsmen dismissed had reached double figures, Yorkshire perhaps regretting their decision to bat against a high-class line-up that extracted what help there was from a surface that looked to have less grass than normal, and beneath overheads more in favour of the bowlers.
The procession started in the opening over when George Hill was undone by a full-length ball from Barker that swung back into him from the Trafalgar Square end.
Adam Lyth fell in the second over, playing-on to Abbas as he tried to leave a full-ish delivery outside off stump, then Tom Kohler-Cadmore was plumb lbw pushing forward to Abbas (8-3).
Jonny Tattersall left one from Abbass that came back and bowled him (20-4), and then Matthew Waite edged a loose drive off Abbott to third slip (25-5).
At 33-6, the record books were starting to be thumbed, but it was a different story when play resumed. Fraine took three fours in quick succession off Ian Holland, two punched through point, the other played through mid-wicket, and Bess showed his timing when whipping Abbott to the square-leg boundary, at which point the gentle hum of conversation had just started to return.
Both batsmen perished just before tea, Fraine somehow miscuing a pull from Abbott out to third slip, having scored 53 from 138 balls with six fours.
Bess then edged Abbott to second slip having struck 67 from 105 deliveries with eight fours.