Yorkshire in control after early strikes in Roses duel

IT is 12 years since Yorkshire won a County Championship game against Lancashire, a sequence that spans 12 draws and three defeats.

Ryan Sidebottom was in fine form for Yorkshire at Old Trafford, taking 3-42 against Lancashire.

There could be no better chance to break the cycle, with the White Rose pushing for the Championship title and the Red Rose languishing just above the relegation zone.

On paper, this match – the 255th Roses encounter – is the easiest of Yorkshire’s remaining fixtures, with a trip to second-placed Nottinghamshire followed by a visit from fourth-placed Somerset to Leeds.

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Yorkshire can certainly be pleased with their start here, dismissing Lancashire for 278 after losing the toss before reaching 61-0 in reply.

Nottinghamshire, six points behind Yorkshire going into the game, are in action at Chester-le-Street against Durham, whom they ejected for 253 before ending day one on 66-4.

Warwickshire, the only other side that can realistically challenge, and who trailed Yorkshire by 21 points ahead of this round, are 338-6 against Middlesex at Lord’s.

Doubtless there will be plenty more pendulum swings between now and season’s end.

Suffice to say Yorkshire are in pole position and have no intention of relinquishing their grip.

There can not have been many – if, indeed, any – more dramatic starts to a Roses game than that witnessed here on a sunny, windswept Sunday.

After three balls of the match, Lancashire were 0-2, Ryan Sidebottom’s second delivery swinging back into the pads of the right-handed Paul Horton and his third shaping away from the left-handed Usman Khawaja before taking the edge on its way to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.

Khawaja’s wicket – Sidebottom’s 650th in first-class cricket on his 200th appearance – came during an outstanding spell by the left-arm pace bowler from the Statham end.

Lancashire’s riposte was equally impressive, opener Luis Reece and South African Ashwell Prince taking the fight to a visiting attack shorn of Tim Bresnan, who failed an 11th-hour fitness test on a pectoral muscle and was replaced by Rich Pyrah.

While Reece, the 24-year-old left-hander formerly with Leeds-Bradford MCCU, dropped anchor, Prince batted more like a speedboat in a James Bond film.

The 37-year-old left-hander, who is expected to retire at the end of the summer, counter-attacked impressively against inconsistent bowling, with the exception of Sidebottom and the probing Steve Patterson.

Prince plundered eight boundaries in a 57-ball fifty, reached with a swept four off Adil Rashid, who summed up Yorkshire’s curate’s egg display with the ball.

Just when a decent recovery was threatening to become something rather more, Prince undid his hard work when he tried a silly reverse-sweep off Rashid half-an-hour before lunch and was bowled, Prince betraying his frustration as he stormed off swishing his bat after a stand of 96 with Reece in 23 overs.

Yorkshire should have had a fourth wicket before lunch but Steven Croft was dropped by Kane Williamson at third slip off Pyrah, a straightforward chance moving to his left.

There was time before the sandwiches for Reece to reach a half-century from 90 deliveries with nine boundaries, Lancashire dining on 121-3.

Having struck with his second ball of the morning, Sidebottom pounced with his second delivery of the afternoon too, trapping Reece with another full ball.

So confident was Sidebottom he had his man, he did not even bother to look around behind him at umpire Steve O’Shaughnessy as he appealed and celebrated in the same motion.

Croft, always a dangerous customer, looked set to make Williamson pay for his dropped catch but the damage was not as great as it might have been, the right-hander fifth out at 169 when Jack Brooks had him lbw for 38.

It was the first ball of Brooks’s ninth over, his first eight overs having cost 51, but after Pyrah had Alex Davies caught by a diving Jack Leaning at cover, Brooks came back strongly after his disappointing start.

The pace man had Stephen Parry lbw and Tom Smith caught behind for the top score of 57, in the process leapfrogging Smith –who is struggling with a back injury – to return to the top of the First Division’s leading wicket-taker’s list, with 55 at 29.23.

Rashid bowled an advancing Glen Chapple and rounded off the innings by having Simon Kerrigan well caught by Alex Lees at long on running back over his shoulder.

Yorkshire, who would have bowled had they won the toss, and who may have to bat last on a pitch already taking turn, accumulated nicely in the evening shadows.

Adam Lyth took 10 runs off the first over, bowled by Chapple, as he looked to increase his own advantage at the top of the First Division’s leading run-scorer’s chart.

Chapple’s opening partner was T.E. Bailey, no relation of the legendary Essex and England all-rounder.

A powerfully-built 23-year-old who bowls right-arm fast-medium, Tom Bailey kept things relatively tight in only his third first-class game, although Lees punched him for a glorious straight boundary towards the media centre and then eased him for four through the covers in the direction of the old press box.