Yorkshire shine but forecast puts cloud over heads

A STRANGE yellow orb appeared in the sky at Headingley yesterday, approximately 93 million miles from the hallowed turf, to cast light on the second day of a match Yorkshire must win to maintain realistic hope of being promoted as champions.

The sun always shines on the righteous, of course, but not nearly often enough in God’s Own County this season – or any other county for that matter.

So woeful has been the weather during this summer of endless precipitation that the advent of good weather is headline news, as noteworthy as the significant 
accumulation of runs or wickets.

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But anyone tempted to favour sun cream over sou’westers at Leeds today should beware forecasts which suggest that conditions are set to revert to type and that the strange yellow orb may well be obscured by omnipresent rain clouds.

Yorkshire, who are probably fighting for the second and final promotion place unless they can conquer leaders Derbyshire and the elements this week, had the better of a day which they began on 127-2 in their first innings and ended having lifted that total to 420 and restricted Derbyshire to 28-1 in reply.

Anthony McGrath made his second Championship century of the season and Adam Lyth fell seven runs short of what would have been his second of the summer, while Gary Ballance chipped in with 79 and Andrew Hodd 58 on debut.

Yorkshire reached maximum batting points with three balls to spare, McGrath on-driving Tim Groenewald to bring up his hundred and the 400 total just inside the 110-over cut-off mark.

With bad weather forecast 
today, Yorkshire might have declared there and then but they opted to continue as the last five wickets fell for nine runs in 15 balls, Wes Durston returning a career-best 5-34.

Given the amount of rain that descended on Headingley on Wednesday afternoon, which limited play on the opening day to 30.1 overs, it was all credit to Andy Fogarty and his ground staff that the second day commenced on time.

Their overtime sheets must be enough to make the Yorkshire bean counters recoil in horror but they have performed magnificently this year and the home side were in a mood to ensure their efforts did not go to waste as they began the day in purposeful style.

Lyth, 60 overnight and Ballance, 11, continued to score at just over four an over, a run-rate that was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Lyth was particularly impressive, caressing Tony Palladino to the cover boundary and then driving the same bowler for four through mid-off, the ball making such a sweet sound off his bat that he might have been playing a Steinway piano.

Ballance, too, was expansive at times, cutting Groenewald fiercely to the boundary and then rocking back to punch David Wainwright’s first ball to the cover rope.

Wainwright, the former Yorkshire left-arm spinner, has played a key role in Derbyshire’s rise to the top of the table – earning himself a new four-year contract in the process.

But there was only limited turn on offer from the Rugby Stand end, and although Wainwright’s figures were economical enough, his former team-mates appeared largely untroubled.

It was only just under three weeks ago that Lyth made a career-best 248 not out at Leicester, and the left-hander looked set for another big one until he unaccountably perished not long before lunch.

When Ross Whiteley sent down a wide half-volley, Lyth chased it with the blind enthusiasm of a man pursuing an attractive woman and was caught at point by Matt Lineker.

Lyth’s dilatory walk off the field, accompanied by much floor-staring and shaking of the head, showed that he did not need to be told that he had got himself out rather than the other way round.

McGrath kept Ballance company until lunch, which Yorkshire took on 244-3, but Ballance was an early casualty after the interval when he pushed forward at Groenewald and was caught behind.

Derbyshire tightened their lines after the break and another wicket soon followed when Adil Rashid was bowled by Durston, who pedelled his off-spinners from the Kirkstall Lane end.

Enter Hodd, the 28-year-old wicketkeeper on loan from Sussex.

The compact right-hander got off the mark by cutting his fourth ball to the boundary off Durston and sensibly dropped anchor while McGrath played aggressor.

McGrath, stylish and authoritative, lofted Durston for six over long-on and played a number of handsome off-drives before he eventually holed out to backward-point after adding 131 with Hodd in 37 overs.

Hodd fell at deep mid-wicket, Tim Bresnan – released from England duty to replace Moin Ashraf – was caught at mid-on, Azeem Rafiq stumped and Ryan Sidebottom pouched at point. As the strange yellow orb moved closer to the horizon, Bresnan struck with the last ball of the day, pinning Derbyshire captain Wayne Madsen lbw.