Yorkshire v Essex (day 2): Dom Bess of both worlds – he can bat as well as bowl

Dom Bess acknowledges the Headingley crowd after making 91 not out for Yorkshire against Essex (Picture: Dave Williams).
Dom Bess acknowledges the Headingley crowd after making 91 not out for Yorkshire against Essex (Picture: Dave Williams).
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YOUNG DOM Bess deserved a hundred.

He had played so well, showing some of his top-order colleagues how it should be done, but was left stranded on 91 when last man Duanne Olivier showed how it should not be done, sending a loose drive into the hands of second slip.

Little blame could be attached to Olivier, however; he is here to take wickets and, on the evidence of his helmet-clanging performances so far, to frighten the living bejeebers out of batsmen in the process.

But Bess, the 21-year-old off-spinner who is also here to take wickets on a one-month loan from Somerset, just happens to be a fine batsman too; he was one short of his County Championship best – for Somerset against Hampshire at Taunton in May last year – when Yorkshire were dismissed for 390, Essex reaching 18-1 before rain washed out the final 59.1 overs of day two, the sky more reminiscent of January than June.

Whether Bess’s loan gets extended and/or his move made permanent (he still has a year left on his contract at Taunton, where he is behind Jack Leach in the pecking order) remains to be seen.

Andrew Gale, the Yorkshire first-team coach, was not exactly equivocal when he said the other day, “I’d love to sign him”, with Bess due to return to his parent club following next week’s match against Surrey at Guildford.

But one can see why Yorkshire are so keen, for not only has the 21-year-old bowled respectably to date, but he balances the batting at No 8.

It was a proper tribute to his innings that Bess looked more accomplished than some of the batsmen who had gone before him, with middle-to-lower-order runs vital for a side that still cannot always rely on its top-six.

The way that Bess, tall and Exeter-born, sets himself at the crease puts one in mind of Yorkshire and England’s Jonny Bairstow.

He holds his bat aloft as the bowler runs in – most players tap theirs against the ground –and although comparisons with Bairstow naturally end there, for there is only one YJB (Young Jonny Bairstow), as they say in these parts, the great man would have been proud of some of the shots that Bess played yesterday, blending elastic power with textbook style.

Two shots, in particular, stick in the memory; a thunderous whip to the mid-wicket rope off Sam Cook, and a fizzing on-drive off the same bowler to the Carnegie Pavilion.

Doubtless those present and Bess himself will have their own favourites; there were certainly plenty to choose from during a 180-ball innings that contained 15 boundaries.

Bess, who resumed on 30 out of 289-6 overnight, having shared an unbroken 37 with wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall (20), actually has a first-class hundred to his name – 107 against this week’s opponents in the Champion County match for MCC in Barbados in March last year.

Yorkshire’s Matthew Fisher played in that game, and Bess also took 6-51 in the second innings to go with 2-57 in the first as MCC won by an innings and 34 runs, proof positive of his all-round capabilities.

It will be remembered, too, that Bess hit 49 against Pakistan on his second and last Test appearance to date at Headingley last summer, also returning 3-33 after striking 57 on his debut at Lord’s.

If Yorkshire could grab him permanently (a tall order, perhaps) it would be the sort of business that helps to win silverware.

“I would love to have got my second first-class hundred, my first in the Championship, but that’s how it goes,” said Bess.

“I never felt in. It was still doing a bit, and I nicked a couple. You have to ride your luck sometimes.

“It was nice to be in there facing a lot of balls and just playing cricket.

“We’ve still got two full days, and I think we’re in a very good position.”

Bess received excellent support from the lively Tattersall, another who loses nothing in comparison to some recognised batsmen.

Tattersall made the early running yesterday after Essex began with three maidens beneath overcast skies, with the gloomy weather forecast suggesting that spectators would see much less cricket than they ultimately watched, which was a smidgeon over a session’s worth of play.

One drive off Cook to the mid-on boundary drew the instinctive cry of “Shot!” from spectators, the involuntary reaction to quality witnessed.

Bess’s first runs of the day were incongruously untidy, a flashed four past the slips off Porter, which also raised the Yorkshire 300 to give the hosts a third and, ultimately, final batting point.

Thereafter Bess barely put a foot wrong, and he grew bullish to the extent that he advanced down the track to off-spinner Simon Harmer and positively pulverised him to the long-off boundary.

The seventh-wicket stand had reached 90 in 30 overs when Tattersall’s eyes lit up at a ball from Ravi Bopara outside his off stump at which he threw his hands and edged to wicketkeeper Will Buttleman, having scored 45 from 122 balls with four boundaries.

Steve Patterson went lbw to Porter, who then had Ben Coad well caught by Sir Alastair Cook, diving to his right at first slip before Olivier exited stage left.

It was then a case of “knight, knight” before the rain came as Ben Coad had Sir Alastair snaffled at first slip by Kohler-Cadmore.