Some, disillusioned, may never return.
The majority, their attachment to the club and to cricket too strong, were back in situ at their spiritual home yesterday, back in the routine of Championship cricket, back in the bosom of friends and acquaintances.
There looked to be around 2,000 present for the first day of cricket at the ground since the racism storm, most of them draped in thick coats, woolly hats and assorted paraphernalia, and clutching hot drinks on a bitterly cold day. “What did tha make of everything that went on in t’winter?” one old-timer could be heard asking another at the back of the North-East Stand shortly before play.
“No comment!” replied the other tersely, a shake of the head betraying that he considered it to be a rum old affair.
It was a day that started, no doubt essentially, with “a moment of reflection” as players and coaches lined up in front of the Clean Slate Pavilion, as it is now called, to ponder “recent events in cricket and the wider world”.
It would have taken more than a moment to get your head around that lot but, following months of angst, confusion, recrimination and upheaval, it was then on with the show as cricket, at last, returned to this stage.
Bowling from The Howard Stand end, formerly the Emerald Stand end, formerly the Football/Rugby Stand end (one can barely keep up), Rauf took three wickets in nine balls to reduce Kent to 20-3 after they were inserted beneath cloudy skies, grey enough for the floodlights to be turned on from around 12.15pm onwards.
Ben Compton, the First Division’s leading run-scorer, was caught behind from one that angled away from him and Zak Crawley and Jack Leaning – the latter back at his old stomping ground and leading Kent in his first appearance of the season after a hamstring injury – leg-before to good-length balls.
However, after a minor roar greeted Leaning’s departure, which left Yorkshire very much on top, Daniel Bell-Drummond and Jordan Cox added 133 in a fourth-wicket stand not broken until over an hour into the afternoon session, the pair sharing 24 boundaries (12 each) as Yorkshire gradually lost their way.
Without Joe Denly (hamstring) and Jackson Bird (shoulder), Kent were depleted and had lost two of their first three games and drawn the other.
Under the circumstances, one had to admire the way they fought against a good Yorkshire team, who had opened up with a win and a draw.
Perhaps Bell-Drummond and Cox, who symbolised their efforts, had caught wind of a scurrilous rumour that the heating was not working in the press box (not everything at Yorkshire, it seems, has changed during the winter) and, fearing that the malaise might have extended to the dressing rooms below, reasoned that the best way to keep warm was to keep batting.
It was a cunning ploy, and after much scampering between the wickets and locating of the boundary, they were not the only ones who had worked up a significant sweat – the Yorkshire bowlers, too, looked a little hot and flustered.
Despite the overheads, it was no minefield and there were enough loose balls to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Bell-Drummond clipped and cut with aplomb, through onside and off, and Cox was given too many chances to find the leg-side boundary in particular, which he seized with relish.
Yorkshire should have had Bell-Drummond straight after lunch, Adam Lyth grassing a straightforward chance by his high standards at second slip off Patterson when the batsman had 50. Some two hours later, Bell-Drummond had doubled his tally, reaching his 13th first-class century – and second in successive games –from 172 balls with 16 fours.
Cox fell lbw to Dom Bess’s fourth ball from the Kirkstall Lane end, which he tried to dab to leg. Bell-Drummond and Ollie Robinson then added 74 before Bell-Drummond eventually perished for 109, miscuing a pull to mid-on off Matty Revis. Robinson contributed 58 before Patterson pinned him in front, leaving the game fascinatingly poised.