AFTER 129 years of hurt, first-class cricket came home to York yesterday, where it had not been played since 1890.
This was reflected in a good-sized crowd of 2,560, which made the pilgrimage to Clifton Park to be a part of history as much as anything else.
Some brought their own seats and watched from behind the bowler’s arm close to the scoreboard; others sat in the dark blue seats of the temporary stand opposite the busy clubhouse, or else lined the boundary or filled the giant hospitality marquee.
A sense of novelty hung heavy in the air; after all, it is not known when first-class cricket will be played again in Yorkshire’s capital city after this week, with this match made possible only by the fact that Headingley is needed for the World Cup.
A memorable day deserved memorable cricket, and Gary Ballance, David Willey, Will Fraine and Steve Patterson provided it for Yorkshire as they reached 208-8.
To say that it was a crucial wicket goes without saying; this was Ballance’s second half-century in this year’s Championship to go with four hundreds, and we have only just started the seventh game.Chris Waters
Ballance top-scored with 54 from 122 balls with eight fours, playing some vivid sweeps and cuts in particular, while Willey contributed 46, the power of his square-driving a notable feature.
There was bounce and carry in the pitch, which proved as suitable for first-class cricket as the sylvan scene, which called to mind one of those grounds in New Zealand set in acres of trees and rolling parkland.
It never felt like a batting day particularly, with Warwickshire exercising their right to bowl beneath leaden skies, and it remains to be seen how competitive or otherwise is the Yorkshire score, although it feels as if the hosts are in the game.
In that historic York match of 1890, when Yorkshire played Kent at the now defunct Wigginton Road venue, three members of the Kent team – Walter Hearne, Stanley Christopherson and Hugh Spottiswoode – failed to turn up in time for the start of the match.
Thus Warwickshire gained an immediate tick against their name when Jeetan Patel led out a full complement of visiting players beneath overcast skies after rain delayed the start by 30 minutes, with 29 overs lost to the weather on yet another inclement day.
During the first passage of play, which comprised 6.3 overs before more rain fell, Yorkshire lost Adam Lyth to a catch behind as he tried to withdraw his bat to a ball from Oliver Hannon-Dalby, the former Yorkshire pace bowler, which shaped away from him from just short of a length.
As the weather settled, later giving way to the fleeting appearance of warm sunshine in this soggiest of summers, so did Yorkshire as Ballance and Fraine added 85 in 24 overs for the second wicket in fluent fashion.
But Fraine’s departure for a well-made 42 was the first of five wickets to fall for eight runs in 10.1 overs, the 23-year-old right-hander splendidly caught by a diving Matt Lamb at mid-wicket after he made good contact with a Craig Miles’ leg-stump half-volley.
Two balls later, Miles struck again, trapping Tom Kohler-Cadmore lbw pushing forward. Miles made it 3-0 in eight balls when he bowled Jack Leaning through the gate; then Hannon-Dalby claimed another two wickets in five deliveries when Jonny Tattersall defended to second slip and Jordan Thompson was pinned on the drive.
At 101-6, Yorkshire had squandered a promising platform against opponents who fielded well throughout.
Ballance and Willey, the latter back after missing the match at Surrey due to family reasons, added 44 in 11 overs before Ballance, not long after another rain break brought an early tea, was lbw to Patel, stuck on the crease.
To say that it was a crucial wicket goes without saying; this was Ballance’s second half-century in this year’s Championship to go with four hundreds, and we have only just started the seventh game.
Patel, back on the ground where he was an overseas player in 2003, had seen Ballance cut his first delivery for four in the direction of the adjacent rugby fields.
But not for nothing is Patel, 39, still the best spinner on the county circuit, and the ball that got Ballance was a triumph of flight as well as finesse. Willey and Patterson added 60 vital runs in 13 overs, Willey bowled by a fine delivery from Miles, his innings spanning 77 balls and containing eight fours.
Patterson ended unbeaten on 36 from 47 balls, a captain’s hand just when his side needed it most.