Sunday, April 22, 2012

Close Encounters, Umbrellas and an Abandonment: Day Four, Yorkshire v Essex

Cheerful scenes at Headingley.
The public transport system of Sundays meant that I managed to miss Masters’ wicket of Sayers, but judging by his willingness to run in and bowl double the amount of overs that the other quick bowlers managed, it was a wicket that he deserved. The wicket brought to the crease Jonny Bairstow, and it was clear that he and captain Andrew Gale were going to go for the declaration.

Gale and Bairstow were positive. Bairstow cut Masters for 4 just before there was a rain delay. If a result was on the menu, the rain was the dish that looked the least appetising. Luckily for Yorkshire, it was only a shower, so Essex were back out with Tom Westley and Greg Smith bowling to a spread field with plenty of men on the boundary.

Smith bowled better in Yorkshire’s second innings than he did in the first. Having picked up the wicket of Joe Root, caught down the leg side, last night, he added the wicket of Jonny Bairstow too. Looking for quick runs, Bairstow went for a shorter ball and ended up pulling it to Adam Wheater at deep backward square leg.

Yorkshire’s attacking intent was clear. Throughout their mini partnership, Gale and Bairstow had pushed each other for twos, especially when the ball was heading in Charl Willoughby’s direction. In the same Smith over of the Bairstow wicket, Gale went for another six, but looked like he didn’t have enough timing on it. It was sailing to Willoughby at long off, but he somehow managed to drop it. In fact, it wasn’t even a drop. It just sailed through his hands.

About 45 minutes before the lunch break and after a Tymal Mills over, Gale decided he’d had enough. He clearly thought that there was something in the pitch, especially from the Kirkstall Lane End, for his bowlers to exploit and knew that a quick burst before lunch might see his side pick up a couple of quick wickets. There was also the weather to think about.

So, with his side 214-4 and with a lead of 261, Gale walked off. There were some murmurs in the stand, as many were confused about what was going on, but it soon became clear that Yorkshire had declared. Gale was not out on 48, but personal milestones clearly meant nothing compared to giving his side a chance at victory. Essex would require 262 in 74 overs or less and would want to show that their batting performance in the first innings was a minor hiccup.

Well, that was my hope anyway. Ryan Sidebottom and Ajmal Shahzad had different ideas, Shahzad especially. The battle of the first innings was definitely the one between Alviro Petersen and Shahzad coming in from the Kirkstall Lane End. Petersen was having a torrid time of it and it was no different in the second innings. Having managed to get off the mark, Petersen then managed to miss one that seemed fairly straight. The umpire had no hesitation in raising his finger and Essex once again found themselves losing an early wicket. 4-1 and there was still some time to go before lunch.

Tom Westley came in on a pair. Westley is a young player who, like Godleman and Jaik Mickleburgh last year, was fairly disappointing at the top of the order. With Alastair Cook returning for a couple of games in May, Westley will want to show that he deserves his chance at number three ahead of players like Mickleburgh and even Mark Pettini. He managed to get off his pair first ball and this innings played a bit better. He was hitting a lot of deliveries through the leg side and did play and miss a couple of times, but he managed to survive until the lunch break.

Godleman at the other end looked like he was also having trouble with Shahzad. Some deliveries were keeping a bit low. Petersen’s had kept a bit low, but he was also playing with his bat behind his pad, which is a huge danger in the early season conditions. Godleman seemed to be doing something similar and had survived a couple of LBW shouts until he was given out when he was on 2.

I got the camera out, Bernie got out. Sorry, Essex fans.
Like with the first innings, Godleman was not happy. The umpire took a long time to raise his finger and by this point, Shahzad’s eyes had nearly popped out of his head. For me, from where I was sat although with Essex tinted glasses, it looked a bit high. Still, the umpire’s decision is final and Godleman had to go and Essex were in a whole heap of trouble at 7-2.

Ravi Bopara once again found himself at the crease earlier than he would’ve hoped and, like in the evening session of the first innings, was having a lot fly past his outside edge. He played a lovely cover drive off Shahzad, but a lack of power combined with a wet outfield meant that it didn’t go to the boundary. Ravi played well this match and will surely be a welcome addition to the Essex middle order before England, perhaps, come knocking again.

Dry conditions over lunch meant that it looked like there may well be play for much of the afternoon session. During the lunch break Tim Bresnan was bowling on the outfield with Jason Gillespie as wicketkeeper. He hit the single stump plenty of times and must’ve spent the majority of the match sat in the dressing room eyeing up Petersen ahead of the summer.

When the players did come back out, the clouds were threatening behind the pavilion. Just after the first ball of a Sidebottom over, the heavens decided they’d open and the daily April apocalypse duly arrived. It forced Essex off at 26-2, with Westley on 12 and Bopara on 5.

After an afternoon session of several cups of tea, nearly bumping into both Graham Napier and Tim Bresnan and ending up awkwardly smiling at Charl Willoughby, the umpires emerged from the pavilion. They were joined by the ground staff out in the middle, but despite the sun coming out overhead, the weather that was threatening behind the pavilion meant that at 15:52, play was abandoned and the game was declared a draw.

Yorkshire will be thoroughly disappointed, especially after such a positive declaration. For Essex, the weather must have been of some relief and for them, it is back down to Chelmsford where they will face Northamptonshire on Thursday. There will be injury problames for Essex. Napier has just undergone his first round of physio for his calf injury, Phillips can hardly bend down and Bopara isn’t allowed to bowl. Essex will soon welcome back 18 year old Reece Topley from his England under 19 escapades, but with Napier gone, Smith and Chambers expensive, Mills only 19 and Willoughby having not bowled in a “proper” match since getting injured at Fenner’s earlier this month, the bowling attack is looking like it may well have to be the one man show of Dave Masters again.

Of course, the bowlers managed to fight back against Yorkshire, so it’ll once again be the batsmen under the microscope. Granted, it is April, Essex were playing at Headingley for the first time in, off the top of my head, three years and they came across a strong Yorkshire bowling line up, but if the side harbour serious promotion ambitions, then they can’t afford to keep losing early wickets. Even against Gloucestershire they did. Essex will be hoping that Alviro Petersen can soon begin to perform, but apart from his 156 against New Zealand, he’s been getting a string of low scores. With England presumably awaiting him this summer, if he keeps playing round straight ones, he’s going to be in for a rough time.

I wasn’t the only Essex fan in the ground. There was a lovely gentleman from Southend who I ended up chatting to during the rain delay. As we were leaving the ground after the abandonment of the match, he informed me that he was only doing the away games this year. He was all too happy to support the team, but this season he’d refused to buy membership and also refused to visit Chelmsford as he didn’t want to give the club a penny this year after the shambolic cancelling of the Southend Festival. There’s not really been a clear explanation as to why the festival has been cancelled, last year it drew in record crowds and, sadly, like with most issues that currently surround the club, the reasoning behind the decision has been kept very quiet indeed.

Still, I’ve enjoyed my hour and three days in Leeds. It’s been cold, it’s been wet and so much tea has been drunk that I was given a free one on the final day, but it’s been good fun and it was lovely to be watching the county I support in a different ground. It’s certainly an experience being an away fan at Headingley and it’s certainly one that I would thoroughly recommend. 

And if you're going to visit Headingley at this time of year, I recommend a snazzy blanket like mine. 


  1. This reminds me of the first time I went to Headingley to see my first ever international cricket game and it was rained off!

    1. I got quite lucky with my first international cricket game at Headingley. It was the ODI against Sri Lanka last year and instead of getting a downpour, I got stupidly sunburnt!