Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sunburn, showers and Ravi Bopara: Day Three, Yorkshire v Essex

Ravi Bopara celebrates his century. He and Tymal Mills put on 48 for the final wicket.
"April is the cruellest month" said T.S. Eliot. Having been sat at fine leg at Headingley, getting sunburnt and battling the downpours, for the second day running, those words ring incredibly true.

They also ring true for the batsmen, not just from Yorkshire and Essex, but across the nation. Like yesterday, today was about one player and that player was Ravi Bopara. Out of Essex's total of 199, Ravi scored 117 and he finished not out. The next highest innings was from captain James Foster, who got 25 before edging Sidebottom to McGrath in the slips. Only Alviro Petersen and the extras got into double figures.

Bopara, having survived two separate hat-trick balls and looking incredibly uncomfortable and shifty at the crease yesterday evening, had to farm the strike to try and help Essex build a somewhat competitive total after being 42-5. Once Foster departed, David Masters came in ahead of Tim Phillips. Phillips had been missing for much of the afternoon session and hadn't bowled at all yesterday, so clearly something was up.

We soon found out that something was indeed up. When Masters was bowled by Shahzad for 1, Phillips came out to the crease walking gingerly and accompanied by Adam Wheater as a runner. 
Ravi and a batsman with a runner, it was a recipe for disaster...
Phillips can usually bat. He would, normally, be in before Dave Masters and his first-class batting average is in the low 20s. Today, however, he did not look right. He would leave his bat hanging outside off stump with absolutely minimal footwork, he couldn't bend his knees and he would only play a shot off his pads. He survived 43 balls for his 7, but there was pain etched on his face. It became clear later as he slowly made his way around the boundary and then tried to bend down to replace Tymal Mills' drink that he is suffering with a back injury.   
The wicket of Tim Phillips brought Maurice Chambers to the crease. To compound Maurice's miserable game, he was gone for a six ball duck, the fourth of Essex's torrid innings. It was also Ryan Sidebottom's 5th wicket, handing him figures of 5-30. Essex, at this point, were 151-9. Reaching 150 had looked a far cry yesterday evening, so it was a testament to Ravi Bopara who was displaying the sort of batting that most England fans, sadly, rarely see.

In came Tymal Mills. Mills' top first-class score is 8, which he got on debut against the touring Sri Lankan side. Bopara was a long way from a century and with Mills looking like a rabbit trapped in headlights, it was looking like Bopara may well be stranded.

However, Bopara farmed the strike well from the youngster. He did turn down a lot of singles, but all things considered, the amount he hit in boundaries probably made up for it. Mills scored only 2, but he batted for well over an hour and faced 41 deliveries for those two runs. At the other end, Bopara was playing some wonderful shots, including a cover drive for four. His century came about in generous circumstances, as Ajmal Shahzad gifted him a nice leg sided delivery for him to glance down to fine leg for four, a full delivery on his pads and then a ball with width.

The desperation to protect the youngster from strike soon proved the downfall for the 48 run partnership. Yorkshire were desperate for a wicket and Bopara was happy to oblige. He stormed down the pitch off the fifth ball of McGrath's over, looking for a single despite hitting the ball straight to the fielder. Mills ran, but Patterson was quicker and Essex finished 199 all out.

It's telling of the performance of Bopara and the tail that Essex fans were disappointed to miss out on a batting bonus point. To have reached 200, having been at least 5 down when they've reached 100, is something Essex have a knack of doing. It could've been much, much worse, especially if Bopara had managed to nick one yesterday evening, but a lot will be said about his innings and it will provide him with a lot of confidence before the English summer, should he be pencilled in to bat at 6.

Yorkshire had a lead of 47, something they may not have expected before the Essex innings. They reached tea 44-0, having nearly doubled their lead and Essex were desperate for a wicket. With Bopara unable to bowl due to a side injury, Phillips in the dressing room nursing a sore back, Napier out injured, Willoughby on as 12th man and a guy who's really a back up wicket keeper on the field, Essex were limited on their bowling options. Masters was ever his economical self, but Chambers was, once again, disappointing. He started off well enough, but as soon as he got straight driven for four by Joe Root, his head dropped and he was expensive. Meanwhile, Tymal Mills was hostile. He was brought on first change and soon began peppering the Yorkshire batsmen with aggressive, but accurate, bouncers. He was far, far less expensive this innings and could have picked up a wicket had James Foster had a short leg in straight away.

Tom Westley was brought on before Greg Smith, but when Smith was brought on, he was more controlled than he was in the first innings. He did, however, struggle to find the off stump, so it was no surprise that his wicket came from the leg side strangling of Root. This was my first time seeing Joe Root in the flesh, having missed his wicket in the first innings due to trains and sleeping, but he played well for his 67. Westley picked up the other wicket, that of the first innings hero of Phil Jaques. He was out LBW going for a sweep. Nice way to celebrate his new found Englishless.

If the weather forecast brings up rain tomorrow, then the most probable result is a draw. However, if not, then Yorkshire will probably be looking to attack tomorrow morning and try to declare with a 250-300 lead. If this happens, Essex will have to play far better than they did in the first innings. They will, like Jaques, Bopara, Root and Sayers, have to dig in and display patience. The performance against Gloucestershire, albeit in the first game, has shown that Godleman does seem to be in decent nick. Petersen will want to show that he can handle English conditions, even though he can't keep his hands out of his pockets for longer than the period of time it takes the ball to go past the bat. Bopara will take confidence from his century. Wheater can bat, as can Foster who can also hang around. The number three, Tom Westley, is surely aware that the ominous shadow of Alastair Cook hangs over his position, so he will want to prove himself.

Essex may not be able to pull off the remarkable tomorrow, but if they can leave Headingley with a draw and a vaguely decent showing in the second innings, then they can prepare for the visit of Northants on Thursday in a far better mood than if they leave with a heavy defeat.

No comments:

Post a Comment