Yorkshire 183 (Edwards 4-84) and 172 for 4 (Lyth 60*) lead Hampshire 157 (Bresnan 5-28) by 199 runs
Storm Ali had arrived in Leeds just in time for Freshers’ Week. A new influx of University students looked a little battered, and not just from the alcohol. A couple of them hooted with surprise as they were nearly blown over crossing Cardigan Lane, swirls of leaves and litter flying all around them.
Inside the world-famous ampitheatre known as Headingley, about which they will surely be educated as a matter of priority, Tim Bresnan butted into the crease like John Masefield’s dirty British coaster, his cargo being the expectations of Yorkshire cricket followers that he would banish any lingering fears of relegation. A career-best five for 28 as Hampshire were dismissed for 157 certainly helped, as did Yorkshire’s determined advancing of that lead to 199 by the close of the second day with six wickets still standing.
He had two conquests overnight, good ones two, James Vince lbw after missing a drive through midwicket and Sam Northeast, who edged an outswinger – it did just enough – to slip. Then with a new morn upon him, and Headingley clanking unappealingly in the wind like the last port in a storm, he grabbed three wickets in four overs: a strokeless nightwatchman Kyle Abbott, lbw, praise be the Lord; Tom Alsop manufacturing a half-hearted cross-batted cut that he would rather forget; and Liam Dawson, plucked so athletically in his follow-through, left-handed, that one half-imagined he might follow Graeme Swann into Celebrity Come Dancing; please don’t, we need some solid certainties in life.
Around the time Bresnan’s chest expanded in satisfaction, in Loftus, near Whitby, on Yorkshire’s north-east fringes, according to the BBC weatherman Paul Hudson (a bit of a celeb in these parts), Storm Ali put in a big effort and reached 72mph: hfff, that was still a little below Bresnan’s bowling speed. He has just signed a new two-year contract at 33, but he is earthed in reality enough to know that not everybody felt it was automatic. If most of Bresnan is 33, his oft-operated right elbow is a few years older.
What makes Bresnan so valued in Yorkshire – apart from his 142 matches for England across three formats (more than many might imagine), or his 543 first-class wickets or his near-6,500 first-class runs, is his approach to the nitty-gritty of life. He doesn’t dress it up. He gives fripperies short shrift. When someone asks him why someone of his ability has only taken nine five-wicket hauls, he accepts the reality of it. In facts, he invites it.
“It’s nice to finally get five wickets because it doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “It’s probably down to not having the new ball. Usually, bowling with the new ball is easier to get a hatful of wickets rather than three or four. Our new ball bowlers seem to do the job most often. It’s up to Steve Patterson and myself to do the grunt work and pick up twos and threes.”
Neither did he avoid the question of that new contract. There was talk that he would go to Worcestershire, but it appears that he will now see out his days in a much more judgmental atmosphere; perhaps the atmosphere he needs to keep him plugging on. “I’ve not been really good enough this year, so it’s nice to finally get a few runs and wickets and help the team towards winning games,” he said.
Only 77 runs in 40 overs in an extended morning in which Yorkshire strove without success to get the tenth wicket, in which the grey skies scudded, the wind howled, one of the last lunches before Yorkshire take over their own catering rights congealed, the spectators braved it out, and everybody waited for the end of the season: the state of the County Championship, 2018 style.
Yorkshire’s second innings advanced to 172 for 4, a potentially matchwinning lead. Andrew Gale, the coach, demanded a return to first principles in April and while wickets fell occasionally around him (Jeet Raval, Kane Williamson’s recommended replacement for himself, again making no impact; Liam Dawson making an appearance as that very rare thing of late – an English-qualified Hampshire bowler), Adam Lyth, who hails a few miles from Loftus, where Storm Ali was attempting to build up speed like a weary third-seamer, batted responsibly, as he must, for an unbeaten 60.