Headingley Demoralisation

A tough first day for a Somerset side needing a win to keep pace with Essex at the top of the County Championship

Specsavers County Championship Division One, Headingley, Leeds, July 13th to 16th – Yorkshire 282-3 (Balance 111, Kohler-Cadmore 77*

I’m going to go out on a limb at the start and say that I would have done the same as Tom Abell at 10.30. The atmosphere was heavy, there was rain in the air as I walked into the ground, it felt like a bowling day. But the forecast weather did not materialise, the pitch was flat and easy paced and as a result it was very much a batting day.

You could, after all the discussion in the lead up to this game have got fairly short odds on the first Yorkshire wicket to fall being c Bess b Brooks. But Somerset had to wait until 15 minutes before lunch on Day 1 for the first breakthrough. It was also heartwarming to hear the rousing appreciation both received from the locals when they began their first spells.

At first sight considering Tom Abell had, no doubt very politely, asked Yorkshire to bat first, the time it took to make the initial breakthrough did not justify that decision. The fact was that Somerset could consider themselves unlucky not to have struck earlier. The openers, Adam Lyth and Will Fraine were subjected to a superb opening spell from Craig Overton who was convinced he had Lyth caught behind and his replacement at the Football Ground End, Tim Groenewald also bowled a very testing line and length.

But, despite the overhead conditions, this is a good pitch, and Somerset would not have been unhappy with their efforts at lunch. The returning Jack Brooks returned for a second spell at the Kirkstall Lane End and induced Fraine to chip a leg side half volley to Bess at square leg. When his opening partner offered Tom Abell a sharp chance at short extra cover from similarly poor shot selection the home crowd were once again lamenting the failure of Yorkshire’s batting to go on from good starts. 

But Yorkshire’s third wicket pair put that right. For the second game in succession the afternoon session of the opposition’s first innings saw the bowlers condemned to hard yards on a surface offering them no help and in overhead conditions that improved significantly. Yorkshire however, are made of rather sterner stuff than last week’s opponents and as Balance and Kohler-Cadmore serenely progressed through the session you could sense Somerset heads starting to drop slightly, understandably.

High Spirits in the slips

At tea the pair had added 99 to take the score 181-2. Commendably Somerset’s over rate was at plus 4 at tea, partly due to Dom Bess’ long spell but also reflection of the positive style of play Tom Abell’s side have employed this year. Despite their strong position in their game Yorkshire were never allowed to get away scoring at well under 3 an over.

The immediate post tea session of 14 overs was a bit of a non-event as Somerset appeared to be investing their energy for the second new ball. Craig Overton was given a loosener which was pulled for four and took the new ball immediately. Sadly it made little difference with Jack Brooks, who had a return to Headingley to remember, being particularly expensive in his new-ball spell.

Balance arrived at a richly deserved century just before 5.30 as the total eased passed 250 but he wasn’t able to see the day out. Jamie Overton bowling again with real pace late in the day induced a nick which James Hildreth was unable to hold on to at first slip. Fortunately it didn’t proved costly as Tim Groenewald, who had bowled well with little luck all day, and was perhaps a little underused got him caught by Craig at second slip.

With a little luck Somerset could have picked up another wicket before the close but it wasn’t to be. The first session tomorrow will be interesting. I have no rationale to back up this thought but I feel that Somerset may well have a very good first hour tomorrow and undo a chunk of the good work Yorkshire, and Balance and Kohler-Cadmore have done today.

Whether they do or not, and bearing in mind the old adage that you can’t judge a wicket until both sides have batted, the indications after day one are that the surface may be the winner of the next four days. 

Essex, who whether we all like it or not, we are all keeping an eye on didn’t have it all their own way, only picking up 1 batting point as they subsided from 157-2 to 245 all out. Let’s hope Warwickshire can bat long tomorrow and Somerset can bowl and then bat their way back into this game.