Lancashire v Yorkshire, Headingley, 1st day July 20, 2011

Lancashire edge tight Roses day

Lancashire 304 for 7 v Yorkshire

This may be a critical match for both sides, for reasons it was hard to foresee at the start of the campaign. Who would have tipped Yorkshire to be battling to stay out of the bottom two in the Division One or given Lancashire a fighting chance of winning the title?

Yorkshire arrested their slide by beating Worcestershire at Scarborough last week but began this match knowing, like a tennis player who has just broken serve, that it will count for nothing if they don't follow up with a hold. With that in mind, confronted with what looked like a decent pitch, Andrew Gale might have been expected to take the safe option on winning the toss and opted to bat first.

Instead, he chose to bowl, perhaps anticipating some help from moisture in the air, even though one of his quick bowlers is making his Championship debut. Iain Wardlow, a 26-year-old right-armer who plays for Cleckheaton in the Bradford League, stepped up after making a good impression in Twenty20 matches, although he will drop out of this match if England release Tim Bresnan.

Gale's second season at the helm has been difficult, not least because the loss of Jacques Rudolph has left a gap in their batting that has not been filled. How relieved he must be that Yorkshire have found the resources to bring the South African back for the remainder of this campaign, although the decision to leave out Adam Lyth to make room for him raised an eyebrow or two. The left-hander, who topped 1,500 runs in 2010, has been much less effective this year, yet it is difficult to argue that his dip in form has been more pronounced than that afflicting Anthony McGrath.

McGrath probably expected to be asked to justify his retention fairly soon but instead it was Wardlow under the spotlight, sharing the new ball with Ryan Sidebottom. His first spell generated some movement and while he invited the drive a few times there was a boundary or two off the edge of the bat. Greater accuracy will come, although he will have to develop considerably to match the standards of the man at the other end, whose first eight overs cost a mere 10 runs and brought the wickets of Stephen Moore, leg before to an in swinger, and Karl Brown, although the latter contributed to his own downfall with an unwisely expansive drive.

Lancashire did not emerge badly from a difficult morning, lunching at 79 for 2, but lost a third wicket early in the afternoon session when Ajmal Shahzad, who had generated a testing pace at the pavilion end, had Paul Horton caught behind. McGrath held a catch at second slip as Mark Chilton became Sidebottom's third victim; he should have had a fourth soon afterwards but McGrath then missed a chance offered by Steven Croft on 25.

It was a relatively costly mistake. Lancashire would have been 131 for 5 and Croft and Tom Smith added 62 more before the next wicket fell.

Lancashire probably felt it should have cost a few more. When Croft fell, to the ball before tea, dark clouds were gathering and the batsman clearly did not pick up the yorker length ball from Shahzad that bowled him. He appeared to communicate his displeasure to umpire Neil Mallender as he walked past him and was summoned to the umpires' room to explain himself at close of play.

Wardlaw celebrated his maiden wicket when Smith, who had played solidly to reach 51, rather wasted an opportunity with an ill-chosen slash and was caught behind. If he had been a shade unlucky at times, that sentiment clearly applied to Pyrah, who has made himself a candidate for player of the season since his graduation to the four-day side. He beat the bat repeatedly and at least was rewarded when he gained an lbw verdict against Gareth Cross.

It may have been one of those days that needs a match to unfold before it can be evaluated properly but the balance almost certainly swung towards Lancashire in the evening, between showers. Adil Rashid, another whose form is down on last season, bowled an expensive spell that Sajid Mahmood, in particular, used to his advantage. He and Glen Chapple have added a valuable 53.