Jaques and Mills return to Yorkshire in style
Essex 72 for 5 trail Yorkshire 246 (Jaques 126) by 174 runs
This was a day for Yorkshire pride. Well, it was if you dug deep enough. Phil Jaques, English qualified now because of a Sheffield father, began his second stint with an assertive century. The Essex bowler who pegged things back, Tymal Mills, left Dewsbury at two years old. For a county seeking to bolster its self-regard after relegation last season, both will be claimed as fully-fledged Yorkies.
"Put pride back in the cap," Jaques told Yorkshire. He then went out to show how. You could feel the petals of the White Rose recovering vitality by the minute as he struck 126 in a manner that suggested, after their edgy opening draw against Kent, a promotion challenge is now underway.
Jaques was an overseas player when he struck 2,477 runs at 61.92 for Yorkshire in 2004-5. He is now English-qualified, his 11 Australia Test caps behind him and only eligible in Australia for club cricket. At 32, it is a sound career move.
Three wickets in an over from Steve Patterson then made good use of Jaques' efforts. Robin Petersen hung around 20 overs for 16 before he fell lbw at the start of Patterson's third over and before the over was out Patterson, a rangy seam bowler trying to put a poor 2011 behind him, had added Adam Wheater and Greg Smith for ducks to leave Yorkshire in control by the close of the second day.
But there was also an exile seeking to make a name for himself. Mills has no memories of his infancy in Yorkshire, but he still has relations in Mirfield and buried deep in his soul is the recognition that when Yorkshire-born cricketers return to Headingley on the opposing side, the Gods invariably make them the centre of attention.
Mills, 19, a muscular left-arm quick playing only his sixth first-class match, rescued Essex from a parlous position in mid-afternoon. His first bowl at Headingley brought 4 for 62, his pace impressive enough for Yorkshire followers to refer henceforth to his Dewsbury birthplace in reverential tones. Yorkshire were 184 for 2 at one stage, riches indeed on another frolicsome April surface, but they lost their last eight wickets for 62 in 17 overs to a grumble of disapproval from the members. Or maybe it was just the drone of an aircraft landing at Leeds Bradford airport; after a Yorkshire collapse it can be hard to tell the difference.
Mills, educated in Suffolk, has made impressive progress since making his Essex debut against the Sri Lanka tourists last season. His ability to bowl a quick ball, and left-arm too, interested England enough for England to take him on the Lions tour of Bangladesh. Essex will use him as an impact bowler.
He struggled at times. When Jaques, on 34, hooked him for six off the top edge, it encapsulated an opening burst that spilled 28 runs in four overs. He did have Joe Sayers strangled down the legside but after lunch produced a moment of comedy: he plonked arms of sawdust into every footmark in his run-up, but having identified his run, entirely confidence in it, stuttered enough to miss every sawdust mark by several feet and treated Andrew Gale, Yorkshire's captain, to a beamer that sailed harmlessly over his head.
But Mills switched to the Kirkstall Lane End and transformed the outlook for Essex with a blistering spell that brought him three wickets in four overs in mid-afternoon. Jonathan Bairstow jabbed a quick, shortish ball to gully, a perceived vulnerability; Gary Ballance took him on and failed, hooking to fine leg; Anthony McGrath was out for a single as he shouldered arms to one that swung back, an exciting sign for any left-armer, especially one as quick as this. McGrath is batting at No 7 in this match, as valued for his wobbly slow-medium pace in bowler-friendly conditions as his batting, and that suggests a career that is on the wane.
"I was definitely more comfortable coming down the hill," Mills said. "I hit my rhythm and got some good gas. The outfield was pretty wet and the run-ups became muddy. It was a bit off-putting. I was desperate to have a go at the other end. I'm working hard on my consistency but Essex are using me as an impact bowler to take wickets."
Jaques, who had picked off the Essex attack in clinical fashion, must have observed Yorkshire's sudden collapse from 203 for 3 with frustration. Jaques himself was then eighth out, for 126, edging Maurice Chambers off the back foot to slip. David Masters, luckless throughout the morning, deserved to walk off with three wickets.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo