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Myles Hodgson at Headingley
May 16, 2012
Hampshire 352 for 5 (Katich 180*, Bates 88*) v Yorkshire
Yorkshire may have looked to Australia for a solution to last summer's relegation, but it was Hampshire's own recruit from down under who transformed the opening day with Simon Katich marking his return to Headingley with his highest first-class score in four years.
The first team coach Jason Gillespie, senior batsman Phil Jacques and overseas signing Mitchell Starc were all recruited from Australia by Yorkshire during the winter and charged with securing an immediate return to the first division, and until today's turnaround their formula was working with successive wins over Gloucestershire and Leicestershire taking them to joint top of the table.
Should Yorkshire fail to record three championship wins in a row for the first time since 2005, they can blame their failure to dislodge Katich as a major reason for their frustration. He began by rescuing a dismal start to Hampshire's innings, and finished it unbeaten on 180 - his highest innings since scoring 157 for Australia against West Indies at Bridgetown in 2008.
Currently on his fifth county, a sequence which began at Durham in 2000 and included a short spell with Yorkshire in 2002, Katich's first job was to repair an innings that was in danger of collapse before lunch on the opening day after Hampshire won the toss and chose to bat.
Liam Dawson fell before a run was scored, earning Ryan Sidebottom his 550th first-class wicket by edging behind, and the tone for the early overs was set.
Jimmy Adams fell lbw to Steve Patterson and Michael Carberry edged Iain Wardlaw to slip attempting a drive that could be regarded as a little too extravagant in the circumstances. Plucked from league cricket by Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale mid-way through last summer, Wardlaw was unfortunate that umpire Steve Gale rejected an lbw appeal against Katich from the next delivery.
Having made his Test debut at Headingley 11 years ago, Katich will no doubt always have happy memories of the place, an affection which will have strengthened by several reprieves during an innings which began in the sixth over of the day. He was dropped on 114 by Sidebottom at mid-on and then smashed a return catch back at Adil Rashid on 144, but was otherwise dominant throughout the day.
It is the first major innings he has played since returning to Hampshire, a county he wants to help for their role in helping to regain his place in Australia's Test side after his previous spell between 2002 and 2005. "I feel I owe the club for the opportunities they gave me nine years ago," said Katich, now 36. "It certainly helped me get back to playing Test cricket for Australia, so it would be nice at this stage of my career to give something back."
Sean Ervine, the former Zimbabwe batsman, helped Katich add 124 for the fifth wicket but was caught at deep mid-on after getting a leading edge against Root, a deserved reward for an impressive spell from the Kirkstall Lane End. Captain Andrew Gale was suitably enough impressed to continue with Root immediately after tea and remove Rashid from the attack.
If Yorkshire believed Ervine's dismissal would allow them to rally in the final session, they were to be disappointed. Instead Michael Bates, 21, helped himself to a championship-best score of 88 and enjoyed an unbroken 145-run stand with Katich that ensured Hampshire made the most of the sunny conditions.
"Batsmen have had it tough the first part of the season and now with a bit of sun, hopefully it will be a little tougher for the bowlers," Katich said.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Shorter tours don't allow you time to get into form, and domestic cricket isn't demanding enough