Yorkshire optimism shattered early
Sussex 104 for 3 (Nash 80) lead Yorkshire 96 (Jordon 6-48) by 8 runs
Yorkshire's cricketers were probably full of new-season optimism this morning and losing the toss will surely not have shaken their confidence. By close of play, however, Andrew Gale's players had received a bracing dollop of what Division One cricket is all about.
Bowled out for 96 in 46.2 overs, Yorkshire then watched as Chris Nash stroked a pleasing 80 off 87 balls. When bad light ended play 19 overs early, Sussex were already in the throes of establishing a strong position, albeit that Ryan Sidebottom had taken all three wickets to fall in a predictably unsparing display.
"Every attempt is a wholly new start," wrote TS Eliot in East Coker, and on few days in the sporting calendar does the sentiment seem more true than the first day of the County Championship season. It is nearly seven months since the players left the field in September and a lot of improvements can be made in that time. Spring beckons, albeit a chilly one this year, and at 10.45am on the first morning of the four-day season everyone is top of the averages. ("Bottom of 'em too," the curmudgeons might reply but how many cricketers listen to them in April?)
In the many interviews they conducted before the start of the season Jason Gillespie and Gale were at pains to say how tough they expected the top tier of English cricket to be. It took less than a session for the Yorkshire hierarchy to be reassured that their judgement was spot on. Facing an attack that offered them very little loose stuff, the much-vaunted Yorkshire top-order, albeit lacking Joe Root, crumbled away like fresh Wensleydale on a wicket which justified Ed Joyce's decision to bat first. Poorly placed on 40 for 4 at lunch, the batsmen could only add a further 56 in the afternoon session, even on a wicket which eased a tad.
The star of the day was the ex-Surrey seamer Chris Jordan. Apparently surplus to requirements at The Oval, Jordan bowled with pace and accuracy to take 6 for 48, the best Championship figures of his career. His first victim, Gale, was a leg-side strangle but his others owed little to luck and much more to Jordan's admirable rectitude, which proved too much for the techniques of some home players. Gale himself said that he had expected his batsmen to "stand up" and described some of the dismissals as "soft"
Perhaps the skipper was thinking of Alex Lees, who battled with immense composure for 79 minutes and 51 balls before chasing a rather wide-ish one from Jordan. More likely he was referring to Jonny Bairstow, who made 29 before edging an attempted pull off James Anyon three overs after lunch. That gave the Sussex new-ball bowler a deserved second success and it began a collapse that saw the last six Yorkshire wickets tumble for 38 runs in less than 14 overs. Jordan made hay and the sun shone. Azeem Rafiq made an inventive 23 and was the last man out but none of bottom half of the home line-up could stay with him.
When Sussex batted Nash took five boundaries off seven Jack Brooks deliveries and you could almost hear some of the home spectators muttering about "bloody headbands". Sidebottom, whose coiffure has also seemed to need constraint at times, cheered the Yorkshire faithful a little more by trapping Luke Wells for 2 and then having Michael Yardy caught behind by Bairstow for 14, although the former skipper had added 76 with Nash by the time that wicket fell. Nash nicked a good ball to Bairstow just before play was halted but Yorkshire are already in need of more wickets early on Thursday. Gale's men will not be pleased to be reminded that the full Eliot quotation reads: "Every beginning is a wholly new start and a different kind of failure."