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April 24, 2013
Yorkshire 57 for 3 trail Durham 237 (Mustard 70, Bresnan 4-41) by 180 runs
The anticipation of an Ashes series can exhaust you before it has even begun. It is ten weeks before the first ball is bowled at Trent Bridge and already it is discussed on a daily basis. For Tim Bresnan, though, the attempt to force himself into Ashes contention really did start here. It has to be said it started rather well.
After a second elbow operation in the close season, Bresnan's opening first-class match of the season carried special significance. He spent much of his last year with England below par and needs to prove in the weeks ahead that injury will not reduce his impact for good; that - in his own words - he can bowl with beans again.
Durham, as vulnerable as any batting side in the top division, were an appealing prospect so early in the season. As if to quicken Bresnan's anticipation further, Australia had just named their Ashes squad. The announcement seems rather premature but presumably these days they have to allow several weeks to plan their way through Border Control.
Bresnan sniffed the wind, muscled his way into the crease and, with his first Championship delivery of the season, sent Keaton Jennings' off stump flying. It was some comeback and, as he leapt high into the air, some celebration. Figures of 4 for 47 as Durham's first innings came to rest at 237 represented an impressive start. At the end of it all, the only possible conclusion was that he was in the category of 'has beans' rather than 'has-beens'.
"I had full beans," he agreed. "No pain, decent rhythm. It felt good. That's as close to 100 per cent as I'm probably going to get. I'm ready for England - I've just got to get my name on the sheet. It's always nice conditions to bowl up here. There was a bit in the wicket and we were quite surprised when they batted."
Jennings is a 20-year-old South African, but his mother was born just up the road in Sunderland and in these parts that makes him local. His father is Ray Jennings, a former South Africa coach with a reputation as a bit of a stickler. If Keaton does not break his run of failures soon, Dad could be on the phone and it might not be pretty.
Will Smith's wicket was borne of desperation. Smith had added 86 with Dale Benkenstein and Bresnan felt he had suffered enough playing and missing for one day. He decided to bowl a bouncer and see what happened; Smith obligingly hooked it to Ryan Sidebottom at long leg. The wickets came in a rush, five within 10 overs with Bresnan removing Ben Stokes and Paul Collingwood for ducks.
Not that it was an entirely satisfying day for Yorkshire. When the first day closed with Graham Onions' successful lbw appeal, and the dismissal of Yorkshire's captain Andrew Gale, Durham had three down for 57. A running mix-up had also cost Yorkshire the wicket of Phil Jaques as Onions, with one stump to aim at, threw down the wicket off his own bowling.
When Durham were 112 for 7, Yorkshire had reason to expect something better, but while Bresnan, Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Patterson went for two runs an over, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid disappeared for more than six. Durham's last three wickets added 125, with Phil Mustard hitting about him with a hearty glow before he was last out for 70. He clumped Bresnan over mid-on to bring up 200, he clumped Patterson in similar fashion for his fifty; he likes a clump more than most.
Yorkshire will picture their seam attack without Bresnan in midsummer and feel a little queasy. Plunkett can most kindly be regarded as a work in progress. He can bowl a killer ball, as he underlined when he had Scott Borthwick lbw with the first ball of his second spell, but his return to his old Chester-le-Street stamping ground was not a happy one. His ten overs leaked 67 runs and Mustard at one stage took three boundaries from four balls. The triumphant homecoming will have to wait.
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But you can't expect a turnaround unless pitches, umpiring and practice facilities are simultaneously improved