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April 13, 2014
Yorkshire 342 for 5 (Rashid 85*, Lyth 85, Ballance 77) v Somerset
A batsman seeking form and international recognition relishes coming to Taunton. That was always the case in the fondly remembered days when Phil Frost cut pitches for avaricious run-gatherers and not much has changed in this era of relaid surfaces.
So it was that Adam Lyth, who often scores heavily here, scored 85, Adil Rashid one run fewer with the prospect of a hundred on the morrow, and Gary Ballance, seeking the attention of England's selectors as he looks to retain his place post-Australia, 77 with a measure of conviction.
In 11 innings at the County Ground, Lyth has made 646 first-class runs at an average of 64.06. In one match in 2010 alone, he struck 142 and 93, and there was a further century last year. Nothing seemed more certain than that he would reach a third century in his visits here: he saw off the new ball after Yorkshire had been put in, swiftly making 69 for the first wicket with Alex Lees, and collected runs all around the wicket against seam - no shortage - and spin, represented here by Johann Myburgh, when George Dockrell might well have been a better bet.
It was to his opening attack that Marcus Trescothick looked upon making the contentious decision to ask Yorkshire to bat. There was a little grass left on the pitch, but then that is often so here. In choosing to omit Jamie Overton, who has, admittedly, been troubled by tendonitis, the captain was asking two change bowlers, Alfonso Thomas and Lewis Gregory, to make the initial breakthrough.
As it transpired, Craig Overton, preferred to his twin, and Craig Meschede, who really were the change bowlers, could well have been given first bowl.
Meschede uprooted Lees' off stump with a yorker that the batsman appeared to see late and promptly had Kane Williamson caught at short mid off for a duck, the drive unconvincing. Andrew Gale became a third victim, leg before for 24. All the while, Lyth prospered. He spoke a year ago of hoping to play for England, but the reality is that too many of his colleagues have the same aspirations, and indeed have achieved them already.
When he was out, having earlier been dropped by Craig Kieswetter on 70, and having struck 14 fours in a stay of 160 balls, it was an unfortunate dismissal. His swivel pull was properly middled and the catch, by Gregory at midwicket off Overton, was a terrific one - right handed and stooping to his right in anticipation.
Ballance , meanwhile, had taken 25 balls to get off the mark. Not that this affected his cover driving: one superlative front foot shot through the covers off Meschede was the shot of the day. Now partnered by Rashid, he progressed inexorably towards a century, only to be beaten when Gregory took the new ball. He had struck ten fours and his partnership with Rashid realised 115 off 32 overs.
Rashid is tipped by Dickie Bird, who was on the ground in his presidential year with Yorkshire, to play for England before Bird's term of office ends. We shall hold him to that forecast - made, it should be noted, before this innings was underway.
All wristiness in his flicks and square drives, Rashid was 15 short of his century at the close of a bright day. Would Yorkshire have batted had they won the toss? "We were happy to do so," said Jason Gillespie, their coach, doubtless not wishing to sound critical of Trescothick, his old opponent from their Ashes days.
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