Middlesex v Yorkshire, Lord's, 2nd day April 28, 2014

Yorkshire show virtues of taking Root

Yorkshire 178 and 213 for 4 (Root 63, Lyth 54) lead Middlesex 123 (Sidebottom 4-34, Brooks 3-47) by 268 runs
Scorecard

Like perms, mullets and onesies, some fashions are best forgotten.

So it may well prove with the current fashion to play 'positive' cricket. Where once county batsmen were brought up to graft their way through tough sessions of play, many of the current generation react to tricky conditions by attempting to blast their way to success. Even at the end of the Ashes series, with England thrashed inside three days, the mantra from inside the camp was that they had to find a way to attack the Australian bowlers and play positive cricket.

The irony of England's approach was that it played into Australia's hands. While England's strength, with a couple of exceptions, was to play patient, attritional cricket, they were lured into altering their game-plan partially by the drip feeding of propaganda into the media by the likes of Shane Warne. Instead of trying to frustrate Australia by blocking for session upon session, they sought to counter-attack and tended to neither score quickly or survive for long. When you are beaten in two-and-a-half days, strike-rate is largely irrelevant.

In the longer forms of the game, defence can remain the best form of attack. A batsman who has the discipline and technique to leave, defend and wait can survive to damage their opposition not just in the next four overs, but the next four sessions. The old values of patience and denial may be unfashionable in the age of T20 and broadcasters demanding action, but they remain as valuable now as ever.

There was a fine example of the virtues of attritional cricket on the second day of this game. While Middlesex, unable to summon the patience to fight for their runs, lost their last eight wickets for 66 runs, Yorkshire were prepared to grind out their total and, by the close of play, had established what may well prove to be a match-defining advantage.

They had a little fortune. For a large part of their second innings, the clouds dispersed and the sun shone at Lord's. Local wisdom suggests, despite scientific evidence to the contrary, that the ball misbehaves far less often when the sun shines.

Generally, though, Yorkshire made their own fortune. By bowling tremendously well in the morning session - Ryan Sidebottom claimed 3 for 11 in nine overs of wonderfully skilful and accurate swing bowling and was well supported by the hostile Liam Plunkett and the nagging Jack Brooks - they gained a first innings lead of 55; a fine achievement from a position of 113 for 7 in their first innings.

They then capitalised on their advantage by seeing off the new ball and the Middlesex bowlers at their freshest and gradually began to carve out a match-defining advantage. Where Middlesex chased the ball, Yorkshire left it. Where Middlesex panicked, Yorkshire were patient. Where Middlesex sought the poor ball, Yorkshire waited for it. Where Middlesex played failed, Yorkshire succeeded.

The contrast in approaches was typified by the experiences of England rivals Joe Root and Eoin Morgan. While Morgan battled for a while, desperately trying to resist the urge to chase the ball, his patience was eroded after a spell where he scored just nine runs in 34 balls and he fell to an outrageous thrash - and an excellent catch - at a ball well wide of off stump.

Root, by contrast, denied himself such indiscretions. Early in his innings, he was admirably compact and refused to be drawn into deliveries outside his off stump. While there was one early hook for six, Root hit only one other boundary in the first 63 balls of his innings.

But, as Middlesex's three-man seam attack tired, the run began to flow with Root hitting four boundaries in seven balls at one stage - three of them off Steven Finn - and the support bowlers conceded almost four-an-over.

There was little wrong with the Middlesex bowling. Finn again generated sharp pace - though probably no sharper than Plunkett's - and maintained good consistency, while James Harris and Tim Murtagh hardly delivered a poor ball.

While Root's resistance will have done him no harm in the eyes of the England selectors, he was building on a platform established by his side's opening batsmen. Alex Lees and Adam Lyth, in particular, again impressed in a stand that drew the sting from the attack and set the tone for the rest of the day.

While none of the batsmen could go on to establish the dominant innings that would have put this game out of reach - Lees left a straight one, Lyth was drawn into a flirt outside off stump and Root was, as in the first innings, punished for being stuck in the crease - a lead of 268 might prove enough already against a Middlesex line-up that appears oddly brittle.

"We've bowled well as a quartet all season," Sidebottom said afterwards. "The way they batted is credit to the way we bowled. The way Plunkett is performing, England should take note. He is bowling fast; I wouldn't want to bat against him. He is bowling quick and fantastically well.

"They bowled well, too, so we had to battle really hard. They gave us nothing for a couple of hours. There's a lot of cricket to play in this game, though. It could still go either way."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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