Lyth, Lees pedal freely on Yorkshire road
Yorkshire 367 for 7 (Lyth 143, Lees 108, Wood 4-76) v Durham
To mark Yorkshire's triumphant staging of Le Grand Depart, Headingley seemed to have produced a road. Paul Collingwood chose to bowl and looked on in dismay as Yorkshire's openers, Ales Lees and Adam Lyth, piled up 270 for the first wicket. Until tea, the surface looked so flat it would have been appropriate if little yellow bicycles had been pinned to the stumps.
Lees and Lyth share the highest partnership in county cricket this season - 375 against Northants at Wantage Road last month. They have barely been together two minutes, but already they bat like an established pair. Lyth, in form, is full of zest. Lees is the statelier of the two, a tall, languid left-hander with occasional reminders of a young Alastair Cook, such as when he knocked Collingwood off his hip to reach his hundred. "More shots than Cook," said one Yorkshire sage, protectively.
If Lees, as the statelier of the two openers, rode a bicycle, one suspects he would sit in upright fashion on an expensive affair with a posh saddlebag. Lyth is an adventurer, drives zinging from his bat, ambitions held in check, at least on his good days, and this indubitably was one of them. His bike would likely bear the marks of a collision or two at high speed, and he would probably be the first to offer you a croggy the wrong way up a one-way street. For those who need an explanation, that is a lift on the handlebars of a bike, incidentally - a northern word and one which sadly did not make the TV coverage of the Tour de France.
Then, in the 72nd over, Yorkshire crashed. Headingley's supposed road briefly looked as uneven as Haworth's cobbled main street - although in actuality it was down to Mark Wood's late inswing. Once Lees had fallen for 108, lbw to Scott Borthwick's leg spin, Wood, back in the Durham side after injury, began to make the old ball sing.
Wood, who has a sprinter's run up the crease, took 4 for 4 in 11 balls; Yorkshire lost five for 21 in nine overs, a position of dominance jettisoned in not much more than half an hour. Lyth's 143 came to grief when he played back to a ball of goodish length and was undone by one that came back. Andrew Gale and Jonny Bairstow followed in Wood's next over; Gale galumphed across his stumps, Bairstow shouldered arms to his second ball and was bowled by one that swung back. Jack Leaning did muster a shot in Wood's following over, but was bowled anyway.
Collingwood, who must have been regretting his decision to insert Yorkshire, suddenly felt much better. Durham had buckled down in the afternoon session after spilling 145 with some ill-directed fare up to lunch. But the force remained with Yorkshire when Lyth, on 71, hooked loosely at John Hastings and the ball fell conveniently short of deep-square. Then Durham's wicketkeeper, Phil Mustard, shelled a good chance to his left when Lees was 91; Collingwood, at first slip, got an even better view of that.
Just before Yorkshire's collapse, Dickie Bird, le grand Presidente as he now must be known, told how he had maintained tradition by being first to arrive at Sheffield arena for Sunday's second stage of Le Tour. Eventually he found somebody to make him a cup of tea. He watches Yorkshire's young Lions with unabashed pride. He would also have walked out to the middle to check whether Borthwick was running on the pitch if he had been allowed to. It would seem careless from Borthwick with Durham having to bat last.
Dickie left before there was a chance to tell him one of Yorkshire's favourite Tour de France jokes. It concerns the old Dales farmer who was aghast to find thousands of cyclists in Lycra riding down his lane, watched by a throng of spectators. Advised as to the purpose and given a full breakdown of the route they were taking, he thought for a moment. "Tha's quicker ways to 'Arriget," he said.
There are also safer ways to get to 359 for 7, Yorkshire's first-day resting point. Durham took the new ball with five down, Aaron Finch and Adil Rashid initially repelled it with gusto, taking 34 from the first 32 balls, but Chris Rushworth dismissed both courtesy of Scott Borthwick at second slip.
It brought a fluctuating and vastly entertaining day to an end. Well worth the admission money, although now that folk in these parts have fallen in love with something they can watch for free, Yorkshire will fear it will be even harder to get their hands on their money.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo