Rashid and Bresnan fight back to show the White Rose retains its thorn
Yorkshire 301 for 9 (Rashid 88, Bresnan 69, Jarvis 4-74, Wagner 3-70) v Lancashire
Emboldened a trifle by their side's position at the top of the Division One table, Lancashire's travelling supporters had reasons for disquieting optimism as they made their way across the Pennines for the 256th Roses match. "Oh are we bound for glory, borne on a little fortune's wave?" they might have trilled with the peerless Nancy Kerr, before adding that note of protective pessimism: "Or are we bound for some dark town and some grave northern story?"
For well over an hour on the first day of this game it seemed that those loyalists from the Rossendale valley were destined for glory without trammel. Fine new-ball bowling by Kyle Jarvis and sharp slip catching by Karl Brown and Tom Smith had left Yorkshire miserably placed on 29 for 4 in the 14th over and the very limited recovery achieved by Andrew Gale and Adil Rashid was snuffed out half an hour before lunch when a shuffling Gale was lbw to a full length ball from Neil Wagner.
This, though, is Yorkshire and they are not champions for nowt. And Headingley is, in the proudest possible way, a ground where they do not like you to forget it, particularly during a Roses match. More significantly, of course, Gale's team is one which managed to win the 2015 Division One title by 68 points without ever batting at their best. Instead, they perforce relied on a series of spectacular recoveries, and the fact that many of them involved Jonny Bairstow has not blunted Yorkshire's capacity to fight back. Bairstow may be with England but Yorkshire's resilience burns wonderfully brightly without him.
So it was barely a surprise that Rashid and Tim Bresnan took their side's total from 74 to 210 before the sixth wicket fell when Rashid drove Simon Kerrigan to Luke Procter at short cover and trooped off 12 short of what would have been his third century against Lancashire. What was even more encouraging was that Rashid and Bresnan's bristling partnership was followed in the last hour of the day by a fine stand of 75 for the ninth wicket between Steve Patterson, who is 41 not out, and Andrew Hodd, who received his Yorkshire cap early in the day and fell in its last over, when he turned Wagner to Liam Livingstone at backward short leg and departed for 40.
Despite that late reverse, the Headingley spectators could return to their homes in Pudsey and Bingley, in Morley and Cleckheaton, knowing that they had seen their team finish the day on even terms. That was a distant summit late in the morning session.
Yet this was a splendid day on which Lancashire supporters could also be proud, particularly, perhaps, of Jarvis who finished the day with figures of 4 for 74 and is now the leading wicket-taker in Division One with 28 scalps. Following Tom Bailey's dismissal of Adam Lyth with the fourth ball of the match, Jarvis took three for 24 in a nine-over spell and there was really not very much either Gary Ballance or Jack Leaning could do about the balls which defeated their defensive shots and took the outside edge. Like Ballance, Alex Lees made nought and he may look back on his loose shot outside the off stump with rather less phlegm.
The afternoon session was the property of Rashid and Bresnan, who added 107 in 34 overs during which they drew the sting of Lancashire's attack, a particularly fine achievement on a pitch offering uneven bounce. Wagner tried to compensate for his lack of impact with an overuse of the bouncer and he looks so much less formidable a customer when his bumpers become outlets for frustration rather than targeted weapons. The Yorkshire crowd enjoyed it all hugely, of course, and offered frank assessments, not all of them complimentary, of the South African's capabilities.
Rashid, compact and skilful, drove and cut effectively; Bresnan launched his bat like a mighty scramasax at anything overpitched. Yorkshire fought their way out of trouble and the conversations among spectators reflected contentment. "Do we still spell it Maurice Leyland even though it's Morris on his birth certificate?" asked someone. This is a county where they are putting up blue plaques to commemorate the birthplaces of their great cricketers. They will remember Rashid and Bresnan's stand, too, especially, maybe, because it provoked such impotent wrath in Wagner. Every religion, especially a secular one, perhaps, needs its little devils.
Lancashire fought back though, and Wagner will not be too unhappy with his final figures of 3 for 70. He dismissed Bresnan for 69 when another mighty drive could only inside-edge a catch behind and he then got rid of Hodd and celebrated joyously in the evening sunshine. One imagines he has enjoyed his first taste of a Roses match. As for Lancashire's skipper, Steven Croft, he will be tired but not too despondent when he reviews the day. Pressed into service as a wicketkeeper after Alex Davies was ruled out with a knee injury, Croft pouched the catches which removed both Lyth and Bresnan and kept his men at their work. This game is beautifully poised. One wonders which side is bound for glory.