Yorkshire sing thanks to Bresnan's swing
Yorkshire 308 (Rashid 88, Bresnan 69, Jarvis 4-74, Wagner 4-75) and 236 (Plunkett 57, Wagner 4-71) beat Lancashire 196 (Livingstone 60*) and 173 (Brown 51, Rashid 4-17, Bresnan 4-36) by 175 runs
It did not matter that June was not so much bustin' out all over as peering out reluctantly on a grey Leeds sky. The gates opened at Headingley at 9.30am and a minute or so later the first supporters were establishing their base camps at the Kirkstall Lane: coffee, woollies and, who knows, even Kendal mint cake. Such folk probably accompanied Scott or Shackleton. They probably thought the weather a trifle nippy; everyone else thought it was bloody cold.
And just over seven hours later those hardy partisans were applauding Andrew Gale and his players after they had completed what was only Yorkshire's second home victory in a Roses match since 1992. The fair-minded Lancastrians in the crowd will have applauded, too, for no one could seriously doubt the merit of this victory. When Gale's men needed to take wickets on the final day, they did so; when Lancashire needed their leading batsmen, Alviro Petersen for example, to play major innings they fell to soft dismissals, albeit that the conditions remained as tricky for batting as they had been for virtually the entire match.
For no one was the victory sweeter than Tim Bresnan, who scored 98 important runs in the game and also took six wickets, all of which is a useful way to mark your first Championship appearance of the season. Yorkshire have missed the allrounder's accuracy with the ball and his uncomplicated style with the bat during the past six weeks. Bresnan's return from injury, added to the fact that Yorkshire are now joint top of the Division One table on points without having played particularly well, are warning signs for the rest to ponder as the season gets into its fullest swing.
"Our form doesn't warrant us being top of the league," Gale admitted. "But we're finding a way to win games, and the teams that were successful before us, like Durham, always found a way to get back into a game, even when they were bowled out for 200. We know we haven't played that well this season but we have really dug in and won the key periods in this game."
And as if a Roses encounter was not already sufficiently disputatious, Nigel Farage turned up at Headingley on this final morning. The UKIP leader is a strong supporter of the "Out" campaign in the EU Referendum but the Yorkshire bowlers seemed to have little need of his encouragement.
Notwithstanding this apparent superfluity, Farage stood in the Long Room and watched the cricket. "Sit down, you're blocking my view," said a welcoming Yorkshire supporter. One hopes the bloke-ish Farage was not offended. Churchill, himself, might have copped a flea in his ear had he prevented a Yorkshireman watching even an over of the Lancashire match.
And Farage's visit might actually have brought him some solace. From where he was standing, he had an excellent view of a completely deserted White Rose stand. Yorkshire decided not to let anybody in to their former Western Terrace during this game, a policy of exclusion which the UKIP leader seems to think should be more widely employed.
Those folk in the Kirkstall Lane End, however, had already been given at least four reasons to cheer when Farage's battlebus eventually left Leeds. The first of these arrived in the seventh over of the morning, by which time the umpires had already decided that the light was too bad for the seamers to operate. This Yorkshire attack often makes light of such inconveniences, though, and they did so again as Haseeb Hameed was caught at the wicket attempting to cut a short ball from Adil Rashid in the over before Luke Procter's attempt to at Adam Lyth merely edged a catch to Bresnan at slip. "Oh well, a bit of bad light might have done us good," murmured the Yorkshire president, John Hampshire, contentedly.
Without the help of the Headingley floodlights, of course, Yorkshire's bowlers may have had few opportunities on this dullest of days to assert their superiority. Apparently, having the lights on costs the club £130 an hour. "It was worth it," said a home supporter, which, so local rumour has it, is not something you hear that frequently from a Yorkshireman.
When conditions improved a little, Bresnan returned to the attack and quickly removed Steven Croft, bowled when attempting to leave the ball, and Petersen, leg before when trying to clip a straight ball to leg. That left Lancashire on 98 for 5 and on the threshold of mild humiliation. That fate was avoided by the 63-run stand for the sixth wicket shared by Karl Brown, who made his first Championship half-century of the season, and Liam Livingstone, who seemed on course for his third until, in mid-afternoon, he thrashed a Rashid long hop straight to Liam Plunkett at deep square leg. That marked the beginning of a joyous ten-over spell for Yorkshire in which they took Lancashire's final five wickets for 12 runs in 10 overs. Rashid took a couple more and finished with 4 for 17; Bresnan grabbed two as well and ended with 4 for 36.
Gale later conceded that his top five batsmen are not "firing" as he would wish but he also surely knows that any attack which includes Bresnan on top form will present the rest of Division One with a tough old challenge. Yorkshire's bowlers certainly combined superbly in this, their most important match of the season and it served to remind one of the argument that for all that their objective is to defeat rather than simply delight, bowling attacks are not unlike jazz quintets. Themes are shared yet individual skills are allowed to shine. "Oh, play that thing."