Abbott's haul threatens Yorkshire's feel-good factor
Hampshire 141 (Coad 6-37, Bresnan 4-53) and 10 for 0 need 310 more runs to beat Yorkshire 273 and 187 (Ballance 55, Hodd 54*, Abbott 7-41)
Two days into Gary Ballance's reign as Yorkshire captain and a sense of bonhomie has pervaded Headingley. Optimism abounds in every conversation. The sun shone so brightly on the second day that from the top of the pavilion you could almost imagine you could see Lancashire. Not that anyone would want to do that.
And yet Yorkshire have not entirely killed this game thanks primarily to a sterling contribution from Hampshire's new South African recruit Kyle Abbott. Abbott took the first five wickets as Yorkshire struggled to make good an advantage of 132 runs on first innings, and had 7 for 41 when their innings closed 319 ahead. If the pitch goes flat, so could Yorkshire. Five absent frontline pace bowlers could be more keenly felt second time around.
Abbott, powerful and stately, has a presence in the field that is peculiar to fast bowlers of repute. For him, fast bowling is serious toil. Hampshire know how important he is to their season. You get the impression that they would not merely polish the ball for him, they would polish his shoes. At the end of each over, more energy expended, he walked back into the outfield with the authority of a man who should not be trifled with.
Yorkshire supporters showed such respect more reluctantly, unimpressed by the fact that Hampshire have taken the Kolpak route to strengthening their squad. Indeed, when Ben Coad, with five wickets overnight, added Abbott to finish with 6 for 37 in his first Championship appearance at Headingley, he became a perfect example of the advantage of producing your own. Thanks to Abbott, he will be asked to restate his potential a second time.
Abbott, who is one of a rush of Kolpak entrants into the county game this season, was not remotely abashed by his new county status. After a brief foray at the Rugby Stand end, he switched downhill to find the edge of Adam Lyth and Peter Handscomb in the same over. Alex Lees, lbw soon afterwards, did so much checking of heights and angles that it would have been no surprise had he pulled a protractor from his back pocket.
When Jack Leaning left protesting he had got wood on his own lbw and Bresnan drove to midwicket, Hampshire began to chirrup in the field. Bresnan, who played one of the most herculean innings in Yorkshire's history on the final day of last season - an unbeaten 142 against Middlesex - in a valiant, if unrewarded, search for a third successive title, has begun the season with a pair.
With half the side out for 115, and the lead 238, Yorkshire's underperforming top order had begun this season much as they passed through the last. Andrew Hodd's unbeaten 54 from 53 balls was an enterprising retort in a match where Ballance's authority has not been matched by his team-mates. Hodd began with six flashing boundaries and brought up his 50 by lofting Liam Dawson's left-arm slows for six. There is a little turn to be had on this surface as well.
Abbott, though, had not been silenced. With successive deliveries, he had Steve Patterson lbw and bowled Josh Shaw, doing his utmost to turn the game on its head.
Life had been going so much more swimmingly for Yorkshire in mid-afternoon. In the Trueman Stand, Ballance was observed warmly as he added a confident half-century to the hundred he made on the opening day. A crowd that a generation ago would still admonish anyone who cut before the end of June even applauded a meaty reverse sweep against Dawson that got his innings into gear. Coats and sweaters were flung aside in turn. One woman sat on a throne of discarded garments. Another passed around sweets.
With a summer ahead, there were important matters to sort out. Not only were the blackbirds building their nests. So, too, were Yorkshire cricket supporters, equally enlivened by a shot of early sunshine.
"Steward, a word. Can I report two broken seats please: numbers 481 and 488. That's very kind of you."
As the steward departed to do their bidding, the conversation briefly crackled.
"Did you see how courteous I were?"
"It'll be done by next season."
"He'll have forgotten already."
"That'll teach him to come here looking for a job."
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps