Yorkshire v Somerset, Scarborough,1st day September 17, 2008

Somerset make most of truncated day

John Ward at Scarborough

Somerset 160 for 3 (Suppiah 58*, Langer 55) v Yorkshire

It was a dull grey day in Scarborough; not a drop of proper rain fell during playing hours, but due to bad light only 44 overs were permitted by the umpires. There was much interesting cricket in this time, however, as Yorkshire bowled very well, only to be met with determined Somerset batting, with the balance of luck falling perhaps more on the side of the visitors.

A damp outfield meant that the start of play was delayed by half an hour. This was umpire Barrie Leadbeater's final match on home soil before his retirement, and a report stated that he was only 15 lbw victims short of the record for any umpire in top-class cricket. If this influenced Darren Gough's decision to bowl first on winning the toss, it backfired, as Leadbeater was not very co-operative with his index finger on this occasion.

Somerset seem to have acquired the habit of entertaining from the first ball of the match. Two matches ago, at Nottingham, Justin Langer was lbw to the first ball; last week at Taunton he survived a similar appeal by the narrowest of margins. This time, with Arul Suppiah in the side, he decided to go in at No. 3, but still had to face the second ball of the innings. Marcus Trescothick took strike, attempted a footwork-free swing at Matthew Hoggard's first ball, well outside the off stump, and edged it to the keeper, a remarkable lapse from a batsman of his quality.

The Yorkshire seamers did a fine job in fairly helpful conditions, but luck was on the side of the batsmen, although nobody could begrudge it to them as they fought their way through. Hoggard troubled Langer, who nevertheless struck him twice through the covers for four. His policy seemed to be to hammer the loose ball to the boundary and block the rest, as evidenced by the statistic that his fifty contained no fewer than 12 fours in 71 balls.

Langer hit one crisp four after another and reached his landmark in the course of hammering Darren Gough for five boundaries in six balls. With 55 to his credit, though, he tried to slog Adil Rashid before having a look at him, and lobbed a catch into the covers.

At the other end Suppiah hung on like a limpet, but was not as slow as he appeared, simply because he did not have much of the strike. He did a good holding job for his team, while Zander de Bruyn (0) fell lbw, sweeping, to Rashid as umpire Leadbeater finally answered one of numerous close appeals in the affirmative.

The afternoon session was marred by bad light and poor Yorkshire fielding. Richard Pyrah, usually reserved for one-day cricket, missed Suppiah on 34 at third slip off Deon Kruis, and in the same over survived a much harder chance offered by James Hildreth, then on 13. Later on, with 26 to his account, Hildreth survived as Gerard Brophy fluffed a simple stumping, this time off Rashid. In the meantime the score progressed from 103 to 160 with three wickets down, despite two breaks for bad light. Suppiah was gradually opening up, playing some good shots through the covers, and reached his 50 off 112 balls.

Tea was taken early after the second stoppage, and play never resumed afterwards. The natives grew restless, as is only to be expected in Yorkshire, and there were visions of such headlines as "Umpire lynched in final home match." It did seem as if the umpires were unduly pernickity for at least part of the time when play was not taking place, and one would have thought that the players themselves, with their teams so desperate for points at this stage of the season, would have wanted to get on with the game.

But such is the caution of professional cricket, and they tend to give the impression they would rather play with a football on the outfield (as Somerset did) than get on with the real game. With the match unseasonably late for Scarborough, they only had about half as many spectators as usual for this championship match, although still well over a thousand. Most of them as they trailed home today would probably have described themselves as dissatisfied customers.