Battling openers do Yorkshire proud
Yorkshire 123 for 1 (Rudolph 73*, Vaughan 0*) v Worcestershire
'Sir Geoffrey' should be proud of his lads today. In difficult batting conditions, Yorkshire fought out a truncated first day at Headingley in dogged fashion to register a century opening partnership and build an excellent foundation for their first innings, with the credit going to their left-handers Jacques Rudolph and Joe Sayers.
It was a good toss to win, and Worcestershire could have had little hesitation in fielding first, against a background of two enormous cranes engaged in building the new Headingley pavilion. The sky was grey, the light was poor, rain was anticipated, the ball swung and the re-laid outfield was slow. Given these circumstances, the Yorkshire openers did extremely well. They began with great caution, which was indeed the only wise way to play, and laboured to double figures before Rudolph slapped a ball from Ashley Noffke over the covers for four. After ten overs the score was 16 without loss.
With the ball moving as it did, batting was never going to be easy, but it must be said that Worcestershire did not always use the conditions to best advantage. Even with Simon Jones and Kabir Ali on the injury list they have a useful attack on paper, but the bowlers at times strayed in line. Often a good ball would beat the batsman, only to be followed by deliveries that were wide enough for him to let pass through to the keeper.
Even then discrimination is needed by the batsmen to pick out the balls that can be safely scored from, and Rudolph in particular was adept at doing this. Sayers, though often bogged down, hung in there in traditional Boycott fashion and fought it out admirably. It took him 63 balls before he leg-glanced a ball for four to reach double figures. Rudolph registered a six off the top edge over fine leg off Matt Mason, and the 50 came up in the 24th over. Sayers celebrated with a superb cover drive for four off Imran Arif, by common consent the shot of the day.
Rudolph reached his 50 off 86 balls and not long after a cut brought up the century stamd. The ball went down a drain - Worcestershire supporters may have felt this was ironically symbolic - and one hopes the man who eventually climbed down to retrieve it was licensed to do so by Health and Safety. With the light ever worsening, Sayers reached 49 and then played a stroke he has had plenty of time to rue, an uncharacteristic hook off Chris Whelan that skied towards fine leg and was caught by the wicketkeeper Steve Davies running back.
For Sayers it was particularly regrettable, as Michael Vaughan came in to face only two balls without scoring, before the light became so bad that the umpires took the teams off the field. Before long a steady drizzle began and steadily worsened so that further play was impossible. In half a day's play the advantage lay with Yorkshire; they now have to fight the weather as well as the opposition if they are to win this match.