Smith's best puts Lancashire in charge
Lancashire 106 for 0 (Horton 61*, Smith 40*) trail Yorkshire 181 (Gale 54, Smith 6-46, Mahmood 3-57) by 75 runs
The Roses match is county cricket's most famous contest. The first day's play, however, brought nothing from either team really worthy of the great matches of the past, until the Lancashire opening pair of Paul Horton and Tom Smith, who earlier claimed a career-best 6 for 46, dug in during the final session. They shared an unbroken century opening partnership by sound but unspectacular accumulation that put their team into pole position at the end of the day. One can imagine the ghosts of Yorkshire's great past snorting with contempt at the inadequacies of the class of 2009, who for the most part batted without spirit or application and were no more than moderately tidy with the ball.
The match was played at a rather dysfunctional Old Trafford, where ground renovations resulted in almost three-quarters of the ground being closed. Yorkshire won the toss and decided to bat in bright sunshine. The sun did not last, and neither did the Yorkshire batting.
They did not begin too badly, and Joe Sayers belied his reputation as a dour opener with a handsome four through the covers in the first over. Jacques Rudolph, who has tended in recent weeks to play flashy innings and give his wicket away, was more discreet on this occasion, but he only made 14, out of an opening partnership of 39, before he shouldered arms to a ball from Saj Mahmood that came in enough to hit his off stump. Anthony McGrath did not last long, making 9 before he slashed at a wide ball from Tom Smith and was indignant to be given out caught at the wicket. Sayers was the third to go before lunch: he scored 34 steadily without being bogged down, but was beaten by a good ball from Smith and caught in the slips.
Yorkshire were 91 for 3 at lunch, not a particularly impressive total against a seam bowling attack that found some movement and bowled some good deliveries, but was never really consistent. But worse was quickly to come for the visitors. Jonny Bairstow was taken aback by a fine ball from Smith, the first of the session, and caught in the slips for 5, which started a sorry middle-order slump.
Smith was at the centre of it, taking his first five-wicket haul for Lancashire and finishing with 6 for 46. He did indeed bowl some fine deliveries, but he was flattered by poor batting. Two of his wickets came from balls well wide of the off stump that the batsmen chased, and another two from mistimed hooks; Gerard Brophy (15) and Tim Bresnan (0) in the same over. They were quite well-directed, but needed - and duly received - due co-operation from the batsmen to secure a wicket.
Yorkshire went from 115 for 4 to 122 for 8 before Ajmal Shahzad came in to show some fight. Still there was the admirable Andrew Gale, who had stood firm amid the ruins and now began to show more assertiveness. He pulled a ball from Oliver Newby for six over square leg and then cut his next ball to the boundary to reach his 50 off 83 balls. Even he, though, eventually steered a ball from Mahmood tamely to backward point to depart for 54, and Yorkshire were finally dismissed for an unworthy 181.
Lancashire opened their batting with Horton and Smith, the latter really a stop-gap opener. But he did an excellent supporting job with his senior partner, and the pair gave the Yorkshire batsmen an object lesson in how to work for their runs. The Yorkshire bowling was similar in quality to Lancashire's, perhaps a little more accurate, though not inspired.
The difference, though, was the Lancashire pair was streets ahead of what Yorkshire had shown, as they played every ball on its merits and concentrated simply on occupation of the crease and steady accumulation. There was nothing fancy, few if any memorable strokes, but just a sound, workmanlike performance, and that was exactly what the home county needed. The hundred came up in the 33rd over, no more than steady by modern standards - but the vital factor was that both were still there at the close.