Wickets tumble as Yorkshire take charge
Yorkshire 128 for 3 v Warwickshire 217
Perhaps it was fitting that the first day of the season should take place against backdrop of rubble and destruction. For, even as the earliest championship season began at the building site that is currently Edgbaston, the ECB were considering plans that will drastically alter the landscape of domestic cricket.
It now looks almost inevitable that the championship season will be reduced to just 12 fixtures per county, probably as early as next year. As a consequence it is quite possible there will be no promotion or relegation this season. Instead, we face the prospect of teams playing in three, randomly-drawn conferences. The County Championship, the centrepiece of the English season for well over a century, is likely to be reduced to little more than a training exercise.
That would be a shame. English cricket has become a great deal tougher and more competitive in the decade of two-divisional cricket and, contrary to some reports, is watched by far more than one man and his dog. Certainly there was a decent decent crowd here at Edgbaston. Over 1,300 spectators braved the earliest start to a Championship season and were rewarded with glorious sunshine for much of the day.
There were also rewarded by an absorbing tussle between teams containing nine international cricketers who the bookies believe could be fighting to avoid the bottom places. On the strength of first impressions, it is Warwickshire who may face the more uncomfortable campaign. Yorkshire, led for the first time by Andrew Gale, enjoyed much the better of the opening day and are well-placed to build a commanding position on day two.
Gale, Yorkshire's youngest captain since 1933 and the club's sixth in nine years, enjoyed an excellent start. After winning an important toss, he rotated his attack sensibly and was handsomely rewarded with several slices of fortune. Five times bowlers struck in the first over of new spells. He will not always have it so easy, however.
For a start the pitch, though slow, offered his seamers more than a little assistance, with irregular bounce adding to the lateral movement. Unusually at Edgbaston, both sides would have inserted on winning the toss. Some of Warwickshire's batting was also rather obliging. Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott apart, all the home batsmen played a part in their own downfall, with Ian Westwood (leaving a straight one) and Tim Ambrose (driving without foot movement) especially culpable.
Nor will Gale always possess such a potent attack. Ajmal Shahzad and Tim Bresnan will shortly depart on England duty and, while Steven Patterson impressed here and Tino Best will gain a work permit shortly, Oliver Hannon-Dalby will need to tighten up considerably if he is to fill the void. He also put down a straightforward opportunity off Ambrose that could have proved costly.
Warwickshire's score was probably at least 100 short of par. Weakened by injuries to Darren Maddy, Rikki Clarke and Boyd Rankin, they were always likely to rely heavily on Bell and Trott, but were undone when both men fell to unplayable deliveries that bounced off a length and took the edge and glove respectively.
Bell looked in fine form. Timing the ball beautifully, he hit Hannon-Dalby out of the attack with three fours in an overs, the best of them an imperious pull, and looked set for a commanding total. None of Warwickshire's remaining players hinted at permanence. Varun Chopra (on debut) fell early, half forward to one that nipped back and while Troughton and then Neil Carter prospered for a while, the former felt for one he could have left and the latter missed an ungainly sweep.
Though Adam Lyth and Anthony McGrath both fiddled at deliveries that left them, Joe Sayers and Jacques Rudolph soon made deep inroads into the Warwickshire total. Sayers, in unusually fluent form, eased to a polished half-century, but fell just before the close when he was punished for dragging his back heel by a smart piece of work by Ambrose.
"That was a really good day for us," Bresnan said afterwards. "Batting on the second day should be quite a lot easier, so we're looking to get a lead of around 150 and bowl them out again.It will probably be a lot tougher in the second innings, as they'll be a bit disappointed with the way they batted. But we knew we needed to get off to a good start this season and we've got a great opportunity here to get some points on the board."