Essex 252 for 9 trail (Westley 77) trail Yorkshire 390 by 138 runs
Duanne Olivier has struck ten batsmen on the head in English first-class cricket this season - and the county season has barely entered June. Tom Westley, an Essex batsman of England pedigree, was the latest casualty on Wednesday as Olivier advanced his reputation as the most malevolent fast bowler in the county game.
When Olivier abandoned his international career in February in favour of a three-year deal at Yorkshire, Cricket South Africa understandably termed it bad news for the global game. It was certainly bad news for county batsmen. Concussion checks have become a regular sight of the Yorkshire season.
Out-and-out fast bowlers are allowed to hit batsmen, and they are even allowed to relish the benefits that accrue as a result, but with that sort of record you can't help but look on with a certain amount of trepidation.
Westley responded in style, striking 77 out of 252 for 9, his highest Championship score of the season, and looking polished while he did so. Essex remain 138 behind but the follow-on was averted in a contentious finish to the third day at Emerald Headingley which had Olivier at its heart - or more accurately not at its heart - as he failed to bowl in what became a guessing game about what the umpires might allow in supposedly indifferent light.
The ball that struck Westley did not get up as much as he anticipated - "It was a bit of indifferent bounce, I would duck it one hundred times out of a hundred," he said. He did not believe there is anything particularly difficult in Olivier's action that makes his bouncer hard to pick up. So we must put it down to the fact that he bowls rather a lot of them, at close to 90mph.
Essex were 19 runs short of avoiding the follow-on with eight down and 22 overs remaining when umpires Steve O'Shaughnessy and Neil Mallender took the sides off for bad light to protestations from several Yorkshire players and a more acrimonious reaction from the crowd.
Yorkshire had delayed the second new ball as long as they dared, and Ben Coad bowled the first over with it, but as they sensed a quick kill the umpires then suspended play. Umpires can brandish light meters and quote readings for all they are worth, but the sight of Olivier at the end of his mark must have influenced their decision to withdraw.
Surprisingly, they returned 50 minutes later, but this time there was no Olivier. Yorkshire's skipper, Steve Patterson, about 15mph slower, took the new ball instead. "Tactical," he insisted, somewhat forcefully, although "pragmatic" might have been a better word for it. He quickly had Jamie Porter caught at slip with Essex still 18 runs short of safety. But they escaped in bullish fashion when Peter Siddle (who had been dropped on nought) lofted him straight for six.
Yorkshire, apparently, are keeping count of Olivier's helmet blows in the dressing room. Some supporters, though, are not that easily impressed, grumbling that he would be better trying to hit the top of off stump. There as a time earlier in the season when they also reckoned he had struck more batsmen than taking wickets, although with 21 at roughly 30 runs apiece, wickets now have a clear lead.
Thirty apiece is no proof of outright domination. But batsmen rarely feel comfortable when Olivier is bearing down. Senses work overtime. A short ball is a constant possibility. His run-up does not advertise his 90mph capability, but a strong front-on action and snap of shoulder and wrist can produce something special, especially if there is bounce in the pitch.
In his last international series, Pakistan were troubled by a constant barrage of short balls. He took 24 wickets in three Tests over Christmas and New Year. South Africa imagined that, at 27, he would give them years of service. In the week that Dale Steyn passed Shaun Pollock's record number of Test wickets for South Africa, his eyes narrowed at what havoc Olivier might wreak.
Instead he became the 43rd Kolpak to enter county cricket since the regulation came into force in 2004 (South Africans calculate these things, sometimes resentfully), the collapse of the Rand enabling him to earn three times as much.
On a pre-season tour of South Africa, Durham's Cameron Steel was hit and needed 10 days out with concussion; his season has still to take root. Alex Blake and Ollie Robinson, the Kent batsmen, both needed concussion checks at Canterbury. Against Hampshire, wicketkeeper Lewis McManus was hit twice and automatically ruled out of the game. It would have been no surprise to learn that bowls of raw meat had been left for Olivier outside the Yorkshire dressing room.
Essex's first innings was nevertheless in good order when the loss of Westley, who edged to the wicketkeeper as David Willey shaded one away from around the wicket, was followed by a little gem from Ravi Bopara. But the match winked at Yorkshire in mid-afternoon when they took three wickets for one run in 22 balls to leave Essex 191 for 6, still 50 short of the follow-on.
Olivier was the instigator, ending Dan Lawrence's ponderous resistance when he overbalanced on a clip to midwicket, a sharp diving catch by Will Fraine, and Bopara on 44, dragged on as he tried to pull from wide of off stump.
Dom Bess' offspin was rewarded in between when he had Ryan ten Doeschate caught at slip for a fourth-ball duck. Bess found little turn but he bowled with decent flight and change of pace on a day when he also had Nick Browne lbw and Simon Harmer caught to his left at slip by Adam Lyth, a catch that might have taken a slight deflection of the keeper's gloves. Even when Westley hit him straight for six, the ball came back damaged enough, according to Willey, for a hint of reverse swing. Yorkshire are lucky to have a loan player of such promise.
Yorkshire's discipline in the second half of the day was admirable and along the way, Essex's debutant, fourth-choice wicketkeeper, Will Buttleman, endured a 37-ball duck. On the first day, he told the Romford Observer that he was thrilled to travel to the game in Sir Alastair Cook's car. Two days later, he couldn't get his innings into gear. He stuck it out until Willey had him caught at the wicket, slamming it into fourth. In a fairer world, he'd at least have nicked a single somewhere.