Yorkshire 241 for 7 (Ballance 55, Rashid 53) v Sussex
This is the week when some players can go through agonies while others tend to go through the motions. The first group study the league tables; the second read holiday brochures or golf magazines.
Sussex's cricketers, at least for the first couple of days of this match against Yorkshire, find themselves in the first category. Still needing nine points to be safe from relegation, they cannot yet permit themselves the gentle deceleration towards October in all its amber abundance.
Nor, of course, could they afford to give a debut to a coltish Academy cricketer, his eyes bright at the merest thought of the big time. Instead, Ed Joyce and his players spent the first day of this game striving to keep their fate under their own control, which is not easy when you are playing the best team in the country.
In such predicaments it must be rather reassuring to have Steve Magoffin in your side. For all that he is 36 in December, Magoffin must be almost certain that his services will be required at Hove next summer, whether or not the saga of his British citizenship is successfully concluded. His 64 wickets in Division One and the testimony of his peers proclaim his quality.
At lunch in this game Yorkshire's score of 106 for 2 scarcely justified Joyce's decision to insert them. One imagines that Andrew Gale's attack, even without Steve Patterson, who was surprisingly omitted from the eleven, would have made greater inroads. Perhaps Joyce, rather like Marcus Trescothick a couple of weeks ago, simply didn't fancy taking first knock.
The loss of the openers, Adam Lyth and Alex Lees, had been followed by a brisk third-wicket partnership between Gary Ballance and Gale, the Yorkshire captain fairly skipping along to 31 not out off 30 balls. Then Gale attempted a back-foot drive off Magoffin's second ball after lunch but merely edged it onto his stumps.
Four overs later, Jonny Bairstow, having received most of his 18 balls from Magoffin, inside-edged a catch to Ben Brown. Bairstow came into this game with a County Championship batting average of 107.1 yet he had been throttled by the accuracy of Magoffin, who had risen to the task of removing Yorkshire's two highest scorers this season.
Eleven overs and one break for rain later, Ballance was dismissed for 55 after playing an 119-ball innings studded with fine drives but whose ending, cutting Chris Liddle loosely to Joyce at backward point, scarcely made the case for his restoration to England colours.
Once again, therefore, the task of building a substantial total was left to batsmen below Yorkshire's top five, a fact which has irritated Jason Gillespie even as his team has been lauded to the heavens. As usual, though, Yorkshire's later batsmen responded, at least to the extent of taking their side from 140 for 5, when Ballance was out, to 241 for 7 at the close.
Such a total is respectable enough on a wicket which is offering the seamers help, but the batsmen responsible for Yorkshire's recovery were both dismissed by fine balls in the long evening session. Jack Leaning was caught at slip by Chris Jordan off Lewis Hatchett for 36 when the left-arm seamer moved one sharply off the pitch and seven balls before the end of play, which arrived unusually late for September at 6.15pm, Adil Rashid was caught behind off Chris Liddle for 53 when he pushed forward at one which straightened a little.
Rashid's fifty, all cuts through gully and wristy clips past midwicket, had shown care but also commitment, a quality shared by Gale's batting at present. The Yorkshire captain is only 61 runs short of a thousand in the County Championship and other batsmen, notably Lees, might learn from a technique which seems uncluttered by doubt. In his 26 Division One innings this season, Lees has been dismissed between 10 and 40 on 14 occasions. He has the ability to play himself in, which is vital; then he seems to bat so tentatively that he gets out, which must be deeply frustrating.
At times Lees seems like Macbeth wondering what will happen if he fails; Gale is like Lady Macbeth - a comparison rarely made, perhaps - exclaiming: "We fail!", partly in disbelief that such a thing might occur. Considering the possibility increases the likelihood. Gale, one senses, does not depart to the pavilion wondering what might have happened if he had only thrown the kitchen sink and all his utensils at the ball.
Sussex, for their part, can be quite happy with their work on the first day of this game. Magoffin, Hatchett and Liddle comprise a good trio of seamers but Yorkshire have bowlers of comparable or greater powers. The tough task before Joyce and his batsmen will be to bat more resolutely than they managed earlier in the season. If they do that, they can turn their attention to more relaxing matters and stop worrying what is going on at Trent Bridge and Taunton.