Yorkshire 275 for 9 (Lehmann 58, Bresnan 56, Berg 5-54) v Hampshire
"Don't look down, look up" goes the old Yorkshire adage about whether to bat or bowl first at Headingley. A few hundred miles south at the Ageas Bowl the proverb is ever-more appropriate, as overhead conditions appear to be shaping the game at Hampshire's ground with increasing regularity.
Upon winning the toss in this crucial match, with repercussions for the top and bottom of the Championship table, Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale looked up, saw a cloudless blue sky and opted to bat. With the two most recent first-innings scores at this ground being 637 for 7 and 548 for 6 Hampshire would have been forgiven for preparing themselves for another long stint in the field, having last week been run ragged for 137.4 overs in their most recent Championship match at Taunton.
In a season in which fortune has frequently frowned on Hampshire, with injuries and illness robbing them of some of their best players, they could probably hardly believe their luck when after just 20 minutes of play, in which Yorkshire's openers had looked relatively untroubled, the sky was suddenly choked by dense and leaden clouds. Five minutes later the floodlights were on, a couple of balls jagged sharply past the outside edge and the whole feeling of the occasion had been transformed.
What followed was an engrossingly competitive day that ebbed and flowed as readily as the clouds rolled in and out, in which ball dominated bat for large swathes of it and ended with Hampshire in a decidedly better position than perhaps even they would have envisaged at 11am.
If Hampshire are indeed relegated this season, which remains likely, the locals are unlikely to see cricket bearing the intensity and meaning of that which they witnessed in the morning session for some time. The air was heavy with import as Ryan McLaren, Brad Wheal and Gareth Berg stared the top order of county cricket's northern powerhouse straight in the eyes and matched them blow for blow, beating the edge by getting the ball to spit, bounce, seam and swing.
As well as Hampshire bowled in that opening session it was the catching of Will Smith that could be largely credited with the wickets of Yorkshire's left-handed openers. Both Alex Lees, against McLaren, and Adam Lyth, against Wheal, tried to force balls through the off side delivered from round the wicket that were arguably not wide enough to do so too, and on both occasions Smith, diving to his right at a wide gully, first with two hands and then spectacularly with one, was there to intercept the ball inches above the turf.
The brilliance of Smith did not rub off on to James Vince, whose catching struggles continued as he dropped England team-mate and possible rival for a winter tour spot, Gary Ballance, twice in less than 15 minutes at third slip. It was third time unlucky for Ballance however when wicketkeeper Lewis McManus did not make the same mistake as his captain when a hint of swing extracted a fine edge to leave Yorkshire teetering at 57 for 3.
It was then that the pendulum began to swing back towards Yorkshire as Gale and Jake Lehmann combined in a 62-run partnership either side of lunch that arrested their slide. Lehmann's counter-attacking innings of 58 from 73 balls made for enjoyable viewing. He is a punchy player, unafraid to play his shots and his quickness to pick up length is an enticing trait.
After Gale was squared up by McLaren and Lehmann brilliantly caught by Jimmy Adams playing one cut shot too many, the game swung towards Hampshire again only for Tim Bresnan to wrest it back with a typically tough fifty from No. 6.
It was after tea with the floodlights on and dark skies above that Hampshire built on the foundations of their strong first two sessions. A superb spell by Berg, in which he took 3 for 13 from five overs and got the ball to move wickedly off the pitch, gutted Yorkshire's lower order, instigating a dramatic collapse from 212 for 5 to 234 for 9. The three wickets sealed Berg his first five wicket-haul since September 2011. He, like Hampshire more generally, were assisted by the conditions but it took skill to utilise them.
Just how important Yorkshire's unbeaten tenth wicket partnership of 41 between Jack Brooks and Ryan Sidebottom was will become apparent after Hampshire have batted. This felt like a good day for Hampshire, especially after being put into the field, but batting was not easy and Yorkshire have the bowlers to cause real damage if helpful conditions persist.