Yorkshire 84 for 4 (Kohler-Cadmore 41) trail Durham 103 (Coad 4-23; Thompson 3-16) by 19 runs
A bright August morning at Chester-le-Street; a morning of pitch inspections, warm-ups and applause for callow first-team hopefuls; a morning like any other; Well, not quite, of course. It is 310 days since Essex won the title at Taunton in 2019. This season is well-advanced yet it is just starting and no Yorkshire or Durham cricketer had a first-class run or wicket to his name this summer until Alex Lees pushed Ben Coad's third ball of the match into the covers and scrambled a run with Sean Dickson.
In normal times such an opening to a match might prompt courteous applause from the White Rose enclaves at Chester-le-Street. But these are nothing like normal times. The unpeopled stands at the Riverside, even the smaller one below the dressing rooms, seem as vast and austere as the Piazza San Marco. Scorecards were printed this morning albeit there was no one to buy them. Teams were revealed even though most of those in the ground knew what the sides were anyway. Cricketers announced things to themselves. And this will be our pattern for a while as cricket copes with an imperilled world. "And so each venture is a new beginning," wrote T S Eliot in "East Coker".
Like others around the country on this curious day, the game featured debutants of various types. Lees was playing four-day cricket against Yorkshire for the first time since his departure in 2018 and his scuttled single foreshadowed over four hours in which Durham's batsmen tried to chisel runs from the visiting quartet of pace bowlers but instead were bowled out for 103 in 58.4 overs. Gareth Harte, who made an unbeaten 33, was one of only three men to make double figures.
Yet any thought that this Riverside pitch is shielding demons was quickly demolished. Yorkshire's batsmen halved the deficit for the loss of Adam Lyth, caught at slip by Dickson off Chris Rushworth, whose first three overs had cost 27 runs. It even appeared that Steve Patterson's batsmen would have a lead by the close but instead something of the lustre was removed from Yorkshire's day by the loss of the three wickets in 11 balls just before the close. Two of these fell to Paul Coughlin who bowled Tom Kohler-Cadmore for a pleasant 41 and three balls later had Patterson leg before. Coughlin's time at Trent Bridge was marred by so many serious injuries that no one could now wish him ill. He has already changed this match
And the game may even have been even been galloping towards a two-day finish had not a morning shower interrupted the cricket after half an hour and drenched the Riverside before the players had their boots off. That took care of play before lunch. The umpires made a couple of inspections but there was no irate member exhorting them to "bloody well get on with it". Play resumed at 1.10, not that it brought Durham's batsmen much comfort.
Indeed, any encouragement they took from surviving the opening half hour proved illusory almost at once. Having survived a few leg before appeals from his former colleagues, Lees was pinned in front by an inswinger of very full length from Matthew Fisher. Nearly five overs later Coad nipped one away very late to Dickson, who edged to Jonny Tattersall. These successes would have been greeted with satisfied murmurs and even the odd cheer from travelling supporters but Yorkshire's players had to make do with the rather quieter acclamation of two Headingley panjandrums.
The Kirkstall Road folk missed an afternoon they would have enjoyed. Jordan Thompson replaced Coad at the Finchale End and enjoyed immediate success when he nipped one away from Cameron Steel, who edged a catch to Tattersall. Four overs later it was 41 for 4 when David Bedingham clipped Thompson dexterously off his ankles, only to see the ball skim straight to long leg where Fisher scooped up a fine low catch. Jack Burnham grafted away for 42 minutes in scoring seven runs but then lost both patience and his off stump when attempting a loose drive.
Yorkshire's bowlers allowed no reprieve. Patterson's tactics followed the simplest of patterns: first Coad and Fisher bowled straight and full; then he and Thompson did the same. It brought Yorkshire three lbw decisions either side of tea as home batsmen took liberties which, while not diabolical, were certainly unwise. Mathew Potts helped Harte put on 17 for the ninth wicket but then clipped Coad to Fisher at square leg. Rushworth misdrove his third ball back to Coad and Harte was left unbeaten after battling away for over two hours, his innings marked mainly by grimy application but also by fours either worked through the slips or driven past the off-side field.
When Yorkshire had hit as many boundaries in 11.2 overs as Durham had managed in their entire innings, the shape of the game looked clear. But now there is far more doubt about the matter, especially if Dawid Malan can be removed early on the second day. Like this truncated season itself, the match is in the hazard. "Every attempt is a wholly new start," Eliot said, before adding gloomily, "and a different kind of failure." Many batsmen around England would already nod in grim appreciation this August evening. Let us hope ECB officials are not also doing so before the leaves turn brittle and coppery.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications