Division 1, Scarborough, September 05 - 06, 2021, County Championship
134 & 141

Yorkshire won by an innings and 33 runs


Somerset scattered like seagulls at Scarborough before Harry Brook books in

Another below-par batting performance threatens visitors' title ambitions

David Hopps
David Hopps
Harry Brook punches into the off side, Northamptonshire vs Yorkshire, County Championship, Group Three, Wantage Road, July 6, 2021

Harry Brook punches into the off side  •  Getty Images

Yorkshire 159 for 5 (Brook 79*) lead Somerset 134 (Fisher 5-41) by 25 runs
"Don't feed the gulls!" urged the sign, a little weather-beaten now, on the landscaped paths above the glinting waters of Scarborough's North Bay. Somerset's batters have been feeding the gulls for much of the past week. Hoards of hungry close fielders are pouncing for the prize with excited screeches as they edge deliveries at catchable height, as if tossing chips carelessly into the wind.
Beaten by an innings and plenty at Taunton last week, they reshuffled their batting order, but followed up 107 and 181 against Nottinghamshire with 134 against Yorkshire. They were less culpable on this occasion because the pitch was lively in the first session, with pace and bounce, and there was swing to be had, but it still represented calamity. If they lose here - and Yorkshire have a lead of 25 with five wickets remaining - then as far as the Championship is concerned it will be Somerset, rather than the gulls, who have had their chips.
One batter played blissfully, though, on a day when 11 of the 15 wickets perished to catches at wicketkeeper or slip. Harry Brook's reputation is growing apace. Outstanding in white-ball cricket all summer, he is now putting his red-ball season to rights, a fact recognised by the award of his county cap. His unbeaten 79 from 86 balls, with 12 fours and a pulled six against Marchant de Lange was a resplendent affair under pale blue skies on a day when every other player had been forever vulnerable. He drove and cut with aplomb, his shot selection was impeccable - only Tom Abell restrained him - his one mistake, on 74, when the wicketkeeper Steve Davies dropped a comfortable chance off Abell, bringing a miserable end to Somerset's attempt to right their day.
A drive across the Wolds had emphasised that this is a late Championship match by Scarborough's standards. Hockney would have packed up his easel a couple of weeks ago, although one imagines he would have admired Brook's refinement: the harvest has been gathered in, bales are stacked high in the fields like tower blocks, and the land is parched and, in some places, could do with a colour filter. Yorkshire has had a strange, straggly kind of summer.
The conference format for the Championship this year meant that dates and opposition were not known until about a month ago, with guest houses already near capacity. That contributed to a thin crowd by Scarborough's standards of about 2500. They were rewarded by a decent pitch, a somewhat frisky pitch at first for sure, with occasional steep bounce from the Trafalgar Square End, but one that invited animated cricket.
In their three innings this past week, no Somerset batter has made more than 37 - and even that was Marchant de Lange teeing off at No. 10. Remarkably, though, by the time they were dismissed, four other counties had already been dismissed for lower scores of 76, 89, 97 and 133.
The chief beneficiary of Somerset's batting frailty was Matthew Fisher, who took the last four wickets to fall to finish with 5 for 41, only the second five-for of his Championship career, but heartening for all that.
Tail-end wickets or not, Fisher has begun to flourish in recent weeks. He is 23 now, and eight years have elapsed since his debut on this ground, at 15 years 212 days, in a 40-over match at Leicestershire. The youngest post-war county cricketer turned two years later into the sixth-youngest Championship debutant, but he had grown quickly and didn't his hamstrings know it. He finally appears at ease with his game. Yorkshire have treated him conservatively and the long game may be beginning to pay off.
Fisher's top-order wicket was Abell, a good ball that had him caught behind. Abell had addressed Somerset's weakness at opener by doing the job himself, and it appears to be Somerset's best option. Azhar Ali, an overseas batter on a late-season contract, and George Bartlett were also drafted in, but by lunch both were gone and Somerset were 77 for 6.
Yorkshire's attack was insistent enough, although when George Hill became their fifth seamer to be used in 18 overs it did indicate a certain dissatisfaction. Somerset had lost a second wicket by then, Tom Lammonby edging a swing half-volley from David Willey, but it was the loss of four wickets for four runs in 21 balls just before lunch that scuppered them. Up by the Tea Room - TEA ROOM in big capitals on its black-tiled roof - as the wickets tumbled, a Yorkshire spectator was bemoaning changing times. "What's happened to mi railing?" he asked, oblivious to the mayhem around him. "Ah need a railing to lean on."
James Hildreth is a much-loved senior player who is no longer able to provide the answer with regularity - and, having gained a start, he had a wind-up at wide half-volley from Hill. Of no great pace, but with a high, reliable action, Hill then found a testing line and had Bartlett caught at the wicket. In the next over, from Jordan Thompson, Azhar left one that struck his off stump and Tom Banton, an opener now hidden away at No. 7, got a first-baller, all squared up, partly by the delivery and partly by himself.
With Somerset dismissed within 42 overs, there was ample time for Yorkshire to collapse in turn, but Somerset did not possess quite the same threat. The all-action Abell now fulfilled the role of third seamer. Somerset's batting might right itself as their young players emerge from tough times, but their need for a top-class seamer is hard to ignore.
Adam Lyth, who can't buy a run at the moment, was caught off his forearm; Tom Kohler-Cadmore was struck on the forearm, retired not out, and returned at the fall of the second wicket to nick his third ball back to second slip. Hill played sensibly until essaying a back-foot force not thought to be in his repertoire, and Josh Davey snared Gary Ballance. Then came Brook and the Scarborough crowd relaxed in admiration. Perhaps even the disgruntled spectator had found a railing upon which to rest a while.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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