Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Yorkshire 272 for 2 (Malan 103*, Ballance 74*) trail Sussex 313 (Brown 127, Ibrahim 55) by 41 runs
"Youth is to all the glad season of life," wrote Thomas Carlyle, thus presenting that fine Australian cricket writer, Ray Robinson, with the title of one of his best books. But rather less well-known are the qualifications that the grumpy 19th century polymath added to his aphorism: "but often only by what it hopes, not by what it attains, or what it escapes." But then there are days like this at Headingley; the day when attainment matched hope; the day when Danial Ibrahim became the youngest cricketer to make a half-century in the 131-year history of the County Championship.
It did not matter even one hoot that Ibrahim reached his fifty in slightly grubby fashion via an overthrow when Dom Bess failed to collect Jordan Thompson's shy. Just over 24 hours earlier he had not even been a first-class cricketer; now here he was, the second youngest debutant in Sussex's history with a half-century against his name and a record in a competition whose history stretches deep into the Golden Age. This is a glad season without caveat for Ibrahim; this is a golden age for him.
But, of course, he did not know about the fact that he had eclipsed by 61 days the record set by Bilal Shafayat when he made 72 for Nottinghamshire against Middlesex at Trent Bridge in 2001. Ibrahim is a 16-year-old schoolboy who had no clue until last Sunday that he was about to make his Sussex debut. Now he knows what it is like to play on a Test ground against international bowlers. The record was "special" but so was everything else.
"I was shocked on Sunday when I was told I was playing but I was so excited as well," he said. "There are not many better grounds than Headingley on which to make a debut and it was just so special to be out there when Ben Brown made his century. It was really tough to bat against the new ball but Browny helped me though it and took the pressure off. I found it all tough but I just had to keep battling though and do the best I could. Ben Coad and Steve Patterson test your technique and you have to be switched on all the time you are facing them. But I enjoy a battle."
So, however, do Yorkshire's cricketers and Ibrahim could add only five more runs to his half-century before his second ambitious drive of the day edged a catch to Harry Brook at third slip off Coad. Indeed, Ibrahim was one of five Sussex batters to be dismissed for the addition of only 46 runs on a day that was subsequently dominated by Yorkshire's batters. The applause from the home members during an evening blessed by rich sunlight attested to that fact.
True, Yorkshire lost Tom Kohler-Cadmore for 25, leg before wicket to Ibrahim - yes, him again - when the opener played clumsily across the line. Then, just at the point when Adam Lyth had appeared set for another big score, the left-hander was bowled round his legs by Jamie Atkins for 48. That left Yorkshire on 95 for 2 and their supporters anxious that the batting was about to fail again. Imagine, then, the relief when Dawid Malan and Gary Ballance took heavy toll of Sussex's young attack with an unbroken partnership of 177 for the third wicket and Yorkshire ended the day on 272 for 2 and therefore perfectly placed to build a large advantage tomorrow.
In such a context of abundance there has been something rather moving about the return of crowds to Headingley over the past two days. They may have been unavoidably late on parade - there were spectators at some grounds a fortnight ago - but the presence of 2,000 supporters at a County Championship match in Leeds still represents another act of reclamation in these strange times.
Spectators are getting their first proper sight of cricketers like Jordan Thompson, who made his debut nearly twelve months ago. They are also getting their first sight of Malan in a Yorkshire shirt and the former England Test batter has done nothing to disappoint them. He and Ballance batted fluently against a tiring Sussex attack in the evening session and Malan reached his century off 153 balls with a leg glance off Tom Haines in the final over of the day. Ibrahim watched it all and perhaps he wondered if one day this might be him.