Durham’s County Championship game at Yorkshire is three days old and already spin is playing a big part.
To see part-timer Adam Lyth’s off-breaks turn so alarmingly in the evening shadows yesterday showed all is not well with the Headingley pitch.
But there was spin off the field too, with visiting captain Paul Collingwood doing a better job of defending his players than they did of defending their wickets, trailing by 136 runs following on.
Lyth’s bowling – and the scorecard if you discount the first-innings performances of Lyth and Alex Lees – back up Collingwood’s assertion that Yorkshire have not produced a good track.
It was certainly hard to agree with Adil Rashid that it was “a wicket that wasn’t really offering much”.
The bounce has been uneven but not dangerous. Lyth was hit on the hand and Jack Brooks too when he ducked into a bouncer but the only other person put in any peril has been Keaton Jennings when fielding at short leg.
Happy to criticise the playing surface, Collingwood was not prepared to do anything of the sort with his batsmen, but he and Jennings had shown what was possible while their team-mates panicked in the face of 22 yards of pockmarked turf and the leg-spin of Rashid.
“Every four inches there’s a hole,” Collingwood said of the track. “It’s starting to get more and more variable and it’s turning more than we expected it to.
“You always think about cloud cover and stuff like that with a Headingley pitch but it hasn’t been that way, it’s almost been the complete opposite. It’s turned into a bit of a dustbowl.
“It’s disappointing because it’s hard to read a pitch like that. Yorkshire were going to bowl so you’ve got two thick captains out there!
“I am surprised they have taken such a punt in such a big game. Hey, hats off if the pitch inspectors don’t come in and see it as a dangerous pitch. We need to bat well for two sessions. You never know, if we get some kind of a lead it is deteriorating that much that you could do something special on it. But for the time being we need to try to save the game.”
At the end of day one Lyth contradicted the view that Andrew Gale too would have batted first, but having seen how it has performed, it is painfully clear this is not a strip you want to be batting last on.
That said, Durham ought to have coped with it better than they did. When Jennings and Michael Richardson were getting bogged down in the morning, you yearned for someone to inject a little impetus. Once they were gone Durham were left wishing for someone to show the same application in tandem with Collingwood.
Jennings and Richardson laboured over their runs but they stayed in.
Jennings’ wicket was the first of eight for 121 as Durham were made to follow-on.
The hosts used the conditions well – something Durham conspicuously failed to do in the match’s first session. Ryan Sidebottom’s 2-18 from 14.2 overs was a model of the bowling disciplines needed.
Scott Borthwick had no answer to the early delivery which left him and took the edge en route to Jonny Bairstow’s gloves.
Jennings had been in all sorts of trouble against Steven Patterson the previous day but seemed more at ease yesterday until propping forward to one which left him a fraction with 56 from 141 deliveries to his name.
He did much of his batting with the out-of-form Richardson.
The right-hander started the season in excellent form without cashing in to the full extent. He has not been past 50 since his century at Taunton in mid-May – and until yesterday he had only got beyond 16 once. But Richardson often seems to bat well with Jennings – like him, the son of a former South African wicketkeeper – and while his was not an innings for the highlights reel, it was threatening to be significant as lunch approached. Instead, it was his wicket which was noteworthy.
Having lost Gordon Muchall who, infuriatingly, once more looked in elegant touch for the short time he was at the crease, Richardson gave his wicket away from the final ball of the session – a third victim in 5.4 overs. Until then Richardson had wused his feet well to Rashid, as he often does to the slow bowlers, but he must have wished he had stayed at home after chipping a return catch which will have darkened the mood around the dinner table.
Muchall had been guilty of the opposite offence, following a gorgeous cover by failing to move his feet to a full ball which nipped into his pads.
The middle session was a dereliction of duty as Durham panicking in the face of Rashid’s leg-spin, allowing him to take four Championship wickets at Headingley for the first time since 2010.
He did most of his damage from the Rugby Stand End, rather than aiming for the rough Borthwick had created at the other end. Not understanding how to deal with a leg-spinner might be a valid excuse if Durham did not have Borthwick on their staff. Mustard was dropped on three – a difficult chance to a full-stretch Lees at third slip – off Brooks and three times in an over which ended with a loud lbw appeal he was relieved not to feel bat on the balls Sidebottom whizzed past him.
He added 51 with Collingwood before succumbing to Rashid, poking straight to short leg.
Since John Hastings’ solution was to throw the bat, it was ironic one of his few defensive shots did for him. Rashid got a ball to spit and it looped to Lyth at slip. Paul Coughlin got off the mark by hitting Rashid over long-on for six but when he attempted a repeat, he timed it well enough only to pick out Jack Brooks well in from the rope.
Mark Wood had rather more joy, clipping three boundaries square of the wicket, before being the first of two lbw victims to end the innings with the follow-on mark still 46 away.
Collingwood saw his team’s performance more charitably. When asked if he was disappointed in his batting colleagues, he responded: “No, not at all.
“The difference between the two sides so far is the (270-run) partnership they got in the first couple of sessions of the game.
“Apart from that, I think we’ve done all right to get as many runs as we did on that wicket.”
Collingwood was twice relieved to see the ball miss his stumps as he ran to the danger end – but when it came to the serious business of protecting his wickets, He did that 106 times.
Durham’s left-handers coped well enough with Rashid, so Gale surprisingly opted for Lyth, and his slightly unorthodox action had plenty of joy. When Jennings played back to Lyth’s fifth delivery, he could only watch it scoot past him on its way to uprooting his off stump.