Hampshire 281-4 v Yorkshire
In his first match for Yorkshire since he became England’s Test captain, Joe Root will hope to emulate another 26-year-old who bats at number three, James Vince, who has so far scored 143 of Hampshire’s 281 for four wickets.
Root could have batted on Friday but Yorkshire’s captain, his ex-England team-mate Gary Ballance, accepted the open invitation to bowl first. A sky that was day-long dull made conditions ripe for swing, but the pitch was dull too - slower than it surely need have been after such a dry spring - and Yorkshire, with bowling their weaker suit, were forced to concede the opening exchange to Hampshire’s Championship captain, who can live in hope of a recall for Australia this winter.
Vince’s cover-driving is every bit as glorious as Root’s, so too some shots off his legs. It was his shot-selection which let Vince down last year and led to his omission from England’s Test and then white-ball teams.
But here Vince got away with his looser shots and thick edges - either because the pitch was too slow for the ball to carry, or because he edged wide of the slips or between slips and gully, or else he was dropped off a hard chance when on 39 to Andrew Lyth.
Root fielded mainly at third or first slip, fitting in around Lyth who is Yorkshire’s second slip, which is Root’s normal position for England. He also did some ball-polishing but he will have to give that up now he is Test captain, as Cook ultimately did: it is one task too many. Root even had a couple of brief spells, to expedite the arrival of the second ball, but soon after it was taken bad light terminated play.
— Hampshire Cricket (@hantscricket) April 21, 2017
Overall, Root did not look a battle-hardened warrior finally promoted to the England captaincy, more like a kid told to wrap up warm by his mum. It is the still-boyish smile which deprives him of gravitas in appearance. But Root’s counterpart this winter, Steve Smith, will be no gnarled veteran.
It was baffling on a day when the ball swung lavishly that no short-leg was posted: the batsman was in no risk if he inside-edged. Ben Coad, the best of Yorkshire’s bowlers and the leading wicket-taker in division one, could have done with one when bowling at Hampshire’s left-handers, as four of their top five were.
Coad, at 23, has much in common with James Anderson at a similar age when the outswinger was his stock ball. Coad set Michael Carberry up skilfully by swinging back into him, then having him caught driving at the variation - doing much the same to Sean Ervine with the second new ball. All that was missing was the bouncer to discourage batsmen from plunging forwards.
Another of Hampshire’s left-handed batsmen, Rilee Rossouw, was missing with a finger injury; so too Fidel Edwards, which made Hampshire less indebted to Kolpaks than usual. Tom Alsop replaced Rossouw, and was well-organised, until in his desire to hit through his favoured midwicket he missed a full ball.
Jonny Bairstow, returning to action like Root, took two tumbling catches to his left. But Yorkshire’s pace bowlers overall did not draw the batsmen into the drive sufficiently often, while the demands from up above by their late captain Brian Close to be allowed to field short-leg - without any helmet, lad - went unheeded or unheard.