Yorkshire (231 & 178-3) trail Hampshire (455) by 46 runs with 7 wickets remaining
In his first game of this season, and his last red-ball match before his debut as England’s Test captain, Joe Root added two second-innings runs to his first innings of eight before being pinned by Hampshire’s Kyle Abbott.
Root went to the wicket for the second time after Hampshire had made Yorkshire follow on 224 runs behind. The key to this match is that it has been “a new-ball wicket”: the pitch has been slow and almost lifeless when the ball has been old, but the new one has darted in or out, and up or down.
So the last thing Root needed, in pursuit of early-season nerve-settling runs, was to come in against Abbott armed with a new ball, which is what he had to do both times. Abbott might not have got into South Africa’s Test side this summer – even before he became a Kolpak player – because Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada form a top-class trio, but he would have made the perfect replacement in the event of an injury to one of them.
After Root had scored two singles, Abbott – from the pavilion end – seamed the new ball back a touch. Above all though it kept low – it was not destined to hit the stumps more than halfway up – and, being new, hastened on to Root, who was trapped chest-on. One reason why Yorkshire fell so far behind in this game was that they had more rough than smooth umpiring decisions, but nobody was disputing this lbw as Root shrugged his shoulders and left.
Any lingering thoughts that England’s new Test captain might have had about continuing at No3 could well have been shelved now in favour of four. Root is simply too valuable, in a line-up that has one only other senior batsman, to be exposed to the new ball.
Root will play one more Championship match before the first Test against South Africa, starting on July 6, but it will be in the day/night pink-ball round in late June.
Until then he is bound to bat against white balls, for Yorkshire then England in the three ODIs against South Africa and the Champions Trophy.
From 20 for two in their second innings Yorkshire were rescued again by their new captain, Gary Ballance. In the first he had scored exactly half their runs by the time he was out for 108, and he is 22 short of his third century in five Championship innings since taking over – with 19 overs still to be bowled before Abbott can take the new ball.
Ballance is only 27 and the county captaincy, if it continues to bring the best out of his batting, could be his pathway back into the England side. There have been no technical changes since his last Test in Bangladesh, just ever more discipline in his shot-selection, helped by Abbott never going round the wicket to draw him into the drive.
Whereas Ballance could find no partner of substance in his first innings, Alex Lees was up for a stand of 150 in the second. The ball aged and softened, edges did not carry, marginal decisions swung Yorkshire’s way, Lees was dropped by Lewis McManus to his left off Reece Topley, and the reason why follow-ons have gone out of fashion became apparent: it is so tough on the seamers.
England left-arm spinner did plug away. Liam Dawson, who had the one Test in Chennai, had dismissed Ballance first time round with the aid of a splendid slip catch to Sean Ervine’s left, but his virtues are not flight and deception. Still, Dawson’s control kept Yorkshire down to a deficit of 46.