SUCH is the strength of Yorkshire’s bowling attack that they were able to leave out Jack Brooks, who has taken at least 60 Championship wickets in each of the last three seasons, and Steve Patterson, their ‘Mr Reliable’.
The match was also less than nine overs old when Ryan Sidebottom, their talismanic spearhead, was forced to leave the field with a muscle injury in his back, never to return.
But even without Brooks, Sidebottom and Patterson, who have played such a key role in their recent success, Yorkshire have options and firepower aplenty.
It was emphasised on a wicket-strewn first day of a match in which they dismissed Somerset for 268, Liam Plunkett taking 4-73 before the hosts reached 42-3 to leave the contest in anyone’s favour. If Brooks, Sidebottom or Patterson do not get you, then Plunkett or Bresnan surely must, or, failing that, the likes of Ben Coad and Adil Rashid, who complete the frontline attack here.
And when you consider that David Willey also cannot get a game, unless fellow left-armer Sidebottom is unavailable, or if the ball is white, then you begin to understand why Yorkshire are most people’s favourites to win the title.
Things are never quite so straightforward, however, and Yorkshire have work to do to catch leaders Essex, who held a 42-point advantage over them going into this round.
But Yorkshire have more variety on their staff than a variety act – even the off-spin of Azeem Rafiq and the left-arm spin of Karl Carver, should it be required.
All Yorkshire required on Monday was perseverance to work their way through the Somerset batting, which flourished only in a flailing, if nevertheless momentum-shifting last-wicket stand of 68 from 47 balls between Craig Overton and Tim Groenewald.
Somerset captain Tom Abell was dropped after scoring 171 runs in 14 Championship innings this year at an average of 14.25, the captaincy passing to Lewis Gregory.
Marcus Trescothick is also enduring a rare bad spell as second-bottom Somerset chase their first win. The former England man was first to fall here, driving Tim Bresnan loosely to first slip, his departure for 15 following scores of 4, 13, 7, 6, 0, 8, 34 and 6 in his previous eight Championship innings.
All Yorkshire required on Monday was perseverance to work their way through the Somerset batting,Chris Waters
General surprise among the 4,000 crowd attended Somerset’s decision to bat first, with the pitch green and the weather overcast, although it looked a sounder call come day’s end.
Bresnan was leading Yorkshire for the first time in the absence of Gary Ballance, who is back in the Test team, and the hosts gave a debut to batsman Tom Kohler-Cadmore.
Plunkett was preferred to Patterson as he made his first Championship appearance since the corresponding match at Headingley last September.
Somerset were without pace bowler Jamie Overton, whose back injury led to Plunkett’s call-up for last week’s England Lions game.
Trescothick’s early departure exposed an inexperienced Somerset top-order in which fellow opener Eddie Byrom was playing only his second first-class match, and No 3 Tim Rouse his seventh. Rouse, a 21-year-old from Sheffield, was second out with the score on 25 in the 16th over, caught by Bresnan as he stabbed a full-length delivery from Plunkett to second slip.
Byrom, a 20-year-old Zimbabwean, was comprehensively beaten by a fast, inswinging ball from Plunkett that left the visitors 30-3. This became 67-4 on the stroke of lunch, Bresnan having James Hildreth caught behind from a ball that reared up wickedly from the Peasholm Park end.
As usual, there was plenty of bounce on a sporting surface, with Plunkett extracting more than most, several times testing wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd’s reflexes, which were not found wanting.
Yorkshire were excellent in parts – less so in others – and Plunkett was at the heart of their best work, troubling the batsmen with his pace and hostility.
He persuaded Steven Davies to walk in front of a straight one to leave Somerset 110-5, which became 141-6 when Ben Coad bowled Allenby between bat and pad as he tried to drive.
Somerset rallied through Adam Hose, who struck a powerful 62 before being deceived by a Rashid googly, while Bresnan used Harry Brook’s medium-pace to rest his front-liners.
A refreshed Plunkett captured his fourth wicket with the first ball of the evening session, bowling Gregory around his legs.
Rashid had Jack Leach caught off a low full toss by Bresnan at mid-wicket, but his figures were dented when Groenewald clubbed him for four sixes - three of them in an over in which he also took him for two fours.
Bresnan dropped Overton at first slip with the total on 215-9, denying Plunkett a five-fer, but Coad then bowled Overton.
When Yorkshire replied, Adam Lyth was caught at first slip and Alex Lees and Peter Handscomb at second as Yorkshire slipped to 21-3. Brook and Kohler-Cadmore battled through to stumps at 42-3.