Yorkshire v Somerset: Hosts hoping return to home comforts can secure survival
WHEN Yorkshire last played a County Championship match at Emerald Headingley the previous football season was in full swing and the start of the football World Cup was over seven weeks away.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had yet to tie the knot at Windsor Castle, the summer heatwave had yet to descend, and, for the more intellectually-inclined, Jack and Dani had yet to win Love Island.
So long ago was it, in fact, that WG Grace, had he still been alive, would probably have had time to shave off his voluminous beard and grow it again from scratch.
For the record it was a whopping 128 days ago, Monday, April 23, when Yorkshire last staged a day’s Championship cricket at Headingley when they applied the coup de grace to a 164-run victory against Nottinghamshire.
Much water has travelled under the bridge since then (indeed, some bridges have probably been built in their entirety) with Notts having recovered to third in the table and Yorkshire having regressed to third-bottom after four defeats in their subsequent seven games.
It has been an absurd leave of absence for the four-day tournament from Yorkshire’s county HQ, the consequence of them also having a couple of games at Scarborough in the interim, perhaps, but primarily because of the myopia of the sport’s administrators, who have consigned the Championship to the season’s margins to make way for yet more white-ball cricket.
Indeed, Yorkshire have played all of their white-ball season, comprising the Royal London Cup and the Vitality Blast (a combined 24 fixtures) since they last bowled a red ball in anger at Headingley.
Now, just as absurdly, tomorrow is the first of three Championship games at Headingley in just over three weeks, with fixtures at Notts and Worcester also to come before the season concludes on September 27.
In other words, if you are a Yorkshire supporter who watches only Championship cricket at Headingley, hardly a minority group, you have had to wait over four months for your fix in a six-month season.
This is hardly a state of affairs likely to encourage future generations of addicts through the turnstiles unless they relish being treated as an afterthought.
The message from the ECB would seem to be this: the Championship is a necessary evil rather than a tournament to be prioritised, a tournament that is, lest we forget, the pathway to Test cricket.
So, more than one-third of the year on from their last Championship game at Headingley it rather goes without saying that Yorkshire could do with a win sitting, as they are, one place and five points above the relegation zone.
Somerset, in second after five victories and three draws in their opening nine games, are the only side that can realistically catch leaders Surrey, whom they trail by 32 points, and it seems likely that they will have targeted this game as an opportunity to further that objective.
Indeed, Somerset host Surrey in their penultimate match and they also play bottom club Lancashire and struggling Hampshire.
At the same time Surrey are the only unbeaten side in the country after seven wins and two draws and they do not look like a club that are ready for the catching.
It remains to be seen whether Jack Brooks will play against his new employers tomorrow after the Yorkshire pace bowler agreed a three-year deal with Somerset from the end of the season.
Brooks has been struggling with his back, so Mathew Pillans has been drafted in on loan from Surrey after signing a three-year deal with Yorkshire that officially starts once the current campaign comes to a close.
Tim Bresnan is rested, while pace bowler Ben Coad (side strain) is estimated at being a fortnight away.
A similar prognosis concerns Steve Patterson (broken finger), with David Willey continuing to captain in his absence.