Yorkshire v Worcestershire (day two): Scarborough provides little home comfort for struggling hosts
SCARBOROUGH IS not only one of the best cricket grounds in the country, but also one of the quirkiest.
Things seem to happen here that do not happen anywhere else. Take the infamous PA system. Shortly before play today, it somehow picked up a curious conversation, seemingly coming from outside the ground, punctuated by loud cackling sounds – as if a coven of witches were talking on the nearby sea front.
A few years ago, that same PA had picked up an oration from a nearby funeral service, at one point causing a bowler to stop in his run-up as the vicar intoned: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…”
Another time, the PA picked up running commentary of a match at a nearby bowls club, where Ethel Scroggins, or whatever her damn name was, was in the process of giving Delores Blenkinsop, or whatever her damn name was, a damn good thrashing.
And that is before we even mention sundry curiosities such as the occasion when a spectator ran on to the outfield wearing an Osama bin Laden face mask carrying a rucksack on his back before being led away by the local constabulary.
It was not only the PA that was on the blink on day two of the 132nd Festival, however, but also the scoreboards, which was probably just as well for the beleaguered hosts.
For a time, there were no scoreboards working at all until it transpired that the Worcestershire scorer’s knee had accidentally dislodged a lead in the press box which powers the electronic feed, while a later announcement that the scoreboards had temporarily frozen was followed by a quip from one of the patrons in the Peasholm Park stand that it must have been “at the request of the Yorkshire management”.
At the end of another cloudy and clammy day, those scoreboards – happily working once again – showed that Worcestershire had advanced from 39-0 overnight to 310-1 in response to Yorkshire’s 216.
They did so by showing a trait that Yorkshire’s batsmen have struggled to summon in recent times: namely, by getting their heads down and putting an expensive price on their wickets.
The man who sold himself most dearly was Daryl Mitchell, who top-scored with 140 from 270 balls with 18 fours, superbly supported by Moeen Ali, who made 107 from 167 deliveries with 14 fours and a six to boost his hopes of a Test recall.
Although Yorkshire’s bowlers stuck to their task admirably, like those Scarborough officials trying desperately to fix the PA and the scoreboards, Worcestershire produced proper County Championship batting in conditions that demanded nothing less, leaving Yorkshire in danger of losing to the First Division’s bottom club unless they can take a leaf from their book.
The tone was set in the day’s early exchanges when Matthew Fisher produced a probing opening spell and Mitchell and Tom Fell repelled it in the manner of watchful openers.
The pair were not separated until after 75 minutes when the score had reached 111, Jack Brooks winning an lbw decision against Fell, whose 45 comprised 108 balls and included eight boundaries.
Moeen got off the mark in fortuitous fashion, inside-edging Brooks to the boundary, before square-driving David Willey to the rope in a stroke of authority.
Slowly but surely, the 5,000 or so spectators grew quiet as the seagull cries became increasingly audible, a sure sign here that the home side are struggling.
At lunch, the total was 151-1, and such was Worcestershire’s application that they were quite happy to take only seven runs in the first six overs after the interval.
They knew that the runs would flow again eventually, which they did when Moeen cut Fisher to the boundary on his way to a half-century reached from 85 balls with eight fours.
Before long, Mitchell had his hundred from 191 balls with 14 fours, and Worcestershire had advanced to 235-1, a lead of 19, when rain took 72 minutes and 19 overs from the day’s allocation before the evening session.
Moeen launched the first ball after the resumption from Josh Poysden for six over long-on into the Trafalgar Square stand, but for the most part the left-hander showed notable restraint.
It was as if the twin responsibilities of captaining Worcestershire for the first time in the Championship since May 2011, and the necessity of trying to eke out a big lead, had brought out the best in him.
Willey, captaining Yorkshire for the first time in the Championship, did not experience so happy a day.
He went past Moeen’s outside edge a couple of times, thereby gaining a victory of sorts against his England team-mate, and had him dropped off what proved the final ball before bad light claimed another 9.3 overs, Fisher putting down a difficult chance at deep-backward square-leg in front of the ice-cream tent.