Roll up, roll up, for the greatest Seaside Extravaganza in the Land. The start of the 131st Scarborough Festival saw Yorkshire fall quicker at Scarborough than the 10p pieces in the Penny Falls machines that after all these years occasionally tempt holidaymakers into the amusement arcades. Eighteen in the day and, at the end of it all, Essex holding the advantage.
If you shove a round of Championship cricket into an otherwise non-stop programme of T20 cricket, don’t be surprised at the outcome.
As Yorkshire tumbled to 74 for 9 before lunch, Adam Lyth was the coin that would not drop. He was last out for 68, scoring 63.5% of Yorkshire’s runs off the bat as they scrambled a pitiful 113 in 35.2 overs against the swinging ball. The only other batsman to look secure was Ryan Sidebottom, who helped add 39 for the last wicket in little bother, the most meaningful 8 not out of the season. You can signify a lot with a silent defensive push.
Considering their disastrous first session against Mohammad Amir and Jamie Porter, Yorkshire would be relatively content with the position at the close of the first day. Essex’s lead with two wickets remaining was 75, still within range, and even that owed a lot to Ryan ten Doeschate’s unbeaten 61 from 83 balls.
Yorkshire lack three England batsmen in Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance (lest his detractors forget, not yet dropped by England but injured, although the difference might be nit-picking) and have no overseas batsman on hand. Essex are without two batting rocks in Alastair Cook and Tom Westley. The bowlers could remain on top until the end.
Lyth narrowly failed to carry his bat, although the distinction does not particularly interest him. Not like Geoffrey Boycott or the Great Stonewaller of days of yore, Louis Hall. He has managed it a couple of times and at the time didn’t really see what the fuss was about. “I always have to carry it,” he said. But he played late and within himself and drove judiciously. His cover drive against Mohammad Amir to reach 50 was as good as it got for Yorkshire.
Twice, he might have fallen. On 28, a T20-style uppercut against Paul Walter was tipped over the bar by Varun Chopa at slip. Walter also surprised him with a languid bouncer on 63 but it fell safely at leg slip.
When the ninth Yorkshire wicket fell, a spectator stood in front of the Tea Room, so identified by whitewashed capitals on its tiled roof so large they could be seen from the moon, observed the sun shining on the North York Moors and uttered: “Summat’s up.” Summat was up indeed. This match was billed as Yorkshire’s chance to launch a Championship challenge, but they have lost two of their last three matches and should they lose here, and Somerset start winning, they will start looking at the other end of the table.
It was possible to discover a couple of contented Yorkshiremen in a 6000-plus crowd at North Marine Road, but as they were Chris Silverwood and Anthony McGrath, coaches of an Essex side standing proudly at the top of Division One, that did not noticeably lift the holiday mood.
Yorkshire’s chief tormenter was Amir, a mid-season replacement for Neil Wagner and playing only his second Championship match of the season. The last three wickets rewarded 11 graceful overs with 5 for 18. As the last of them, Lyth, succumbed at first slip eight balls into the afternoon, Amir’s strangled cry of celebration cut through an air of stony silence.
Amir struck twice in his new-ball spell. Alex Lees departed to the pavilion with an aggrieved look after an 11-ball duck, but as he could conceivably have been given out lbw or caught at fourth slip off an inside edge, the details didn’t really matter. Tom Kohler-Cadmore was bowled, undone by inswing.
But the incursions with the new ball were not just about Amir. Jamie Porter made excellent use of helpful conditions as Yorkshire fell to 25 for 5 by the time bags had been unpacked and requisite layers of clothing decided. Harry Brook, released by England U-19s, pushed hard at one, Jack Leaning edged one that bounced and left him just enough and Tim Bresnan fell lbw second ball.
As wickets continued to fall, though, there was something to engage the crowd. With Yorkshire nine down, lunch was delayed for half an hour, as per regulations, in a search for the last wicket. But when the umpires trooped off at 1.30pm, they were curtly instructed on their headsets by the Yorkshire scorer, John Potter, that they were one short of the statutory eight overs and should remain where they were.
By the time they retraced their steps, in an atmosphere of confusion, the groundstaff had already pushed their wheelbarrows onto the wicket, and impromptu games of cricket were well under way on the outfield, so much so that one young lad had already scored more than every Yorkshire batsman but Lyth. They were ushered off, at which point a further over of utter inconsequence took place.
Silverwood went to chat in the crowd as Essex batted, but as relaxed as he looked, the loss of three wickets before tea underlined Essex would not find things easy. Ravi Bopara pulled the second ball of the evening from Jack Brooks for six, just out of Sidebottom’s reach at long leg, but then pulled a long hop to square leg.
Yorkshire hit back again midway through the evening session with three wickets in eight balls. Ben Coad, the most insistent of Yorkshire’s attack, is one fast bowler who will have welcomed the mid-season switch to T20 after an arduous debut season. He ended Adam Wheater’s useful resistance and had James Foster caught at second slip in the 42nd over before Sidebottom removed Paul Walter in the next over.
As so often, Essex looked to ten Doeschate. Playing with selective aggression, he did not disappoint.