Yorkshire have got their season up and running in heroic style with a resounding win over Northamptonshire at Headingley.
The White Rose triumphed by an innings and 120 runs, reminding the rest of the County Championship that having finished second last year, this will be another season of pushing hard for the title.
As for Northants, the result has only confirmed what coach David Ripley must have already feared; there is much work to be done if they are to survive in the shark tank of Division One.
Even without the injured Joe Root, who should return to fitness in time for Sunday’s match against Middlesex, Yorkshire looked strong. In fact, only Kane Williamson failed to break into double figures, and Alex Lees hit a 90 that might make it difficult to know where to place Root on his return.
Northants can draw some positives from their spirit, particularly in their tail end. Seamer Mohammed Azharullah put on a gallant stand of 50 with wicketkeeper David Murphy, but by then the damage was already done. The Pakistani bowler also took two wickets, and continues to be a revelation for the Steelbacks.
It was not to be enough, though, as former Northants bowler Jack Brooks came back to haunt his old side, taking 3-76 and skittling them out for just 94. With the follow-on enforced, James Middlebrook and Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer provided some hope of a better innings second time round with 63 and 39 respectively, but Brooks, together with former England bowler Ryan Sidebottom, tore through the middle order with ease.
Yorkshire’s own innings looked more a test of endurance for the men in the field, with England hopeful Gary Ballance once again shining for the home side with 174, eventually out lbw off Andrew Hall’s bowling.
Despite their comprehensive victory, however, coach Jason Gillespie will be taking them back to basics in training after eight of the nine wickets to fall were via lbw. Hall was particularly impressive for Northants with the ball, taking 4-103. The hosts finally declared on 459, and from then on it looked as though victory was on the way.
Ballance was not the only one looking to stake his claim for a spot in England’s middle order. However, after a solid performance against Somerset where he tallied up 85 and 54, Yorkshire opener Adam Lyth failed to excite this year, losing his wicket for just 11, caught behind by Murphy.
Northants were bolstered at the start of the game by news of David Willey’s return from injury, but former captain David Sales remains out. Ripley can only hope their injury list shortens quickly as the fixtures come thick and fast in their daunting return to the highest echelons of county cricket.
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