ROSS WHITELEY has so often been a thorn in Yorkshire’s side that he is the cricketing equivalent of a thornbush.
The Worcestershire all-rounder, born in Sheffield, hit six sixes in an over off the left-arm spinner Karl Carver at Headingley last summer among several standout performances against his native county.
But on the opening day of the 132nd Scarborough Festival, a day that defied dire weather predictions to permit 75.2 overs in humid conditions, Whiteley turned villain in what proved, in retrospect, the pivotal moment of an engrossing first day.
With the Yorkshire score standing at 50-2 in the 18th over, after Worcestershire had exercised the right of the visiting side to bowl, Whiteley grassed a simple chance at first slip presented by Kane Williamson off Dillon Pennington when the New Zealand captain had made 18.
It would have been a notable scalp for Pennington, a 19-year-old right-arm medium-fast bowler playing only his third first-class match, who had worked hard to find the edge from the Trafalgar Square end.
It would also have potentially ended the Yorkshire innings for much less than the 216 they eventually managed, to which Williamson contributed easily the highest score of 87 before the visitors replied with 39-0.
Williamson, the glue that held the whole thing together, had come to the crease in the fourth over of a largely overcast day, albeit one visited by occasional hazy sunshine.Chris Waters
As it was the chance slipped from Whiteley’s grasp at around chest height as though he had almost too much time to think about it; as if, in fact, he could not quite believe that the great Williamson had been lured into indiscretion.
The 28-year-old made Whiteley pay before chopping on an attempted cut shot off Moeen Ali, having faced 131 balls in total and hit 14 fours, although Pennington – tall, athletic and with a strong upper body – looked a prospect on his way to a career-best 4-53.
Considering that this is Williamson’s fourth spell with Yorkshire, and that this is his 53rd game for them in all cricket, it is something of an anomaly that he has managed only one hundred during that time: 189 in a Championship match against Sussex on this ground four years ago.
That, however, fails to mask his consistency; this innings lifted his Yorkshire first-class average to a shade under 45 and, although a three-figure contribution again proved elusive, these were not the sort of batting conditions in which three-figure contributions were really to be expected – even from the best.
There was seam, swing, spin and bounce, challenging top international player and humblest county pro, and so Williamson had to be content with the 50th half-century of his first-class career, without which Yorkshire would have been in something of a hole.
They were also indebted to No 10 batsman Jack Brooks, who hit the second highest-score of 38 and shared in a ninth-wicket stand of 56 in just eight overs with Matthew Fisher (20 not out), which carried Yorkshire to a batting point after they had lost four wickets in 16 balls to slip from 151-4.
Williamson, the glue that held the whole thing together, had come to the crease in the fourth over of a largely overcast day, albeit one visited by occasional hazy sunshine.
Harry Brook had been caught pulling to deep-backward square-leg, where Pennington did well to recover after initially losing his footing in front of the Festival marquee, and Williamson might have been run out for two when Ed Barnard missed from cover after a single was declined.
After Barnard trapped Adam Lyth with an inswinger and Williamson was dropped, Yorkshire lost two wickets in three balls to slip to 63-4 when Pennington had Ballance and Kohler-Cadmore both caught at point, although Kohler-Cadmore seemed to have been hit on the shoulder.
Williamson, who scored 0 and 1 on his previous Championship appearance in the Roses game at Old Trafford last month, was in no mood to miss out again as he grew into his innings before the 3,450 people in attendance.
He played with watchful restraint and occasional flourish – four successive boundaries off opening bowler Wayne Parnell after lunch were a highlight – and he added 88 for the fifth-wicket inside 26 overs with Jonny Tattersall, who chipped in with 27 before edging Pennington to second slip, where Daryl Mitchell took an acrobatic one-handed catch moving to his right. It triggered a collapse, with the departure of Williamson soon followed by that of Tim Bresnan, caught at fourth slip, and David Willey, taken at second.
But Brooks entertained in a 20-ball innings that included four fours and two sixes, one of which, off Moeen, flew over long-off and on to the pavilion balcony.
Brooks eventually tried one big hit too many and was caught-and-bowled by Barnard before last man Josh Poysden was pouched at point.
Barnard finished with 3-32 to back up the performance of Pennington, with Worcestershire belying their status as the First Division’s bottom club.
When the visitors replied Yorkshire went past the outside edge of openers Mitchell and Tom Fell a few times, but to no avail, before bad light intervened at 5pm.
Considering that there had been forecasts of heavy rain going into the day spectators might well have reflected that they got off lightly.
Either way a fascinating match is in the throes of development.