County Championship: Adam Lyth repays Andrew Gale’s faith with a gritty century

Close, day one: Yorkshire 299-3 v Durham

Chester-le-Street

Durham’s victory over Yorkshire at Scarborough last August effectively decided the 2013 Championship, so there was an element of putting the record straight in Yorkshire’s ambitions. Reasonably enough, they might say “so far, so good”.

In conditions that looked enormously in favour of the seamers, Adam Lyth completed a 171-ball hundred that must be among the best of his career. Kane Williamson, the New Zealand batsman, came close to emulating him.

Lyth’s innings was impressive for its patience. The left-hander’s natural game is to be aggressive from the outset.

In his first 69 balls he faced, there was only one boundary. Rarely can he have restrained himself so successfully. But then Andrew Gale’s bold decision to bat first on winning the toss demanded that he did. Lyth wanted to repay Gale’s faith in him. Last week, when Joe Root came back into the Yorkshire side against Middlesex at Lord’s, Lyth half-expected he would step aside. Instead, Gale left himself out.

Durham did not bowl at all well by their standards. Graham Onions, still with England ambitions, had no kind of rhythm but he was not alone in finding consistency eluding him. As a collective, the Durham attack often bowled too short or too full and could not control their lines.

But with swing and seam movement to exploit, when they got it right they asked questions, Chris Rushworth and Jamie Harrison, the left-armer, in particular. Lyth rode his luck, having a let-off on 88, when he drove at Mark Wood. Scott Borthwick, at second slip, parried the ball, giving Paul Collingwood a chance to grab it as he ran around from first, but it went to ground.

Lyth’s innings ended tamely, caught at second slip to the first ball he faced after tea, playing needlessly at a harmless wide ball from Harrison. Nonetheless, he had served his captain well.

By then, too, Yorkshire had a batting point, which takes some winning here. By the close they almost had three. Apart from Warwickshire, none of last season’s visitors made 200 in the first innings. Building on the 179-run partnership Lyth shared with Williamson, who made 97 before falling to the second new ball, Yorkshire need one more to be the first to 300 here since Lancashire in May 2011.

Root made a second-innings 182 here last season. He is missing this time, away with England along with Gary Ballance. Gale reinstated himself in Root’s place, with Jonny Bairstow returning from his broken finger for Ballance, and Tim Bresnan making his first appearance of the season in place of Steven Patterson.

County round-up

Bowler of the Day

Sussex’s Chris Jordan may be the man in pole position but he is not without competition if there is a third seamer’s slot up for grabs when England’s new regime turn their attention to Test cricket. Chris Wright, who might have been higher in the pecking order already but for the stress fracture that curtailed his 2013 season,  appears to be close to his 2012 form again, as was evidenced in his new ball spell against Middlesex at Edgbaston yesterday, when he accounted Sam Robson, Neil Dexter and Chris Rogers in the space of 18 deliveries.

Robson, England’s opener-in-waiting as some would have it, edged him to third slip for seven, Dexter was yorked middle stump for six and Australia’s Rogers, a double centurion last week, pushed hard at a ball outside off stump and nicked it to first slip. Wright finished with four for 56 as Middlesex were brought heavily back to earth after scoring 472 to beat Yorkshire at Lord’s, reduced to 66 for 8 before a late rally swelled the total to 167 all out, Steven Finn – another bowler in eye-catching  early-season form – finishing 37 not out, his second highest first-class score.

Batsman of the Day

Sussex, their fine start to the season abruptly halted by an innings defeat against  Somerset last week, would have been in a sorry mess against Lancashire at Old Trafford had it not been for Michael Yardy, the former England one-day all-rounder, who followed a modest run of 75 runs from five innings before yesterday with an unbeaten 132 out of 276 for 8.

Extras

Suggestions that Andrew Flintoff might make a  playing comeback in the  NatWest T20 Blast competition have been played down but not ruled out by  Lancashire, where the  36-year-old former England all-rounder has been batting and bowling in the Old  Trafford nets while also working with some academy players. Speaking while on commentary duty for Sky at Chester-le-Street, Lancashire committee member  Paul Allott said that there was “an awfully long way to go” before any such comeback might be possible but did not say it could not happen.

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