After the promise of 2010, it has been a difficult second season for Yorkshire's young captain, Andrew Gale. His relief at climbing out of the bottom two in the First Division with victory over Worcestershire last week will be short-lived if his side comes unstuck against their old rivals from across the Pennines in their 3,000th match in the Championship.
It is in these circumstances that it is useful to have some experienced advice at hand, which is why the return of Jacques Rudolph, with 35 Test caps and nearly 200 first-class matches to his name, is almost certainly more than a matter of bolstering a misfiring batting line-up.
The first decision influenced by Rudolph's presence was the exclusion of Adam Lyth, whose runs last season were a major influence on Yorkshire's third-place finish and whose struggles this season seem to have been equally significant. It had appeared that Anthony McGrath, with only 173 runs to Lyth's 424, was at greater risk.
McGrath might have expected not to be waiting long for the chance to justify his survival after Gale won the toss but instead Gale chose to bowl first, which struck many as a bold move on a number of fronts, not least for the fact that it will expose Yorkshire to the wiles of Gary Keedy in the fourth innings. There is also the matter of Tim Bresnan, who will join this match if he is released from England duty but clearly will be able to bowl only once. In his place, Yorkshire have Iain Wardlaw, a 26-year-old seamer from Cleckheaton, whose only previous senior experience has been in Twenty20.
In the event, it was one of those days that will need the match to unfold to work out who came out of it best. Wardlaw celebrated his maiden wicket when Tom Smith, who had played pretty well to reach 51, somewhat wasted his hard work with an ill-judged slash and was caught behind. The new man had come up with a promising spell with the first new ball and might have had more success, although he was not nearly so deserving of better luck than Rich Pyrah. He must have lost count of the times he had beaten the bat before an lbw decision against Gareth Cross brought belated reward.
Ryan Sidebottom was the pick of the home attack with three wickets, swinging the ball under heavy cloud. He bent one in to trap Stephen Moore and picked up a second wicket when Karl Brown's lavish drive edged to Rudolph at first slip, before McGrath took Mark Chilton at second.Reuse content