For 30 minutes or so yesterday, Darren Gough wound the clock back 10 years. He was quick, incisive and smart; he asked questions which good batsmen could barely comprehend, never mind answer.
It was as if he had turned up to North Marine Road on the last day of the match, maybe the last of his first-class career, and promised himself that he would do it one last time before Yorkshire followers who might have believed they were watching an episode of Life On Mars. (Come to think of it, Gough would do a good turn as Gene Hunt.)
As a valedictory performance by Yorkshire's captain it was perfect in every sense except the final analysis. An opening spell of two for 15 in five overs was perfectly respectable but it might easily have been four or five, which might have opened the door to an exciting fourth day.
Instead, after an early scare for Somerset, the match meandered to a certain draw which did nothing for Somerset's aspirations to a maiden Champion-ship title or for Yorkshire's hopes of avoiding relegation.
But those who were here should cherish that opening salvo. There were two later spells, but it was no longer Life On Mars. Of course, Gough might have one final Championship match to play, at Hove this week. He is also dallying with the notion of playing some Twenty20, for Yorkshire and in the Indian Premier League, next season.
If his continuation in the short form of the game is understandable – who would turn down the big bucks on offer when the dodgiest of knees can probably survive four overs of pain now and again? – it is still a pity. This was the sort of exhibition for which one of England's most potent opening bowlers of the past 20 years should be recalled.
He bowled Craig Kieswetter with the second ball of the day, the off stump being uprooted by one which moved viciously back. Somerset's other opener, Arul Suppiah, edged Tim Bresnan behind, and the feeling wasthat if Yorkshire could remove Justin Langer they might meaningfully pursue a much-needed victory. Gough duly obliged with a ball that was fast, full and straight and cut awayat the last moment with thebatsman fully committed.
But the visitors resisted until lunch and long enough thereafter to render the outcome inevitable. There were fifties for James Hildreth and Ian Blackwell – following his first-innings hundred – and a mere single for Marcus Trescothick, which at least ensured he avoided a pair. Adil Rashid took three for 109 with leg spin that is going places but is not there yet.
When the draw was finally agreed, Gough was given a rousing send-off. So too was another faithful, if more unsung, servant of Yorkshire, Barrie Leadbeater. He played for the county for 13 years and earned some renown for being a specialist batsman who did not score his maiden century until his 209th first-class innings.
For the past 28 seasons Leadbeater has been a first-class umpire, keeping his eye in by driving trucks long-distance in the winter. He is still fit, still competent. In his last over yesterday he was still alert and conscientious enough to no-ball Gough. But convention and the ECB regulations say that he must stand down from the list. Leadbeater would have preferred to stay on – the Government apparently are proponents of people staying in work after what is deemed to be retirement age.
It does not seem fair, and though the ECB will find some role for him as an adviser or trainer (and so they should), they might consider introducing a more meritocratic system. Of course young umpires are needed – Michael Gough, who will shortly be elevated from the reserve list, is only 28 – but so are old ones.
Somerset could have done with a win here. It was the second time in the season they had been thwarted by Yorkshire; their only Championship defeat, by 40 runs at Taunton, was to these opponents, and the results in both cases were crucial.
As for Yorkshire, whose selection and recruitment policies seem confused, they could easily go down. They travel to Hove needing to win to ensure that they stay in the First Division. A draw may do, but the situation still looks distinctly unpromising.
What a poor reflection it would be on the state of county cricket if Surrey, already relegated, and Yorkshire were both to go down. Giants of the game, indeed.Reuse content