Wood brings colour to grey day

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The Independent Online
Yorkshire 289 v Lancashire 45-1

The sun went in more or less as the players took the field here yesterday, which Yorkshire will hope is not an omen after last season's ultimately unrewarded promise. In fact, the day's subsequent greyness was in keeping with the low key nature of the cricket in a fixture that illustrates how attempts to manufacture a competitive atmosphere seldom work.

Opening the season with a Roses friendly probably seemed a good idea at the time, when a change in the Championship programme limited the traditional rivals to one confrontation per year. But if Lancastrian and Yorkists ever craved a contest with nothing at stake there was little evidence yesterday, when spectators paying at the gate numbered 135.

It has the look of a second XI match, which cannot have helped. Many of the bigger names are absent, either because they are injured, engaged at Edgbaston or attending an England squad session. And mid-April, these days, is too early for overseas players to be involved.

An opportunity, then, for the understudies, among them Matthew Wood, a 20-year-old right-hand batsman from Emley, who marked his first-class debut by scoring 81 before an inswinging delivery from Peter Martin had him lbw shortly after lunch.

Wood, who has represented England at Under-17 and Under-19 level, is another product of the Yorkshire Academy. He earned his place after making a century on the county's pre-season tour of the West Indies.

With the former England opener Martyn Moxon offering guidance after Mike Watkinson won the toss and chose to field, Wood looked comfortable from the outset. Moxon was bowled by Ian Austin, after which Wood survived a sharp chance to gully off Austin on 23 but dominated a third-wicket stand of 77 with the captain, David Byas.

The other opportunist was Bradley Parker, squeezed out by the Australian Michael Bevan, last season. Yorkshire expect to know today whether another Australian, Michael Slater, will replace Bevan this year. In the meantime, Parker caught the eye with a forceful unbeaten 85.

On an easy-paced pitch, Watkinson was the most penetrative bowler before lunch, after which no one did more damage than the off-spinner, Gary Yates, another who has to make do with meagre rations, largely because of Watkinson's versatility. Yates' four wickets included that of Gareth Batty - 19-year- old brother of Jeremy - whose debut, in contrast to Woods', lasted one ball.

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