THE LV= County Championship title - so the old sweats insist - is not won in April.
Maybe not, but a team can certainly put a pretty impressive marker down and that is just what Yorkshire’s cricketers seem to be doing in their current match against Middlesex.
Stand-in skipper Joe Root and his players will go into the last two days of this game on 213-4 in their second innings, giving them a healthy lead of 268 with six second innings wickets intact.
Tight, incisive bowling saw Root’s seamers take seven wickets for 59 runs in the morning session to hand their colleagues a 55-run first-innings lead.
Rarely willing to surrender such advantage, Adam Lyth and Alex Lees added 82 for the first wicket before Lees was bowled for 33 playing no shot at an Ollie Rayner off-spinner which did not turn.
Three overs later Lyth, having stroked a cultured 54, edged Steven Finn into the slips, where Rayner pouched an absurdly difficult one-handed chance with ridiculous ease. However, Lyth’s dismissal only slowed Yorkshire’s progress, it did not halt it.
In the evening session, Root and Kane Williamson added 97 for the third wicket and the presence of Gary Ballance at the wicket on day three will do nothing to bolster the battered confidence of the Middlesex side.
Root’s strokeplay became increasingly more fluent and it was almost a surprise when he was beaten by a full length ball from Finn and trudged off with 63 runs against his name having been lbw to his England colleague for the second time in the match. Williamson had earlier been snaffled in the gully by Sam Robson off Finn for 37.
Yet as they reviewed the day’s action Root and his colleagues will have paid tribute to the efforts of their seam attack who had wrested the advantage from Middlesex in the first session of play.
No one deserved more praise than Ryan Sidebottom, whose spell of 9-5-11-3 removed Neil Dexter, Joe Denly and Eoin Morgan, the latter for 33 to a quite superb two-handed second-slip catch by a leaping Lyth.
That left Middlesex on 83-6 and Liam Plunkett then removed the middle stumps of both John Simpson and Tim Murtagh for single figure scores.
Those dismissals sandwiched the departure of Ollie Rayner, who lost his off pole when he played down the wrong line to Jack Brooks, who finished with 3-47. Sidebottom’s figures of 4-34 did him no less than justice.
A pretty perfect morning for Root and his men was completed on the stroke of lunch when Steven Finn meekly tapped Steve Patterson straight into the hands of Plunkett at short mid-off.
“We’ve bowled really well as a quartet since the start of the season,” said Sidebottom. “We complement each other and we needed to get early wickets to put them under pressure.
“We got on a roll and that was good to see. Liam Plunkett’s bowling really fast and I’m sure that England should take note of him. He’s bowling really quickly and I wouldn’t want to bat against him. He’s getting wickets for the guys at the other end.”
LV= County Championship
Middlesex v Yorkshire
Yorkshire First Innings 178 (L Plunkett 56; S Finn 4-50).
Middlesex First Innings
C J L Rogers c Lyth b Brooks 1
S D Robson c Hodd b Brooks 7
D J Malan b Sidebottom 31
E J G Morgan c Lyth b Sidebottom 33
N J Dexter c Hodd b Sidebottom 0
J L Denly lbw b Sidebottom 7
J A Simpson b Plunkett 6
O P Rayner b Brooks 15
J A R Harris not out 7
T J Murtagh b Plunkett 3
S T Finn c Plunkett b Patterson 7
Extras (lb5 w1) 6
Total (45.5 overs) 123
Fall: 1-1 2-20 3-57 4-70 5-80 6-83 7-95 8-107 9-110.
Bowling: Sidebottom 16-6-34-4, Brooks 16-3-47-3, Patterson 4.5-2-21-1, Plunkett 9-2-16-2.
Yorkshire Second Innings
A Lyth c Rayner b Finn 54
A Z Lees b Rayner 33
K S Williamson c Robson b Finn 37
J E Root lbw b Finn 63
G S Ballance not out 10
S A Patterson not out 4
Extras (lb12) 12
Total 4 wkts (68 overs) 213
Fall: 1-82 2-96 3-194 4-199.
Bowling: T J Murtagh 13-5-34-0, Harris 19-6-38-0, Finn 17-3-59-3, Rayner 16-0-58-1, Dexter 3-0-12-0.